Prague and the Czech Republic

Trip Start Jul 28, 2007
Trip End Sep 02, 2007

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Monday, August 27, 2007

A flaw in our oh-so-wonderful GPS... it only has limited maps for some eastern countries, like the Czech Republic.  So, trusting our guide, we followed its directions.  Well, we reached our destination, but through winding back roads.  Apparently it does not have the freeway loaded yet.  Oh well... we got the scenic route. Our first stop (and my priority stop) was Kutna Hora, to see the Bone Church.  This church was THE PLACE to be buried (back in the Dark Ages) but when the Plague hit, the church was flooded with bodies.  When the Plague had passed and the time came to expand the area, the cemetary was dug up and left with huge piles of bones.  Rather than toss them, some creative monks decided to use them to decorate their church.  It is incredible.  There is a chandelier made with every bone in the human body.  Each corner of the tiny church houses a pile of skulls and long bones, some 8-10 feet high.  This is my kind of church!  (I know, I'm creepy and twisted...)

After lingering in the Bone Church, we hit the road again for Prague.  Upon arrival at Guest House Lida, we were enthusiastically greeted by Jan, who showed us to our room and suggested some sites for the evening.  We stopped for dinner, then explored the Visehrad park.  As evening started to fall, we headed back to the Guest House along the river.

In the morning, we took transit to Wenceslas Square (actually not a square, more of a boulevard but whatever...)  We stopped to ponder at the memorial for a man who set himself on fire to protest the Communist occupation, and made our way up the Sqaure.  When we stopped for a coffee at an underground shopping area, I noticed that the exhibition Bodies was showing.  I was so stoked!  I was going to fly to Vancouver to see the exhibition last Christmas but no one would go with me (wusses).  What a cool exhibition!  They take dead human bodies, drain their liquids, soak them in silicone, and then though some sort of vacuum magic, the silicone replaces their natural fluids and the body essentially becomes plasticized, all in an effort to educate people about the human machine.  It was so cool!  There were bodies that were dissected and bissected, bodies with no skin, one body that was "holding hands" with its own skeleton... so cool (sorry, no cameras allowed again but here's the link if you're curious

So after reluctantly leaving the exhibition hall, we headed to the Old Town.  (A word of advice... don't visit Prague in August.  Not only is it thick with tourists, but the locals are sick of them and rightfully so.  Of all the places we visited this summer, Prague had the most tourists by far.)  At the Town Square, we were not surprised to see the usual piles of scaffolding and canvas advertising that we encountered everywhere else.  The astronomical clock was pretty cool, but Rick Steves was right --  it was WAY more fun watching all the gawking tourists than the clock itself.  We wandered down to the Jewish Quarter but didn't linger due to the thick crowds and tacky souvenir shops.

We had dinner at the Ropemaker's Wife Pub (named after, you guessed it, a ropemaker's beautiful wife who met her demise by her husband's hand after he discovered she was selling more than just beer at her tavern) and took the transit over to the Castle complex.  The Castle was already closed by the time we got there (but the crowds were gone) so we strolled the grounds and admired the views of the city.   After heading down the hill, we crossed Charles Bridge and decided to take a river cruise (really reasonable -- $15 for the cruise, including coffee, tea, or beer, gingerbread, and a $10 discount for a show).  The cruise was a peaceful respite from the crowds, although I was a little disturbed when the boat ran over a sleeping duck (the captain assured us, "the boat is ok, but I'm not sure about the duck").

After the cruise, I wanted to check out the Black Light Theatre (especailly since we had the $10 discount).  It is a theatre production done mostly in mime, highlighted with the use of blacklights.  It was different, that's for sure.  Attila kept asking me what it was about.  It wasn't really about anything, other than a girl drifting though different scenes of illusion.

In the morning, we left Prague and drove to Terezin.  Terezin was a Nazi concentration camp and ghetto, but one unlike the others we had visited.  Terezin was used as a temporary camp for prisoners going to other camps, but it was also used for "special" prisoners: the children of mixed German-Jewish marriages, prominent German Jews who couldn't be killed, and prisoners who were used as bargaining chips for the release of German prisoners in other countries.  Late in the war, the Red Cross demanded to be granted admission into one of the Nazi camps.  The Nazis cleaned up the Terezin ghetto, installing a playground, swimming pool, theatre, and park.  Prisoners were told to act out different roles in the camp, pretending that it was just their daily routine.  The ghetto today is a living community, but the camp is a museum centre.

A dark visit in the Czech Republic, but a memorable one.
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