Category Archives: Prague

>Day 10 Last Day in Prague: August 8, 2007

>The joys of travel!

Breakfast this morning was the most fun yet, because all the tables were taken, so I sat with a threesome and yakked for an hour. The guy was Chinese but now American, married to a lady I thought was British. She spoke perfect British English, but I found out later that she was an Italian from Rome. The old grandma was also Italian, and only spoke a little English. The guy sells pharmaceuticals for some big company. He was here 2 years ago, and says the change in that period is amazing. Then everyone drove old cars, now there are mostly new cars around. It is so hard to realize these people are only 15 years out from the grey of Communism. The Grandma had always wanted to see Prague, so when the last of the 5 family chow dogs died, they brought her to see this beautiful city.
Today the only thing I really had to do today was go to a bus station across town and buy my bus ticket with reserved seat for my ride tomorrow morning to Cesky Krumlov. My hotel lady got on the internet and found me the easiest way to get to the bus station. The younger people here use the internet for everything, just like we do. She found me a route that took a streetcar a few stops, get out at the Tesco, take the Metro across town to the bus station. Pretty simple compared to what I was going to try. Nice internet. . .
I was amazed at the Tesco. In England Tesco is a grocery store, but here it is a huge, 5-story downtown department store in a “modern” (read: old communist) glass and steel building. I went to the top and explored every floor on the way down. I bought a Viennese lace table runner and a doily (surprise) and they are really nice. I asked if the lace was made here in Czech Republic or in China, and was told it’s all made here. Everyone claims their stuff is made locally. One guy in Italy was insulted when I asked if his stuff was made in China!
I finally found the bus station, after walking completely around it and coming out the exact wrong subway exit and turning the exact wrong direction! It won’t be hard to find tomorrow, which is good, because I will be dragging suitcases then. It’s not such an elegant area as the old town, with lots of 1960’s ugly modern buildings but there are still some nice buildings. The breath of Communism hangs heavier outside the tourist areas, I suppose. There was a little market on the back side of the station, selling the typical things from Afghanistan: suitcases, bags, cashmere scarves, etc, but I did not feel safe there so did not really enter the market.

I wanted to go back to Wenceslas Square and read more about the history of that place. I found a shady seat on the base of the horse statue (at left) of Good King Wenceslas and sat and read my guidebook for awhile and was even more amazed. Wenceslas was a rare light in the medieval 900’s. He Christianized his country and educated them.
Wenceslas Square is at least a half mile long and about 100 yards wide and goes from the top of the hill down to the old town. There used to be a streetcar down the center, but now there are flowers. This is where the student demonstrations were held during Prague Spring in 1968. That really hit me because I was a university student that year. In January 1969, a philosophy student burned himself on the steps of the museum at the top of the hill behind the horse statue, and died later in the hospital. The movement had begun. Twenty years later, the university students were having a memorial demonstration for his death. They marched to the cemetery and had some ceremonies. When that was over, they decided to march to Wenceslas Square. They were very careful to be completely non-violent, because that would have been just the excuse for the brutal police to break them up. The police were nowhere to be seen. Then, as the students turned the corner to go toward the square, they were met by a 3-deep blockade of policemen! Police blocked the exit streets, too. Tanks pulled up behind the students and they were trapped. Police squeezed in, beating the students and hauling them off for interrogation. As I read my guidebook, I realized that this had happened right at the Tesco where I had been shopping earlier! The street where I rode the tram was where the tanks had come in and the police line was just before the Tesco (picture above.) Oh my gosh! You cannot understand how hard this hit me!
Anyway, the next day, students and actors all over the country of Czechoslovakia went on strike. The second day the parents and adults filled Wenceslas Square with 300,000 people and every evening after that. Freeom lovers spoke to the crowd from the 3rd floor balcony of what is now the Marks & Spencer department store. A rock star provided the sound system. By the end of December that year, they were able to elect Vaclav Havel (Pulizter prize winning author) to be their president. WOW! Called the Velvet Revolution because it was fairly peaceful.
I remember hearing something about this, but I did not really understand it, because that was the year the Berlin Wall came down and also the year Heidi was born. How much else important is happening in the world and I am not really aware of it?

