Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Defenestration-- Prague's favorite way to get rid of bad leaders

If Sleeping Beauty, Shrek, or any other fairy tale ever decides it wants to become part of real life, it needs to get set up in Prague; the city is adorable and made me want to be some sort of Princess. Since that was, clearly, not going to happen, I settled on breakfast.

Sevilla could learn a thing or two from Prague: 1) Bagel shops should exist 2) Bagel shops in Europe that provide tours are going to be successful. Each day of our stay in Prague Lauren, Eve, Greg, and I ended up at Bohemia Bagel, the restaurant down the street from our hostel that knew what breakfast was!, chowing down on bagel and egg sandwiches and chugging endless coffee (free-refills don’t happen in Europe until Bohemia Bagel!) as if we had never seen breakfast before—then again, it’s been 3 ½ months since we’ve seen real breakfast. The bagel shop had a pretty smart deal going in addition to their treasured circular dough—a tourism desk was set up in the front of the store offering free tours everyday. We met a great tour guide named Kate who was originally from Australia but had moved to the Czech Republic twenty years before to teach English. While she was there, she met her husband, and never left. She, too, is studying to be an elementary school teacher, so Eve and I flocked to her for questions about the Czech school system (it’s apparently horrible for those of you who were curious). She took us on a tour around Prague that included the Jewish Quarter and the castle. The tours were based off tips, except for the optional castle tour which was 10 euro, but in our opinion totally worth it.

Oh, and when I say euro I mean whatever 10 euro is in Czech krona. Upon changing our money, we all received 1000 dollar bills and didn’t know what to think. The whole trip felt like a giant monopoly game—paying 500 for a sandwich and 42 for a beer.

Outside of the castle

A mosaic on the Cathedral in Prague-- people nakedly popping out of coffins in weird ways

The back of the Cathedral which is actually inside the Castle
Which brings up the beer. Sevilla could also learn on that one: people tend to like more than one flavor of beer—thank you for recognizing this Prague (Sevilla has Cruzcampo and that is it.. and it isn’t my favorite to say the least… or my father’s favorite to show some real authority). We went to the Prague Beer Museum which had some great, unique beers and a cheap taste-testing thing. We also did a bar crawl which was pretty hilarious—Gabe (who we saw in Barcelona before this trip) and I danced like chickens and made fun of a lot of people who apparently couldn’t hold their alcohol during this event. Those bar crawls love the cheap vodka shots more than the trashy frats back in Boulder do-- I stayed away from those.
Eve and I cheers-ing our blueberry brews

Gabe lost a thumb!

It was very cold in Prague—I’ll take Sevilla’s weather—and we wanted to curl up in bed for warmth more than once, but quickly realized why hostels are not always ideal. We figured that getting a 5-bedroom room for 4 people would be fine—who would want to live with 4 random American kids? Well, let me tell you, 45-year-old, balding Gas from Wales would. Now, I’m probably spelling that wrong, but it is pronounced the same (just with some Wales accent) and it really adds to the effect to explain this man. My first introduction to this character was when I rolled over in bed and saw a bald man with a giant dragon tattoo (of course, I had to call him The Guy with the Dragon Tattoo the remainder of the trip since I was reading that book) laying on the bed over. Needless to say, I rolled back over to spare my eyes. So, yeah, we tried to avoid the hostel. Sorry, Dad, I know this paragraph is making you furious and scared—I’ll be home soon?

Since we didn’t want to be outside, we made the decision of doing a more in-depth tour of the Jewish Quarter. This was probably my favorite part of Prague. Kate had told us about the museum of the old synagogue during the previous day’s tour. The museum contained drawings from Jewish children who had lived in Prague during WWII. The children were deported to London to avoid the Nazis, and the teacher who accompanied them encouraged them to draw to deal with their feelings and distract them from what was happening to them (awesome teacher!). Many of the children died on the way to London, and those who didn’t made it to London but never got to see their parents again. So we loved seeing these drawings—it’s hard to describe how powerful the view of a child can be to make you realize how horrible something was.

The suitcase they found all of these amazing drawings in!

Also in the museum were listings of all of the victims who were deported during the Holocaust from Prague and the areas surrounding the city. Some amazing person had the idea of painting all of the names on the wall with their name, city of deportation, birth date, and death date. These line-after-line facts covered over 15 walls in giant blocks. It honestly took my breath away, feeling like someone had just hit me in stomach with a giant hammer. Eve and Lauren were also immediately quiet as rows of names with different birthdates but similar death dates poured over us; the sadness was drowning. I have to say, traveling to places (I went to Amsterdam next) where the Holocaust was so prevalent really makes the atrociousness of it all more intense.
Names in red followed by birthday

The Jewish Cemetery in Prague-- there are 12 layers of bodies with tombstones piled upon one another

On a lighter note, we went back to the Bar Museum that night and played card games and drank berry-flavored brews. Greg had a burning desire to eat Czech food (Eve and I were pretty satisfied with our bagels, but we figured we’d humor him) so we also ventured to a traditional Czech restaurant the next day. Lauren, Eve, and Greg all ordered goulash, and I stuck to spinach and steamed rice. The waiters didn’t speak any English and we got to practice for our next game of charades, and now, although it probably will never be the card she draws, Eve can complete the task of creating the charade for “I would like my change of 20 euros back please” while trying her best to not come off as rude. As my host sister María Jesús had warned me, the Czech people aren’t always the most polite to foreigners. To sum it up, Eve got her change (most of it at least) and we made a beeline for the exit.

The John Lennon wall

We packed up our bags, said adios (not hasta luego) to Gas and the cold. Then we headed to the airport for our next adventure in another place with another unknown language—Amsterdam.
On the Charle's Bridge- freezing in my bright raincoat again
 P.S.-- A defenestration is when you throw someone out a window. Prague has had multiple.

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