Last day in Prague

Trip Start Nov 09, 2007
Trip End Feb 03, 2008

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Our last day in Prague commenced early - well 6:15 anyway -early for us. Cameron and Jean had to be in a car at 7am so right on 7 we headed down to meet the car. Unfortuantely the car was not there. Fifteen minutes later and the car had still not turned up. I rang Emil, our host, who had organised the car for us. He said that he had booked the car for the following day. Apologising, he rang a taxi for us and five minutes later Cameron and Jean were on their way. The made the flight and began their journey home that would see them visit Frankfurt briefly and then Tokyo for 12 hours, then home.
We managed to get an early start to the day. We started with a walk down the fancy street that Jean had found with the girls the previous day. I was stacked with designer boutiques one on top of the other: Hermes, Hugo Boss, Chanel, Dunhill, Cartier, Dior, Louis Vuitton and more. We found the shop that Jean had identified, full of gorgeous looking jewellery, cushions and other things. The shop was not due to open for a while yet, so we went for a coffee at nearby Café Milano, The girls had a gelato and we enjoyed a coffee and a pastry.
By now it was 10 o'clock and the shop was open. We enjoyed looking at the delightful items for sale, but it matched its surroundings in terms of the prices. The pillow cost $500, a xylophone file with floral decoration was $150 and the jewellery was also very pricey.
Next stop was the Old New Synagogue, the oldest Synagogue in Europe according to the brochure. I was issued with a free kippah so that my head was covered. It was a very simple building, but around 800 years old so fascinating in its architecture.
Jess said she wanted to see the Jewish cemetery so we headed down there. Along the way we found some interesting craft stalls and very nearly bought an iron bell. A bit heavy though. When we got to the cemetery we found that we would have to buy entry tickets (for a cemetery!) and not only that, we would have to buy a combined ticket to get into all the other exhibits. For our small family this would cost 900 crowns - around $60. Way too much for us, so we took a sneaky path up some steps where we could take a peek at the cemetery and a quick snap before a woman came out of a side door and demanded to see our tickets.
Next we were headed up to see Prague Castle, which hovers over Prague. We stopped at one of the millions of crystal shops to see if this one was any cheaper that the twenty or so others that we had already looked at. Georgie found a small crystal hedgehog for a reasonable price and was devastated when she accidentally knocked an ugly ceramic miniature beer mug to the floor, smashing it into a hundred pieces. Luckily they only charged us half the price of the item, so we were out of picket only about $3 for the breakage.
The walk up the hill to the castle was hard going in the snow. The spggy pavers were quite slippery and it we found ourselves clenching our toes to try and get a better grip, a practice that we paid for later in the day when our feet were aching.
When we reached the top we found an amazing view back over the city of Prague. I was also surprised that you could walk around the grounds of the castle without having to pay an entrance fee. It was only later, when we wanted to visit the Old Palace that we needed a ticket.
After a walk through some of the buildings inside the castle walls we rounded a corner to be confronted with St Vitus Cathedral. This is an awe inspiring sight, even to a heathen like me. We lined up to get inside, which meant waiting in the rain for about 15 minutes. Eventually we got in and walked around the various chapels and statues, paintings etc. We noted the tomb of 'Good' King Wenceslas and resisted the urge to break into song.
After this we bought a 'short tour' ticket that gave us entry to the palace, St George's Basilica and Golden Street.
The palace is a vast space with little or no internal adornments. It was freezing inside and most uninviting. We shivered our way around. One of the more interesting things we saw were huge ceramic tiered boxes with signs warning us not to touch. When we got closer we could feel heat radiating off them. Clearly this was some form of heating and although the rooms they were in were definitely warmer than the main halls, it was by no means cosy.
We were getting quite hingry by this point, as it was nearing 3 o'clock. In desperation we stopped at a café within the castle grounds (yes, I know what kind of fools are we?) but we needed something to eat so settled for some bad coffee and some horrible sandwiches.
After staving off the hunger pains we went into the Basilica of St George. This is another unadorned structure, but it did have an interesting display on how crypts are put together and provided also a glimpse of early Christian architecture in this region.
On our way out we went via 'Golden Street; so named because of all the goldsmiths who used to live here. What remains is a series of tiny shops that sell souvenirs, jewellery, art, books and the like. Number 22 had been the house of Franz Kafka, so I bought a copy of metamorphosis from the book shop that fittingly is located there now. In another shop I bought Jess a beautiful art nouveau pendant watch.
We had a slippery walk back down the hill and by now we were all getting mighty tires. We decided to have afternoon tea back at the nice place where we had had soup a few days earlier. We had coffee and cakes and then headed back to our apartment for a rest. We'd had a big day out in the icy weather. For some reason it seems to make you twice as tired.
For dinner we had some gnocchi with Napoli sauce that we had in the fridge following which we got dressed up for the cold and headed out to our last cultural experience in Prague, and one that we had been planning on since we first got here: the Black Light Theatre.
Black Light Theatre is somewhat of a Prague tradition and there are no less than 9 places you can go and see it throughout the city. We chose the presentation of Faust by the All Colours Theatre, mainly because it was close to our apartment. We bought our tickets (1450 crowns - $90 - in total) and took our seats near the front of the tiny theatre. The seats were squashed together and very uncomfortable, but I was prepared to suffer for my cultural experience.
What followed as about an hour of one of the most bizarre theatre experiences I have ever had the misfortune to sit through. The story line, such as it was, jumped from one strange scene to the next. We had Faust making his pact with the devil - so far so good - then for some reason the next scene consisted of two female dancers dressed in cat suits performing what amounted to an erotic dance. Next we had dancing snowflakes and rutting birds. At one point Faust dropped a bottle he was carrying off the front of the stage and had to jump off the stage to retrieve it, the clamber back up - not a bad feat for a man that was supposed to be ancient and feeble.
Later we had Faust in Hell, with one of the devil's helpers knocking a major prop off the stage too. She also had to reach down and pick it back up, because it feature in the next scene where she was pretending to knock Faust on the head with some kind of mallet and accidentally hit him for real. She whispered an apology to him, which we heard, and then a number of the cast broke into a fit of the giggle.
By the end of the show the clapping from the audience was muted at best. In fact, it had to be led by one of the crew form the show who was sitting in front of s or I'm sure none of us would have recovered sufficiently from our stunned shock at what we had just wasted our money on. If it had been an amateur performance at a local hall it would have been embarrassing. As I was, I just felt sorry for all involved.
As we left, I suggested to Jess that maybe we should have read the writing on the ticket more closely. I felt sure that it would tell us to chew the ticket half an hour before the show commenced to allow the LSD to have time to take effect. Maybe then the show would have made sense.
Anyway, we walked with the girls after the show to find some supper. Stuck for a suitable place we ended up back and the Old Town Square for one last pastry and a hot chocolate.
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