Thursday, July 4, 2013

If it's May, it must be Prague?

One of the attractions of an expat life is the possibility for travel. There has been no shortage of it for me since joining Tom in Switzerland. Alicia spent part of her early summer break with us in Europe. She caught the travel bug early - during our days in Belgium. When she comes here, she likes to just hang out part of the time like any other 21 year old would but also go somewhere she hasn't been before. We are lucky with our location - there are short flights to many attractive destinations. We chose Prague.Tom and I had been to Prague without the girls in 2001. This time was a totally different experience. We headed wherever Alicia wanted to go. 

my willing travel companion

looking up Wenceslas Square towards the National Museum which was closed for renovation
 Walking around Old Town Prague (Praha in Czech)

Powder Tower - now a restaurant and museum
Lots of interesting buildings

clock tower

A few times a day, the clock parts put on a show.


walking up inside the tower

 views from the top:



We spent a rain delay in the midst of sightseeing inside this church - a free, dry place to sit.

A wedding! I imagine some guests at El Conquistador have pictures of Cathy and Mark along with their own vacation shots.

This is a big lie. We went inside and they not only did not have Neuhaus, they had nothing familiar! However, the Prague airport did have a Neuhaus chocolate store and we just happened to have some left over Czech Kroner to spend. Yum.

concert hall - didn't go inside this trip
Next to the Old Town is the Jewish Quarter. This is where the Jews were forced to stay during World War 2. There were several synagogues and the old cemetery. It is so crowded because the dead had to be buried within the confines of the quarter and conditions were atrocious. How they created all the markers is a bit puzzling. 

A friend of Czech descent who has been to Prague enlightened me about the cemetery:

"why the grave markers in the Jewish cemetery were all so close together... it's because they continually ran out of room in that small space, so they when one 'level' was filled, they removed all the gravestones, created a new level, and double stacked the gravestones, then triple stacked, etc.  I always thought it was a very moving scene..."
cemetery is behind the wall

inside of one of the synagogues - walls covered with names of the dead

Prague Castle complex dominates the skyline. In the foreground, the Charles Bridge crosses the Vltava River.

tower at entrance to Charles Bridge
rear side of entrance we just walked through

 Statues line the bridge and now there are also craft stands. 

almost to the other side

walking up to the castle complex
Prague Castle is really a complex of buildings: a cathedral and a smaller church, royal residence, a street where the trades people were housed so they'd be close by when needed.

The castle has guards and there is a changing of the guard ceremony multiple times daily. As expected, a large crowd formed in anticipation.We did not have a good vantage point. Just like other guards I've seen, these were trained to look straight ahead and not respond to jeers from stupid tourists. Evidently there is an invisible line that should not be crossed. We were standing near a group of teenager tourists. I couldn't understand their words, but I believe one was dared to go right up to one of the guards and try to make him laugh or something. The boy went up to the guard and was right near his face making sounds. The guard very loudly smacked his gun on the ground. Wow! Sounded like a shot. The kid came running back with a very red and embarrassed face! Served him right. I thought it was great.



typical tourist photo

look at this guard out of uniform!

Lots of armor and weapons on display. A cross-bow was available to try - we did not. 

St. Vitus's Cathedral at Prague Castle
different styles of stained glass - both inside the same cathedral

at Prague Castle - I'm really not that much shorter!
After John Lennon's assassination, the Prague hippies painted his image on this wall. The police kept removing the "graffiti", but images of Lennon reappeared every time. Now there is a truce.

People still come to add their mark to the wall. 
pretty canal near the Lennon wall
The bridge over the canal is covered with locks. Each lock has the initials and date of a couple who made a commitment to each other. So much love in Prague!

I enjoy people watching wherever I travel and I am also drawn to the street musicians. We saw quite a few here. I do give some money, but they have to be good!

Czech bagpiper and friends

close up so you don't miss his shoes

metal tips on fingers for playing the washboard

interesting percussion section

Rather than going to one of the many classical music concerts, we decided to try a Black Light Theater which allegedly began in Prague. Never having experienced it anywhere else, why not give it a try?

Of course, no pictures were allowed during the performance. The postcard they gave us gives an idea of what you may see. We did not see the animal show, so no zebras. The black light dance was similar to ballet, but we usually could not see the whole dancer's body. Those routines alternated with a pantomime story about two stupid thieves and an even more stupid cop. Both were amusing and interesting at the onset. Both went on too long. Especially annoying was the school group that was very noisy throughout. I was surprised no one shushed them or asked them to leave.

"Must" try the Czech pilsener!
 Crossing the river one last time to check out Petrin Hill.

why is this in Prague? no idea
 Mirrors - maze and silliness! Good times!

Luckily, this look left us when we went back outside. I wonder what our next destination will be.