Natural History Museum at the end.
Our walk from the bus station to the hostel was much shorter when we arrived at Prague. The city is smaller than most of the others, but still pretty dense. Our route led us through the middle of Wenceslas Square, a long boardwalk lined with hotels, shops, and clubs. A natural history museum could be seen at the end of the square in a broad palace. It wasn’t long before we came upon an absinthe store. The Czech Republic is very proud of their bohemian crystal and their absinthe. You have your cheesy, touristy-type fake absinthes out on the shelves, and then you have the real absinthe behind the counter and in glass cases. A bottle of King of Spirits Gold sells for roughly $200, and features 100mg/L of thujone, the supposed hallucinogenic ingredient. I also noted that you could get an absinthe slushy, and would come to find out you can order an absinth and red bull at some bars and restaurants. Absinth and red bull… that just sounds like an accident waiting to happen.
The other thing stood out was all the Mexican restaurants. Apparently the Czech really like their Mexican food. We decided to eat at a
The only Budweiser that I should ever drink.
place called Banditos which was literally underneath the room we were staying in. The front door couldn’t have been more than 5 feet from our front door. We each ordered a Budweiser Budvar to start off with. Now this is not an Anheuser Busch product. This is a 700-year-old brewery that happens to use the same name as the mass-produced American beer. You won’t find any of the American Budweiser in all of Europe, or at least nowhere we’ve been so far. And I don’t know why you’d want it even if you could find it, because this beer was much better. It is available as a lager or a darker beer. We had the dark version, and it was very good. Half of a liter of this was 40 CzK, or about $2. To put that in real perspective, $2 gets you a little over a pint. In fact, pretty much everything in Prague was really cheap.
We went to The PUB that night for a Czech experience. This place was famous for having taps at every table. Three taps to be exact, and a counter to keep track of exactly how many half-liter beers you have poured.
Who needs a server when you've got taps at your table?
A large projector screen compares how many beers your table has had with the other tables in the bar. And that’s just one of the screens. After an interval, another screen is shown displaying the top ten tables, by beers poured, of all the different locations of The PUB. Two of the locations are in Prague, one is in Brno, and one is in Plzen. The leading table was right next to us, with about 8-10 guys having at least 60 beers. Now these are half-liter beers, which are just little over a pint. There were two other tables on the leaderboard that weren’t far behind either. We felt like amateurs having only two beers a piece before heading out.
We went to the Old Square the next day to take a tour around the “Old Town”. First, we received a short history lesson of Prague. Two groups, the Bohemians and the Moravians, first settled in the city of Prague. The next few years involved many struggles in the earlier years between one religion and another to prove who’s God was better. Wait, they were both Christian… I’m confused. We learned that the favored way of getting rid of
The tower on the left is the only remaining portion of the old town hall.
people in Czech was to throw them out of a high window. A war was sparked in one instance when two catholic priests and a clerk were thrown from a window, yet survived because they landed in manure. The Catholics called this a miracle, but the Protestants argued there was no miracle, just a pile of horse crap. Anyway, eventually Charles IV came to be ruler. He was a great King and the people loved him. He constructed the Charles Bridge, which still stands today, and at the time was the first bridge to withstand flooding of the main river. Fast-forward to 1938, when Prague is taken over by Nazis a year earlier than the war actually started. The Czechs waited and waited while the war was being fought, but just before the Soviets arrived, they managed to drive out the Nazis themselves. This was not the Czech army, however, this was done by the citizens of Prague. They did have help in the end from a group of Soviet traitors. The Soviet traitors were working with the Nazis, until they realized the Nazis were going to fall to the Soviets. Rather than face immense punishment after being captured by
Below is a Calendar.
the Soviets, this group decided to try and mitigate by attacking the Nazis. This confused the Nazis very much since this group was wearing the same uniforms. Chaos and confusion swept through the Nazi army, and the Czechs capitalized on this, and managed to drive out the Nazis exactly one day before the Soviets finally arrived. Sadly, however, the Soviets took all the credit for eliminating the Nazi presence, and for their efforts, sentenced Prague to roughly 40 years of hard communism. In this era Prague was ruled by a communist government, and the people had to live under enforcement from the STB, the Czech KGB. These officers could spy on you, open your mail, detain you without reason, and generally did whatever they wanted. It wasn’t until 1989 that the Czechs were finally free to be under their own democratic rule, in a change so smooth and simple, it’s called the Velvet Revolution. Of course this is quickly followed by the Velvet Divorce between the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Before the Nazis left they burned down the Town Hall, but the old clock tower survived, and still stands today. This clock tower has an astronomical clock mounted on
View from the river of the largest Medieval Castle in the world.
