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November 11th, 2009

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07:24 pm - Visting Prague
Care to read about my week in the Czech Republic?

Here are my photos:

Here's a short video of our hotel room: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQfGCQSSqjw

This all started when my cousin Beth decided to marry her Scottish sweetheart Keith in romantic Prague. My parents and I decided to go and spend several days exploring the city; my folks had been there about eight years ago on a church choir tour but were willing to go again.

Prague is a gorgeous city that's preserved many of its old-world European buildings. There are little winding cobblestone streets, old churches, and random building decorations everywhere. At the same time, the Czechs have enthusiastically embraced tourism, and they've selected English as their second language. In the tourist areas, everything's labeled in English as well as Czech, and the shopkeepers speak decent English, so you can get by without speaking any Czech. The flip side of that is that after traveling all the way to Prague, you can refresh yourself at Starbucks and McDonald's and KFC -- huzzah for global capitalism. :P Fear not, my folks and I eat at local restaurants when on trips like this.

Our hotel was called U Tri Bubnu, "The Three Drums." It's right on Prague's Old Town Square, which is very centrally located. The hotel inhabits a couple of old renovated buildings, and it was very nice; however, there are lots and lots of stairs, and no elevator, so we got plenty of exercise. We chose a room in the attic because we really liked the character of it, plus it was big enough for my folks and I to share. We were warned about the stairs, but we didn't really appreciate what they meant until discovering that after going up three flights of stairs, when you finally entered the room, you started out in the bathroom, and then there was yet another flight of stairs up to the sleeping area! Furthermore there was a random shallow step going into the bathroom which all three of us tripped over; we ended up pushing a potted plant up against the step to mark it, which I am sure confused the housekeeper. Despite all this, we really liked the place.

From our central location we were able to walk everywhere. Old Town Square's major feature is the Astronomical Clock, which every hour has a little procession of apostles going by while Death rings a bell, followed by a human trumpeter sounding a fanfare in all four directions from the top of the tower. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prague_Astronomical_Clock
You can also climb to the top of the clock tower and get an amazing view of the city, as well as a close-up view of the trumpeter.

There are lots of beautiful old churches in the city that you can visit. I particularly liked the Church of Our Lady before Tyn, which is a gray building with many spires; at night it's lit from within by golden-orange light and looks wonderfully spooky. Many of the area churches advertise concerts each day, usually classical music; a local friend of my parents says that they are tourist concerts that the churches do as fundraisers, and that if you really want a good concert you should go to the symphony hall or some other proper theater.

From our hotel we could walk down Karlov (Charles) street past lots of shops and restaurants to the Charles Bridge, which crosses the Vltava river. It's a pedestrian bridge lined with statues, and a popular tourist spot; unfortunately a good chunk of the bridge was covered by scaffolding as they were doing repair work in the off-season (which was still plenty crowded -- I'm happy we weren't there in the high season!). One of the statues has a brass plaque with a shiny spot that we saw the tourists touching, as if for luck; my mom touched the spot, but we didn't really know what it was all about. Later we found out that it wasn't really a tradition -- Czech art students had polished up the spot to see if they could get tourists to touch it, and they did!

On the far side of the river we walked up up up up a long staircase to Prague Castle. We got there just in time for the changing of the guard. At the center of the castle complex is St. Vitus's cathedral, which is of course gorgeous and filled with relics; surrounding the cathedral is the palace itself. The day we went was our only truly sunny day, so we got some great photos of the city. (I would say that the climate is equivalent to New England's; the rest of the days were cloudy but mostly not rainy.)

The wedding was set for Saturday afternoon; Saturday morning, my parents and I walked to Wenceslas Square with Chris, the current boyfriend of the mother of the bride, who was wisely staying the hell out of her way. ;) This area is more modernized than the Old Town area, but still it's just a few blocks away. There's a big statue of St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of the Czechs, plus the National Museum. We went into the museum, looked at the statuary, saw an interesting photo exibit about the children saved by the Kindertransport program during World War II, and amused ourselves posing beneath a giant mammoth head.

The wedding was held in the lower level of a restaurant called Metamorphis. The groom and his buddies, being Scottish, were dressed in kilts, and yes, they were dressed traditionally (as in, wearing nothing beneath the kilt). After the ceremony we walked out to Old Town Square for photos; weirdly, total strangers gathered to take photos along with the rest of us. Yeah, OK, I understand coming over to take a look at the spectacle, but really, taking pictures of some bride and groom you don't even know? Maybe it was the kilts.

On Sunday my dad and I (Mom was feeling unwell) went into the Jewish Quarter, just a couple of blocks north of our hotel. In previous centuries, this area was where the Jews were restricted to living; the cemetary is chock full of gravestones that are one on top of the other because that's how they had to bury the dead. There was also a very interesting exhibit on traditional Jewish burial ceremonies. Other synagogues are open as museums, including one that is now a memorial to the Czech Jews killed in the Holocaust: they've written the names of all the victims on the walls. Many many many walls. We found one Honig, which is not surprising -- other than our Christian branch of the family, most Honigs seem to be Jewish.

Well, sorry to end on a down note, but that's pretty much the last thing we did, other than packing and visiting with family members. Bright and early Monday morning we were all headed back to the airport to come home.

(4 comments | Leave a comment)


Date:November 12th, 2009 03:32 am (UTC)
I look forward to seeing the photos :)
[User Picture]
Date:November 12th, 2009 03:39 am (UTC)
The Flickr link is up at the top of my entry. The set includes lots of wedding photos of people you don't know, but many of them are wearing kilts, which may make the pictures worth looking at. ;)
[User Picture]
Date:November 15th, 2009 01:40 am (UTC)
Are you sure the Astronomical Clock has apostles? They could be saints!

Prague looks very beautiful, and your attic room certainly does have a lot of character!
[User Picture]
Date:November 15th, 2009 02:48 am (UTC)
In this case, yes, definitely apostles. ;) The lower circle is a seasonal calendar with pictures of what's happening at that time -- "time to sow seed," "time to harvest," "time to decorate your hat and find a girl." ;)

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