Master Yoda and the Ghost Tour...

Trip Start Apr 12, 2008
Trip End Jun 18, 2008

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

<Brian's brief chronological list of "highlights" (and of whinging)>
- We mucked around in the morning, having a walk around the Jewish quarter, having a sneak peak at the Jewish Cemetery were they bury all the jews one on top of another so that it becomes a hill... kinda interesting. We also had a look at the market areas as it wasn't raining as much as it was yesterday.
- Did the free walking tour in the afternoon of the left half of the city of Prague... this covered the Charles Bridge, the palace gardens and Prague Castle which has great views of the city.
- Did the Ghost tour which was the third tour by the same tour company, but the only tour that actually cost money... given that the other two tours were free and were great, we had great expectations for the ghost tour one as it cost money... boy were we wrong. We should have changed our minds when an old man was there with the ghost tours sign there...he was hard to understand and looked pretty scary himself... he seemed somewhat friendly though. And so the tour started with 6 of us, and he walked around very slowly... we were worried he might die then we'd have a real ghost on our hands. With his walking style, I thought he looked a lot like Jedi Master Yoda... but with his really slow walking pace, I had in my mind that episode of Homer Simpson kicking the turtle off into the distance coz he had to follow it and it was walking too slow. One of the Canadians that was in the tour group asked if we should carry him... which woulda been hilarious. Anyways, the ghost stories weren't that scary, the tour guide is quite friendly but the tour was kinda crappy really. The "free" local beer we got each at the end made things a lot better.
<Lang's Extended Version>
It was a relatively slow morning as we only had the 2pm tour planned and possibly a ghost tour at 8pm that night.. We waited around for the ghost tour last night with 2 other Canadians, however that was in vain because no one turned up to run the tour!
Anyway, by around 10.30, I was ready to leave and do something, rather than be stuck in the room, so we headed back to the Jewish Quarter.. We walked around to one of the Synagogues, but didn't really want to pay the 300 crown entrance fee, so we walked around to the cemetery to see if we could see anything..
Up the stairs of the Ceremonial Hall, we took a free peek at the 12,000 tombstones of the Jews that were buried here. This was the only plot of land allowed for burial for the Jews between 1439 and 1787 in Prague, which is why they had to pile all the graves on top of each other. As the land settled over time, the tombstones became crooked.
Too cheap to pay for the entrance fee and all, we headed to the market again to have a look around as most stalls were closed yesterday due to the rain and time.. Lunch was nearby at a Czech cafeteria like restaurant. You'd pick up a tray and piece of paper and order what you like, then pay at the end.. Our meal costs just over 200 crowns, and that included dessert and coffee too!
Afterwards we headed to the KFC (yes, we finally found one in Europe!! Well, we actually saw about 3 KFC's here and heaps of Maccas) on Wenceslas Square.. No, we didn't buy anything from there though, we were there to use their free wifi service to email our next pension to confirm our booking..
By the time we were done, it was time to head to the meeting spot for our left bank tour which covered Prague Castle and the Little Quarter. Our guide this time round was Simon, he was a no-nonsense, here are all the facts kinda guy.. It was a little disappointing that he did not have as much enthusiasm as what Veronica did, but nevertheless it was still an interesting tour.
Simon took us across the bridge (not the Charles Bridge as that would have taken us at least half an hour to push our way through all the other tourists) and to a hidden garden. It was surprising to find that behind a set of gates, surrounded by a wall, there was this beautiful garden with a whole wall of artificial stalactites and stalagmites.. We didn't get much time here though and we were soon on our way up to the Castle.
The views from the castle were astounding, but once again, we were rushed on as the changing of the guards was happening on the hour. This process has only been going on for the past 20 or so years, so it was a relatively new concept. The guard on the left seemed somewhat nervous, always blinking and darting his eyes from left to right. Once the show was over, I thought to myself, I couldn't believe we spent 5 minutes watching that instead of admiring the view!!
Anyway, we were taken around the Castle grounds and shown the tower where three Hapsburg governors were thrown out of the window in 1618. They survived because of the mounds of rubbish outside the window, and this sparked the start of the 30 years war in the country.
When the tour was over, we headed back to our room for a quick loo stop and then headed straight back up to the castle again. Yup, we spent some time up here admiring the view. One of the ironic things we learnt while on the tour was that there was a blind institute on the castle grounds - the government moved them all up there, but being blind, they cannot enjoy it..
Dinner was at the Czech cafeteria kitchen again - it was like our 5th meal in a row there!! I had wanted something different, but since we were limited on time as we had decided in the end to go on the ghost tour, this was one of the cheapest and easiest options..
Anyway, about a quarter to 8, we headed to the meeting point again and found an old man with a walking stick holding up the sign.. We should have taken that as a warning then, but no, we still decided to go on with the tour and paid up (yes, the only tour we actually had to pay for) along with 4 other people, including the 2 Canadians we had met the previous night.
So the small group of us set off, following Milan or master Yoda as Brian had dubbed him, slowly.. Milan would had been close to if not already 80 years old, and all of us were quite worried that he'd keel over and have a heart attack on us or something.. It was quite hilarious actually..
We took a good 15 minutes to get to the side of Tyn Church where he told us a story about a guy who could raise ghosts from the dead - but never had he done so in a sacred area such as a church. Of course the story eludes to him doing so and then being punished for it..
The stories weren't really scary at all because we were more concerned about Milan.. We thought it was amusing when he said that Albert Einstein played the violin in one of the buildings, and also Bill Clinton played the saxophone when he went to Prague one time for a visit outside of a hotel, but didn't charge anyone for his performance.. He'd obviously loves his job, otherwise he wouldn't be doing it for the past 20 years.
Our tour ended an hour later at the Executioner's Pub, where apparently the executioner was so good he even executed himself). Included in the tour price was a schooner of the local Czech beer.. Yes, even I managed to finish this off all on my own - that would have to be a first! =P
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