one side, which becomes very animate at the beginning of every hour. Figures representing fears of the people dance around as doors open with Apostles featured, and a rooster crows from the top. The astronomical clock itself has two hands, a sun and a moon. They spin around the center and point to not only the hour, but the current zodiac as well. A calendar is displayed just beneath the astronomical clock, which has a name beside every day of the year. Everyone born in Czech has a name to match one of these days. This day does not have to coincide with your birthday, which means you get to celebrate two personal days, your birthday and your name day. Although everyone buys you beer on your name day, you have to buy beer for everyone else on your birthday. The Czech people were so proud of this astronomical clock that they didn’t want anyone else to have one. No, they didn’t throw the creator out of a window, they just stabbed his eyes out and cut out his tongue. In revenge, the creator went inside the tower and disabled the clock. The clock would remain disabled for another 100
Where Mozart debuted "Don Giovanni"
years until it was finally fixed again. Maybe it was because the clock was so complex, or maybe it was because anyone smart enough to figure it out was also smart enough to realize that it might would be a good way to get your eyes and tongue removed.
The theater where Mozart debuted “Don Giovanni” was just around the corner from the Old Square, and the commencement hall of the University of Prague was just across the street. The architecture came in many different flavors from Gothic, to modern, and even a cubist building could be seen. A palace where Kepler and Brahe studied planetary motion was also in the area. The circumstances of Brahe’s death are still under investigation today, and some believe Kepler poisoned him to claim full credit for his law of planetary motion. A statue of these two physicists can be seen on the way to the castle. We learned that movies such as Amadeus, XXX, and Eurotrip were filmed in Prague. Actually, the entirety of Eurotrip was filmed in Prague, even though Prague seems like the one place they did not go in the movie Eurotrip.
We took a tour of the
In this church still hangs a robber's arm that was cut off when he tried to steal jewelry from a statue of Mary. The arm has been hanging there for over 500 years! I'm not kidding.
castle the next day. This is an enormous castle at the top of the hill on the West side of the city. It is the largest Medieval castle in the world today. The castle ground spans several city blocks and includes a tall cathedral in the middle. We were taken through the garden at first. This was an area with fountains, manicured lawns and trees, and roaming flamingos. A ghost flamingo, all white, was a very interesting creature. An eagle cage roughly the size of a small house stands in the corner. Along the southern wall is a grotto. This grotto is a man-made structure but has a very natural look to it, almost like the inside of a cave. The grotto runs along the southern wall, around the eagle cage, and into the inside of the building. We saw the house which Amadeus purported to be Mozart’s, and then saw the house where Mozart actually lived. This house is still privately owned to this day. Then we came to the official entrance to the castle grounds, which is guarded by Czech soldiers much like Buckingham palace. These guards were not to move for 2 the entire 2-hour shift (1
hour in the winter), and we were lucky enough to see a changing of the guard! Upon entering we were taken to the cathedral. Now in Paris we learned that Notre Dame took 200 years to build, but this cathedral took over 500 years to complete. It took so long that the architects shown on one side wear old medieval outfits, while architects on the other side wear more modern Sunday suits. This building was finished in Gothic architecture, but other structures show bases in gothic architecture, but have steeples in a completely different style. The inside of the cathedral was very open, lined with stain glass, and surrounded by statues and paintings. We were taken to an overlook called Bella Vista, which was a point where you could see the whole city of Prague. After the tour we walked down and across the Charles Bridge. Charles Bridge is lined with statues of different saints and depictions of past warriors. Many artists were selling their work right on the bridge. Everything from scenic paintings to celebrity caricatures.
Walking down Wenceslas Square at night was another adventure. Many representatives of the nearby strip clubs walked up to me trying to
sell me entrance to their establishments. Never Travis, just me. Apparently I look of a large libido and under-sexed. These guys were very persistent too, offering umbrellas and keeping pace for 3 or 4 blocks before finally taking the hint. Before departing they would always offer us drugs as a last resort. They just couldn’t believe we could be Europe without looking for some deviant indulgence.
Our stay came to an end Friday morning when we caught a bus at 7:30 am. Yes, this was the only time they had left on this day. My final impression of Prague was that though its small, it’s a very nice size for we who travel on foot. The city is very beautiful and has lots of different architectural influences. The prices are a crucial point. Everything is cheap and this makes it much easier to explore the different features that Prague has to offer. Exploring the largest Medieval castle was definitely the highlight. From here we travel to Vienna.
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