Last Minute trip to Prague!!

Trip Start May 14, 2007
Trip End Aug 25, 2007

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Flag of Czech Republic  ,
Saturday, June 9, 2007

So, last Tuesday I was searching the Internet for flights to different
locations in Europe when I stumbled across an extremely cheap flight to
Prague for the weekend.  Since I had a holiday on Thursday and
Friday and Rene said I could take Monday off, I bought the round-trip
ticket from Basel, Switzerland.  Grier and Allison also joined me on the trip.

We took a bus from Freiburg to Basel and flew to Prague at 3:15 on Friday
afternoon.  The flight was enjoyable and only lasted 1:30
hours.  Upon arrival in Prague, we exchanged currency and took a
bus and the metro to our hostel.  There, the owner showed us our
apartment which was quite nice and also went over a map of the city
with us.  He showed us where the important things to see were and
even outlined the trams we'd have to take.  I am very grateful for
how helpful he was because it mad our trip go a lot smoother than it
would've without his advice.

We went out to a local bar/restaurant and ordered some food.  I had pieced of beef,
potatoes, onions, and peppers all prepared in aluminum foil with a
somewhat sweet sauce (it was traditional Czech food) and it was
delicious.  Afterwards we walked through town by the river and
enjoyed the ambiance of the old buildings, flowers and water.  We
met some students from California who are studying in Berlin and talked
with them for a while.  They were enjoying their stay and invited
us to go out to the bar with them but since Allison's feet hurt and we
were all tired, we went back to our hostel and went to bed so we could
enjoy Prague the next day.

On Saturday, we planned to go to the castle after visiting the main square
to see the famous astronomical clock.  However, after viewing the
clock, we decided that it would
be nice to walk around the town for a while.  We stopped in a shop
and the owners convicned us to buy cashmere scarves (they are
absolutely beautiful and we really got a good deal on them since one of
the guys liked Grier).  We went to the Jewish quarter in hopes of
seeing the cemetary.  This cemetary had dirt brought in 12 times
so that the caskets could be stacked on top of one another due to the
small amout of space in the city.  The Jews were also persecuted
and were made to live in small houses right on top of one
another.  We forgot, that Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath so the
cemetary was closed to visitors for the day.  We then decided to
see Charles Bridge (also a very famous place in Prague).  There
were so many people there when we arrived that it was hard to wander
and look at the statues along the bridge.  Also, half of the
bridge was blocked off because there was a marathon taking place (and
their route went over the bridge).  We decided that since it was
too late in the day to visit the castle, we'd head to the museum but
then spent more time touring the city instead.  After a while, we
were all tired and really hungry so we went back to our hostel and made
dinner-pasta with marinara sauce and tomatoes-it was really good and
quite inexpensive compared to dining out.

On Sunday, we woke up and headed directly to the castle.  According to the Guiness Book
of World Records, Prague Castle is the 'largest ancient castle in the
world.'  Upon arriving at the top of the hill near the enterance,
I knew why it was given that record.  The castle was HUGE!! 
But it is not the stereotypical 'castle' that American's often think of
(like from Beauty and the Beast or Sleeping Beauty).  Prague
castle is more of a town with huge palaces and governmental buildings,
multiple churches and a cathedral, homes from the 16th century, and
many other things that would make a town function. 

After looking around for a bit, we bought a pass and went directly to the
changing of the guards at 12.  The ceremony was very interesting
and a band even played from inside the palace. 

Afterwards, we toured the old royal palace which had may exhibits inside from
excavation sites near the castle.  We saw the coronation room, the
private family church-which was amazingly beautiful, different
political rooms, the ballroom-which was HUGE, and some of the living
quarters.  The decore inside the palace was beautiful-carved
wooden pieces of furnitue, high and intricate ceilings, and detailed
floors.  I can't believe the work that was put into the palace and
it is hard to imagine how people from so long ago could make such
intricate and beautiful things.

During the day, we also visited a monestary (which has been turned into a
gallery which had some amazing pieces) with the adjoining church, the
museum that contains many of the relics from the castle, one of the towers of the castle
that contained torture devices they used (cages, spiked probes, a
wooden piece called the violin in which you placed your head and hands,
and a spiked chair that they tied prisioners in-I couldn't believe how
cruel they were to people back in the day), and the cathedral.

