Good evening everybody! Today we started our day with a city tour of Prague. The first half of the tour was done while riding on a bus and in case you were wondering; yes Ron and I are the youngest cruisers. Anyhow I found out today that Prague is known as the "City of Golden Spires" because they have so many churches. The guide said most of the churches were Catholic but that most Czech's do not attend church regularly. In addition, the modern city of Prague is about 3km from where we are staying. Old Town, where we are is historic so the modern financial part of Prague had to be built elsewhere because
the medieval city could not be changed. During WWII Prague was only bombed three days because the country just gave up and went along with Hitler’s army that is why there is so little damage to the Old Town. One other thing I learned during the bus tour was Charles the IV I believe started the first university in Prague in 1348. Today it has 17 faculties, which I think means colleges such as a college of music, a law school, etc.
When Communism came to Prague Stalin has a huge monument of himself, in fact the largest one anywhere, near our hotel however even before the events of the early 1990’s the people of Prague couldn’t stand the monument and damaged it. After the Soviet Union allowed the Czech’s to regain their country the Stalin monument was completely destroyed and removed. In its place is a giant metronome, why? I don’t know the guide never said.
After the bus portion of the tour was done we took a walking tour of Old Town Prague, now most days this would be an enjoyable thing for me but today was cold, really, really cold. Low 20’s with a slight breeze when you were in the open. There were two tour buses full of people but only about thirty of us finished the walking part the
rest chose to take the bus back to the hotel. Yea people from Michigan can handle the cold!
The first stop on the walking tour was at Prague Castle. Now I was told all of the important dates and who built it but I 1) forgot my notebook at home and 2) even if I had had my notebook it was just too cold to be able to write anything down so I’m skipping a lot of stuff just know the castle was huge and old. We visited the cathedral within the castle and it was beautiful and warm. Not breathtaking beautiful but good enough especially since it met we were indoors.
The rest of the castle is either closed to tours are require an additional admittance fee so we basically walked around three sides or courtyards of the cathedral and then left through what was once the main castle entrance. When we entered the castle grounds we were lucky enough to see the changing of the guards. The guards change every hour and are supposedly given warm enough clothing for days like today but they looked cold too.
Prague Castle is set atop a hill so once we were done there we started our walk down into town. The snow from yesterday made the cobblestone streets a little slippery but the views were great and just kept getting better and better as we traveled down the street. When the buildings were first built in Prague they were built as homes and a lot of them had there “name plates” still on the outside of them. Today most of the buildings house stores and maybe apartments upstairs.
We saw a house where the family played the violin so its nameplate was three violins. Another house had a golden snake on it and was known as the home of the Golden Snake. It was neat. Right before we crossed the Charles Bridge we past another home that had three peacocks on the outside of it and it was the place where the first café was in Prague. I can’t remember where the family who lived there came from, the Middle East I think, but they introduced coffee to the Czech’s and well the three peacocks were cool.
We crossed over the Charles Bridge, named for Charles the IV. Today is it a pedestrian only bridge and has some wonderful statue’s every so often along it. One the statues depicts the persecution by the Turk’s of Christians, another statue is said to grant wishes if you touch it so both Ron and I made our wish and touched the statue. Supposedly they came true within twelve months; I’ll let you know how that works out.
The city tour walk concluded at the Old Market Square where Prague’s most well known Christmas Market is held. Ron and I had lunch at the market, me a sausage or kielbasa and Ron roasted ham and for desert we had these doughnut type things and they were still warm and wonderful.
After lunch Ron and I took a tour to Terezin, Czech Republic. Terezin is what the Nazi’s referred to as a Jewish ghetto. Terezin was about an hour north of Prague and was originally built when Austria-Hungary was fighting against the Prussians back in the 1800’s, I think. It was built as a fortified army post to stop the Prussian’s from attacking Prague and Vienna after that era ended the fort was used as a prison. In fact one of the assassins of the Austrian Duke which started WWI was imprisoned and died at Terezin, however, Terezin is most infamous for what Hitler and his SS counterparts used it for during his reign of terror.
Terezin became a transient point for Hitler’s “Final Solution” or his attempt to kill anyone of Jewish descent or who opposed what he was doing. Over 155,000 people came and went through Terezin most of them stayed for only a short while until transport came and took them further east to the actual concentration camps and most likely to their deaths. When Terezin was used as a prison cells held six or seven people but when the Nazi’s used Terezin they held up to seventy people in the same cell. Some of the Jewish people were used as free labor for nearby manufacturing. These businesses paid the Nazi Party large sums of money for the free Jewish labor. The Jew’s were not given enough food to eat, cleanliness was unheard of and many people died just from being stuck in Terezin. Our guide at Terezin was very good and actually pointed out to our group that there were sixty concentration camps during Hitler’s reign but if all of these transient towns were counted there would be over 7000 camps where Jew’s were taken when the Nazi’s rounded them up from their homes. Terezin was interesting but also depressing. The biggest thing that surprised me was that in 1944 after rumors started in western Europe about what was happening to the Jew’s a group from the Red Cross visited Terezin. The problem with the visit was twofold, one the Nazi’s asked the Red Cross to visit fourteen months before they did so they made Terezin look like a Jewish paradise, gardens, sports arenas, smiling happy children, stores etc. So it did look good but the second problem with the visit was one of the three people who came from the Red Cross was the son of a couple who had numerous business enterprises in Germany and actually used Jewish slave labor in their businesses so that person was defiantly not unbiased.
In the end the Red Cross gave Terezin a glowing report and it wasn’t for another year when the war finally ended survivor’s were able to tell their stories. Until today I had never heard of Terezin but now I will never forget it.
Let’s move on to some lighter stuff, the polka “Roll Out the Barrel” originates from here. The population of the Czech Republic is about 10m people and around 10% or 10.2m people live in Prague. When riding in a motor coach bus everyone must wear their seatbelts and gas cost about 3700kr/liter I think. The country has a government similar to England with Parliament and a Prime Minister. A lot of the governmental buildings are located either in Prague Castle or near it. Prague has three tram lines a Green Line (A), a Yellow Line (B) and a Green Line (C). The trams’s run along above ground cables and actually stop at red lights, in fact this afternoon when we were coming back from Terezin we actually saw a tram stopped at a red light and it had its blinker on, why I don’t know because the tram doesn’t have a steering wheel?
Ok that’s all for today and for Prague tomorrow we will have a three hour bus ride to the city of Nuremberg, Germany where we will get on the river boat, however, we get to spend the afternoon in Nuremberg at its many Christmas Markets! So for now, luv to all,
Ron and Ann