So as I sat at the base of the King Wenceslas statue and read all this, I decided to go back to Tesco and look at the place again. It was about 8 blocks, and my feet were tired, so I hired a rickshaw! It was made of plastic and looks very sleek, but nevertheless, it was a pedal-powered rickshaw! A cute 20-ish girl pedaled me over to Tesco for about $6.50.
After checking out that spot more carefully, I wandered back toward the old town and happened upon Bethlehem Chapel. I was so pleased to find it, because this is where Jan Hus had been the pastor, preaching Sunday Sermons for the last ten years until they came and took him away. Jan Hus was like Martin Luther, only 100 years before him. Both were university professors and preachers. Both got in trouble with the Catholic church and got excommunicated. Martin Luther lived. Jan Hus they hauled off to Germany, away from his people, and burned him at the stake. He is still today a Czech national hero and one of my heroes, too. I was so happy to find the place where he preached! Behind the blue screen in the picture is a statue of him which is being restored. The advertising on the screen pays for the restoration.

This afternoon I found 2 little parks. One must back up to my hotel, but you can’t get in from there, because of a high wall.
I have a “free” ticket for a ghost tour of the old town. It came with my tour yesterday. I think I’ll go, and it starts in 22 minutes, so I have to get across the river to the meeting place by the Astronomical clock on the old church tower.
I wish you could all see the wonderful things I am seeing!

>Day 9 Prague: August 7, 2007

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Hi everzone! I am on the hotel computer in the lobbz tonight so I must be very short.

Prague is wonderful! It’s hard to comprehend that it’s only been 15 zears since this country was communist.

I did not know anzthing about this citz, so I took an all-daz walking tour with an English speaking (sort of) group. “English” means that§s the closest language thez can understand. In the group were 30 Norwegians, Scots, Russians,and others. I think there were 3 other Americans. Good tour guide!

She walked us down Wenceslas Square (picture above) and taught a little about Prague Spring 1968. A student burned himself to death on the square to protest Soviet occupation. Started the movement and 20 zears later on the anniversarz it became the Velvet Revolution. WOW!

We walked past a theatre that in the 1700§s Mozart himself conducted the world premier of the opera Don Giovanni. (Green building in the picture) Tonight I went back to that theatre and watched an excellent performance of that opera. The singing was great and the theatre beautiful and I loved it!
We walked down through the Jewish quarter. Prague was onlz major European citz not to lose their Jewish quarter entirelz, but once there were 80,000 Jew there and now there are onlz 1000 registered. It still has Jewish businesses and Synagogues, one a thousand zears old.
We took a boat ride on the Vltava river. It’s called the Moldau bz the Germans. I liked that and got to rest mz feet.
We went to lunch and I sat with the Norwegian familz who spoke a little English, so we got along all right. Todaz is verz hot, about 95 I think, so of course thez served us hot soup and then hot pork and dumplings and white cabbage and then dessert, followed by hot tea and coffee which I didn’t drink. By this time I was dzing of thirst, so I went to the bathroom to get water and it was automatic, so it was blistering hot, too!
After lunch we walked across the Charles Bridge and then caught a tram to the top of the hill to visit Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral. This huge cathedral is within the castle walls. It’s French Gothic stzle, built in 1300s, because the great king Charles was educated in France and he brought great Gothic architecture in Prague.
I left the group at the end and stazed on the castle hill and got mz own waz home.

What to buy in Prague? Bohemian crzstal, Garnet jewelrzÿ, marionettes, wooden toys, Russian nesting dolls, and the best pastries in the world, waz better than anzwhere else!

One more daz here. I have lots I want to see tomorrow!

>Day 8 Florence to Prague: August 6, 2007

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This is going to be crazy because I borrowed this laptop from the girl at the reception desk. I am sitting in mz room (shown at left) talking to zou which is so verz convenient. The computer has a lot of things different, like the z and the y kezs are reversed places. I think I will just go for it because to fix things will take too long and I am trzing to hurrz on her computer.

I think I set a new record todaz~ 2 museums in 45 minutes!

I was in a huge hurrz because I had to leave mz hotel in Florence at ten oclock to catch mz plane to Prague and I did not know exactlz how it was to be done.

I wanted to go to the Bargello because it has the original of Donatello§s David, which was the first male nude since the Romans, and it caused quite a stir and was verz influential on later sculptors. He did it in the 1400§s. So I found the musem last night, when I was leaning on it looking at mz map and realiyed it was right behind me!