The St. Vitus Cathdral is located in the center of the castle and can be
seen from everywhere due to the tall spires.  Once inside, you
notice the enormous vaulted ceilings, colorful stained glass windows,
towering alters in the many chapels, beautiful paintings and
sculptures, and the tombs of nobles and Saints who were laid to rest in
the church.  I don't know exactly how many, but there was a
surprising number of Saints from the Prague area and many are burried
in the church!!  I thought that the Munster Cathedral in Freiburg
was beautiful, but the Prague Cathedral definitely topped the
Munster!!  Unfortunately, we arrived at the stairs to ascend the
spire at 4:20 and it closed at 4:15 so we weren't able to climb to the
top but just being inside the church was a great experience.  It
makes me wonder why churched today are not made like those from so long
ago...I definitely think that there is a special feeling you get from
being in such a massive and beautiful church-I felt very humbled.

I can't believe that we were at the castle all day and still did not
see everything!!  If I ever go back to Prague, the castle will
definitely be one of my stops!  After dinner, we went to the
museum.  The museum was at the head of a street with beautiful
buildings on either side and a walkway with gardens down the center
(between the car lanes).  It was a really cool atmosphere and we
walked from the tram station up to the museum.  After hanging out
for a while, we decided that it would be nice to go back to the tram
stop near our hostel and sit outside of a restaurant and drink a
beer.  However, we forgot that it was Sunday and when we got back
to our station, everything was closing.  We grabbed a couple
bottles of wine instead and went back to our hostel and talked.

On Monday morning, Grier and I woke up early (6 am), got ready and took
the tram to the Castle so that we could attend Mass at the
Cathedral.  However, when we entered the Church, there was nobody
there besides maintence personnel.  We asked one of them where the
Mass was and they didn't understand English and told us we couldn't be
there until 9 am (the time that the Cathedral opens to toursits)
We went outside and asked a man who worked at the castle and he didn't
know where exactly the mass was being held so we went back into the
Cathedral once more.  This time, we talked to a different person
and she directed us to a chapel behind huge, carved, wooden doors (it
was closed the previous day to tourists so we didn't even know it was
there).  The room was small and there were only 5 others there but it was so
beautiful inside.  The Mass was in Czech but I was able to
understand what was going on due to the visual cues.  The alter
was so exquisite and there was also an intricate Crucifix statue on
it.  I am so glad that I attended Mass there because it was a
really unique experience!!

After, we went to Charles Bridge and since it was earlier in the day,
there weren't many others there.  There are many statues lining
the bridge portraying Saints, nobles, and various Christian
scenes.  In fact, the whole city of Prague had a very nice,
Christain feel to it due to the statues and artwork decorating
buildings.  We also visited the Astronomical Clock again and saw
it strike 11 (so 11 of the 12 Apostles were visible!!).  We
decided to wander about the city one last time because Allison still
needed to get a couple gifts.  I bought a beautiful crystal vase
(for about 15 Euro) because I thought that it would be something I can
keep for a long time and remeber this trip by.

After getting to the airport, we were confused to see that our flight
wasn't displayed on the departures board.  We went to check in and
found out that our flight had been cancelled!!  After waiting in
line to make alternate plans, we found out that we would still be able
to leave on Monday, but would have to go through Zurich and instead of
arriving in Basel at 6:45 pm, we'd arrive around 11:15 pm!!  This
was a problem because the LAST bus back to Freiburg for the day left at
11:45 pm and we didn't know if we could make it.  We were given
some food vouchers but the only place where we could get a decent meal
for the amount they gave us was KFC (that's right, KFC...the Czech
people are crazy about it!!  We saw it all over the city and there
were even more than McDonalds!!).  Our flights went well and we
JUST made our bus so we arrived in Freiburg around 1 am.   I
still had to bike home and I didn't get to bed until around 2:30 am but
at least I made it safe and sound.

Overall, I had a great time in Prague and I am looking forward to going
to Andy's house this weekend and hiking in the Alps and meeting his

Until next time,

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