While on this trip I am no longer hanging out in youth hostels but doubling up with my pal at the American Courtyard by Marriott - with a little help from my friend thanks, Sean! - it is a fantastic stay because we are across the street from a huge shopping center complete with grocery store, where we buy our breakfast of croissants, yogurt and fruit every morning. We are a good healthy walk - about 2 miles - from the main tourist area down in the Old Town square, but that's fine with us because we relish the long walk and take in the city residences all around us that most tourists wouldn't see, like this immense church.
Even the business folks staying at our hotel take the taxi or tram into town, but we felt like locals walking home every night with people headed home from work.
On these walks we noticed how everyone seems to have a pet dog, and walks them religiously. Good to know! We also had the best meal in the city in the hotel restaurant, entirely unaware that amazing food was only steps away from us during our entire 5 night stay. On one day during our visit, we left the city and went on an excursion to the Jewish prison known as Terezín concentration camp www.pamatnik-terezin.cz .
A sobering trip, partly because the Germans masked the camp to to fool the Red Cross during inspection - see my photos of the sinks which were never used by prisoners.
They even went so far as to allow inmates the run of their own newspaper, and the children put on plays revealed in a horribly cute PR video, all for the purposes of hiding the truth.
After the camp passed inspection, the evils that lurked became an everyday event. Forced labor and death was all that awaited the Jews who entered here.
Our guide was fantastic, albeit a little fast and furious. The museum was top notch, and while more time could easily have been spent reading the excellent exhibits, looking at the Jewish children's art collection was at the same time touching and disturbing. The maps of Nazi held Europe were especially striking. No matter how many times I see them it is chilling to think of what could have been. After visiting Terazin, we wanted to see the Jewish quarter in Old Town Prague. As it was the height of the summer tourist season, we waited a good deal in line - but that's okay, we were in stitches due to our keen people watching skills, especially Eastern European hair and dress styles! Once we gained admittance to the open air museum, all laughter subsided. I admit having to hold back tears looking at all the lovingly hand painted names of the mothers, daughters, sons and fathers who were sent away to concentration camps in the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague's Jewish Quarter (Josefov). A very somber place indeed, but also an unforgettable memorial to a determined people. The famed Jewish cemetery was included in our visit, with its historic gravestones so tightly packed together some of them lifted right up out of the ground as if surging towards heaven. Our visit to the capital was not all so serious, however. Becky is like me, food being a very important part of the day. We found a lovely coffee and tea house in a thankfully much quieter side street off the main square and relished giving our feet a rest after standing for hours. We gawked at the delicious architecture of the main square,
along with a little boy watching too, and I convinced Beck to please please come with me on a tour of the most incredible Art Nouveau building I've ever seen, the gorgeous Municipal Building. It is a masterpiece of the style, with a salon designed by the world renowned Alfonse Mucha.
It was like walking into a modern fairy tale that was designed in the 1920's. Awesome. We found loads of quiet nooks and crannies in the city, which was insanely flooded with summer tourists from all over the world. We walked along the river, across its bridges, drank at cafes, and peeked into Prague's many Catholic churches. We sought out and found the famed Infant de Prague, and like a good daughter got many photos of the baby for my devout Catholic Mum. Beck bought a fantastic Swvaroski crystal pendant with her hard earned teacher's cash, where the dollar wasn't drowning in the skyrocketing Euro, and I soaked up the atmosphere of being in a city that I'd heard so much about, with a dear friend from home. All in all, it was absolutely fantastic.
With my pal Becky from home in the USA, we travel the 8 hours by train from Budapest to arrive in lovely Prague.