Saturday, April 23, 2011


Once again we arrived late at night to our second city, Prague.  This time it was only 11 at night rather than 1 AM but it is a lot more difficult to navigate around a new, foreign city at night; however, I’m convinced that many of the low fares airlines that operate in Europe can keep their prices so low by flying either late at night or early in the morning.  But before getting to our hostel we had to take a bus and then the metro to get from the airport to downtown Prague and in order to do this we had to exchange our Euros for Czech crowns (exchange rate: 1 euro = about 24 crowns, 1 USD = 16.5 crowns).  Walking through the center of Prague at night to get to our hostel was like being in a medieval fairytale with the old buildings, towers, cobblestone, and a fair set up in the central square.  At the Old Prague Hostel a guy named Matt from the one and only Wisconsin greeted us at the reception desk.  He was very friendly and helpful and this was by far the nicest (and at the same time, the cheapest) hostel I’ve stayed at.  Towels, hair dryers, a kitchen, and breakfast were all included, the walls were colorfully painted and decorated, and it almost felt like a well-kept college dorm with all of the friendly people wondering around.

Our New Europe walking tour started out with a brief history of the Czech Republic, which pretty much consisted of one invasion after another and separated by brief periods of self-government.  Our first stop on the tour was the astronomical clock in Old Town Square and continued on to see Wenceslas Square, Powder Tower, stopped for lunch at Bohemia Bagel before moving on to the Jewish Quarter and ended at the river near Charles Bridge.

We continued on our own across Charles Bridge, which was full of artists and musicians, to the castle.  The hike up to the castle was full of shops that usually specified in one type of souvenir like marionettes, painted eggs, Russian dolls, glass art, etc.  Half way up the hill we stopped at a trdelnik bakery, and even though we never really figured out the pronunciation (it sounds something like ‘turtleneck’) this is probably one of my favorite treats ever!  A trdelnik is sweat bread dough wrapped around a metal rod (about 3 inches in diameter), spun over coals until cooked then removed and rolled in a mixture of sugar, cinnamon, and almond slivers…with the option of coating the inside with nutella.  It was the perfect motivation to keep climbing!  After walking around the courtyards of the castle and cathedral we went back down towards the river to see the John Lennon Wall.  Many years ago someone selected this concrete wall as the perfect spot to write a John Lennon quote in graffiti and ever since then it has been a constantly changing billboard for colorful anti-war and world peace messages. 

The next day we ventured back over to Wenceslas Square and the Jewish Quarter to visit the Jewish Museum in Prague.  In the first portion of the Pinkas Synagogue, all of the walls have been white washed and the name of every person from Prague and the surrounding area who died in the concentration camps is written on them along with their date of birth and death if known.  The second part of the synagogue was dedicated to pictures drawn by Jewish children in the transitional camp of Terezin.  These children, most of them younger than 15 years old, were encouraged by a teacher (who later buried the pictures in a suitcase) to draw about their family, their hopes and dreams, their homes, etc.  It was a very chilling experience walking into a room and seeing the walls covered in these names and knowing that this was only one small area of Europe affected by the Holocaust and that there were many, many more innocent people who died too.

For dinner both nights in Prague we decided to hit up the Easter market celebration going on in Old Town Square.  Some traditional food there included kielbasa sausage, smoked cheese that had been grilled, corn on the cob, and apple cider, Pilsner beer, or mulled (hot) wine to drink.  There were also many trdelnik stands and a stand with chocolate dipped fruit and glazed nuts.  Our last night in Prague, we went to bed early in order to get up at 3 AM to catch a 6 AM flight to Paris and still be able to function in the city of love.

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