So I blitzed out of the hotel at 8,15 this morning and almost immediatlez mz my bus 14 came, so I was there in 10 minutes. The Bargello looks like a fortress from the outside, and it actuallz was used for a prison for awhile. Inside it has a great courtzard and staircase. I found David upstairs lzing on a table with stickers and numbers all over him, surrounded bz lights and equipment. He is being restored in full view of the public, which I think is reallz cool. Thez also have another David bz the same sculptor (this one has clothes) and he is verz cool also. Thez also have another David bz Verrocchio, so it was fun to compare them. All these Davids were previous to Michelangelo§s. David was sort of the szmbol of Florence, the little guz (Florence) surrounded bz all those big mean citz-states like Pisa and Lucca and Venice.

Then I skipped up to The Museum of the Duomo, which is onlz about 3 blocks awaz.
I wanted to see the wooden model by the original architect of the big brick Dome. Thez have his actual model from the 1400’s! It was the first big dome since the Romans, and no one knew how to build one, because it was so huge, but he designed a szstem of scaffolding that hung from the sides of the dome, which thez added to as thez went up. Verz cool!

Thez also have the original panels of the Doors of Paradise. That is, thez have 7 of them. I asked about the others. Thez are on tour in the USAof course!

The verz best part of the musem was a final Pieta bz Michelangelo. He did the one zou all know in Rome when he was onlz about 20 years old, I think. This one, he was nearlz 80 and it was intended for his own tombstone. It was so cool I cried, surprise to me . . . The bodz of Christ is being taken down from the cross bz Nicodemus, with Marz looking on. Michelangelo sculped himself as Nicodemus. There is a tradition that Nicodemus was a sculptor. It is known that Michelangelo espůeciallz identified with this sculpture. Remember, M. is thought to have lived a rather bad lifestzle. Nicodemus asked the question, “How can a man be born again when he is old?” Christ told him to be born of water and the spirit. Remember, M. was old himself, and in need of forgiveness. Anzwaz, I guess zou had to be there, but it was verz moving to me.
I was reallz in a hurrz, so I was out of there in 20 minutes and ran to the bus stop and caught a bus back to my hotel in a couple of minutes. I had to go home to the hotel and get mz posters, which were alreadz in a tube, and run to mail them from the Florence Post Office a couple of blocks awaz and run back and get mz suitcases and get another bus to the station and then get tix and a shuttle to the airport for flight supposed to leave at 1300. I wanted to be to the airport 2 hours earlz, because I had no idea what kind of problems I might find going to Czech Republick, but there were none and no line for Meridiana Airlines! When I saw the HUGE & SLOW line for Air France, I was once again reminded of the great pain checkin always is with them in Paris. Some of zou will remember that . . .
Takeoff out of Florence was cool, because zou can see the Dome and the citz. The flight was uneventful. Guz next to me had 2 prosthetic legs and on real and one prosthetic arm, age 30 I guess, but did not speak English, so we gave up and did not talk.

I was reallz kind of nervous about coming here, because I can’t speak anz Czeck and there is no waz zou can read anz of the signs, because their language is not related to anzthing I know. Besides, I did not know the laz of the land or even have a map with both the town and the airport on it.
I took a shuttle minivan into town to mz hotel and it worked just fine. I was reallz glad to be here, I tell zou that!
After a few minutes I went out walking. Mz hotel is onlz a block from Charles Bridge (700 years old) and it is verz cool. This place has so much fabulous architecture zou cannot believe it! Most places there is a reallz cool building here and there, but here thez are ALL verz cool. I don§t think Prague was bombed in WWII.
I went to a reallz cool play tonight. It was a Black-Light plaz, sort of a takeoff on Alice in Wonderland. Black light theater was invented in Prague. I should saz the whole thing was a pantomime, no words, just cool spacey music like in the Detroit Airport tunnel. It was great and I reallz liked it because it was verz creative until the end, when thez had Alice get naked on stage and hold out this apple that she had been carrzing around all night. Anzwaz, as soon as that happened I got up and walked out. I had to fight the curtain over the door (kind of like punching mz waz out of a wet paper bag in the dark) and could not bet the door open, but I got out of there! No warning whatsoever . . . All the punctuation is different on this kezboard . . . One of the workers asked me if I liked the plaz. I said I liked the first part, but not the naked ladies on stage.ů He said other people like it. I told him some other people don§t like it, but thez don§t get up and walk out because it is embarassing. So there!

I walked back home over Charles Bridge. Sunset is pink over the spires of the castle and manz church domes and it is all verz cool. I am too tired to eat. This place is amaying for beautiful buildings everz inch. Zou have to come see.