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September 12th 2008
Published: September 12th 2008
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The trip is over, I am writing this from the Prague airport trying not to think of the 24 hours of travel I have ahead of me. I woke up with a stuffed up nose and sore throat this morning, so breathing recycled air all day should be fun! Not to mention I somehow twisted the wrong way getting out the cab yesterday with my luggage and pulled a muscle in my leg. I looked pretty cool limping around the cobblestone streets and climbing the stairs of the castle, etc. Just goes to show you can get hurt when you exercise! ;-)

It has been a great trip. I can’t believe I fit so much into 2 weeks and actually enjoyed myself. If there is anything I would change, I think I would have cut Latvia out of the mix and spent a couple days in another city in the Czech Republic. Riga was kind of a waste of time because we had to drive the 4 hours to get there and we were all so exhausted we really didn’t get to experience the city. But other than that, everything has gone according to plan.

When I last left off, I had just crossed over into Poland. Krakow ended up being a great little city. Hung out in the main square in Old Town most of the time; drinking beers and people watching. I prefer Krakow to Warsaw just because it’s got that small town feel. I was probably biased though, just coming from Ukraine, it was just nice to be able to communicate again!

Auschwitz. It was pretty much what I expected. Evidence of pure evil on Earth. After the adjective “Evil”, the ones that would probably follow are “Efficient”, “Calculated”, and “Delusional”. The way these camps worked was the definition of efficiency. The traintracks dead-end into the camp. The ‘transports’ are unloaded. An SS doctor sends each of them (which a flick of his hand) to hard labor or death, depending on how physically strong they look. The ones marked for death were sent to the showers and gassed and then burned in the huge crematoriums. The workers were cleaned and put to work. Misbehave or do anything the SS didn’t like, join the dead. 100% of the Jews were supposed to be killed right away. I won’t go into details here, we’ve all read the
Work will set you freeWork will set you freeWork will set you free

Entrance to Auschwitz
books, seen the movies, etc. but I will say even after being there, I still can’t comprehend it. How is it possible that these people were so delusional that they believed they were creating a better world? How could civilized people in the 20th century commit such horrendous acts of mass murder? Even after seeing the hundreds of tons of women’s hair (which the SS sold to sock makers, rope companies, etc) and rooms and rooms of children’s luggage and toys, it still did not seem real.

When I got back from Auschwitz, I spent the rest of the day in the square, drinking beers and reflecting on what I had seen. It was gorgeous outside, and I just couldn’t picture the Nazis ripping people from their homes and putting them on trains to death. It’s so nice to see that even after all that horror, you can now sit in the sun and enjoy a beer while watching artists, students, businessmen, and tourists mingling in the city center.

The next morning I flew to Prague. A city I have always wanted to see. Because this was going to be my only day, I booked the earliest flight I could get. I landed right after 6am and was not in the least bit tired. Couple coffees and adrenaline had me going. I was staying at The Charles Hotel on the west end of the famous St. Charles Bridge. I got checked in and walked across the bridge to the Old Town. It was as beautiful as I had imagined it. One of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. There were only a few people out, mostly artisans setting up their paintings, etc for sale during the day.

By noon, it was a whole different picture. I had heard of the hordes of tourists in Prague, but I was not prepared for this. I have been to Rome, Amsterdam, even Bangkok…places with a huge tourist population. But this was way beyond that. This was more like the Vegas strip on a busy night. Bourbon St. during Mardi Gras. They say there are 9 tourists to every 1 Czech during peak season. We aren’t even in peak season anymore! Anyway, the city is great, but I would recommend getting in, seeing the bridge, the castle, walking the old town very early in the morning and then moving
Killing WallKilling WallKilling Wall

Where they executed people.
on to other towns in Czech Republic. It’s not just Prague that wasn’t touched much during WWII. The Czech people did not fight the occupation like a lot of the other countries, so most of its structures, architecture, etc are still in tact. It’s sad it’s gotten this way, but once you see the city, you’ll know why there are so many tourists.

So, that’s the trip. It was a good balance this time around. Partied a bit, got some culture, saw some dark places, put myself in some uncomfortable positions, and even had some time to relax. Can’t ask for much more than that.

Additional photos below
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Up to 1000 people would be forced to live in these stables.

Old Soviet tank made into artwork.

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