Trip Start Sep 11, 2008
Trip End Dec 19, 2008

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Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Tuesday, December 2, 2008

  I am now writing for probably my third to last time from Europe! I'm a bit behind because I've been super busy traveling and writing essays. So let's jump back to Thursday, November 13. On this night my group of friends and I traveled for about 15 hours on an overnight train to Prague, Czech Republic. We arrived in the city in the morning to check into the apartment we'd be staying in for the two nights. The apartment was great -I wish we'd known that it was possible to rent apartments earlier in the semester. It was spacious and we had our own bathroom and little kitchen, and we could leave our stuff all over the place without worrying about it being stolen. Anyway, we decided to make Friday our day of settling in and shopping -we had two full days for exploring ahead of us. So, that's what we did! Our apartment was very central and in a great shopping area, so it worked out. We got our first glimpse of European Christmas decorations -pretty much the same as in the states; lots of pretty lights on the buildings. Though, we didn't really get a sense of the city just yet by simply going into a mall and a few shops. We went to a big club much later and had a fun night out.
The next morning, we met up with a friend of my roommate Robin who was studying in Prague for the semester. We ate a deliciously fattening breakfast of crepes and ice cream before venturing into the old part of the city. This was when we started to get a sense of Prague's character. We walked around an old square that had a beautiful clock tower in its center; the huge golden clock tells not only the time but where the planets are aligned, or something like that. There were various vendors selling mulled wine, sausages, and other little goodies in the center of the square. It was nice to have Robin's friend, who is much more familiar with the city, to show us around. We went through a really great market that sold lots of wooden toys characteristic of the city and other little souvenir type items. She then led us over the Charles Bridge, which offered beautiful views of the city reflecting into the water as well as several craft vendors, musical bands, and marionette puppeteers. The mood was rather festive, which strangely complimented the sort of eerie, artsy feel of the city. We made our way to a bajillion stairs that led to the Prague Castle. The workout up those stairs paid off: we immediately had a spectacular view of the city below. We snapped some photos of the immobile guards in front of the Palace entrance before purchasing tickets to the Prague Castle. It was sort of strange, though -the castle wasn't actually a castle, but a few different points of interest spread out. Yea, I know, I didn't get it either. But anyway, we did see a beautiful gothic church similar to the Notre Dame in Paris. We then saw a tower and dungeon area with some medieval torture devices. We entered another cathedral, sort of boring. Afterwards, we descended back down the stairs for a much needed lunch at Bohemia Bagel, a wonderful choice. I believe we had a relaxing night before walking around a bit in the darkness of the city to find dinner. We tried to go to a different club later that night, but it was lame, so we went back to the apartment for some shut eye.
We took our time getting up on Sunday morning before checking out of the apartment and exploring more of the city. We spent the morning/early afternoon in the Jewish quarter, which was quite interesting. We visited a few synagogues and then a big Jewish cemetery. It was really moving to see the hundreds upon hundreds of graves crammed into a rather small space. Our last stop in the quarter was the Spanish Synagogue. This was rather impressive; colorful painted lines and shapes covered every inch of the walls and ceiling. We then stopped for lunch -I had a traditional Czech meal of goulash stew in a bread bowl -before moving on to our next destination. We had heard from everyone who visited Prague before us to "Czech" out the John Lennon wall (haha). I really enjoyed that part of the city as well; it was very quaint and quiet. We stopped at the edge of the river where dozens of ducks and swans were fighting for the next piece of bread from some children. Here was a really neat view of some buildings and bridges -they really encapsulated that eerie feel I talked about earlier, especially with dark gray clouds behind them. We made our way to the John Lennon wall and spent some time there taking pictures. The wall originally contained the large graffitied face of John Lennon. Over several years, locals and visitors have added little bits of Beatles lyrics, inspirational quotes, and meaningful words/images to the wall. Usually, you'd associate a graffitied wall with punk kids wanting to vandalize property for a thrill. It was so refreshing to see a positive graffiti wall. We added a bit of our own "vandalism" to it. We walked around the streets near the Charles Bridge once more before eating our last meal in Prague. We made our way to the very sketchy train station to board another overnight train back to the Netherlands.
I'm currently working on my London and Ireland blogs... they'll be up soon!!
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