Prague (May 23 to May 26)
Trip Start May 06, 2013
20Trip End Jun 25, 2013
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Next morning, we walked down to the Old Town Square to see the famous astrological clock, a fantastic looking clock complete with an astrological calendar showing the positions of the sun, moon and earth at any time of the day. We later learned in one of our free tours that the clockmaker had his eyes burnt out after completing the project because the townsfolk thought that he may leave town and build a bigger and better clock for another town. Understandably, he was annoyed about his blindness, and got his revenge by "stuffing up" the clock by deliberately falling into the mechanism and killing himself and stopping the clock. I guess he also recorded his time of death.... The clock did not work for about 200 years. We also learned about the misidentification of the statue of Mendelson on the outside of the opera building, by the henchmen of the Nazi commandant dubbed the "Butcher", who ordered the removal of his statue after learning that he was Jewish. The henchmen did not know which of the statues was Mendelson, so, because they wanted to be accurate, they measured the length of all the noses, and removed the statue with the longest nose - of course, they were wrong and chose that of Hitler's favorite composer - Wagner. I guess there must have been hell to pay!
We then joined a "free walking" tour of the old town area and learned among other things about "defenestration", the act of throwing people out of windows to get rid of them. The first of these events occurred with 27 Protestants who had managed to enrage the townsfolk. As a result they were chased up the clock tower and had to jump out of the windows to their deaths. 27 white crosses on the square mark the spots were they landed. Another such defenestration took place in the nearby castle where two "out of favor" governors had to jump out the windows to avoid the wrath of the people. However, in this case, they survived because they fell into an area full of horse poop and dung (from which we get the word, dungeon) and only broke their legs. Maybe, we should consider using defenestration instead of sequestration to solve some of the problems with current political system - just kidding. The tour lasted several hours and encompassed the Jewish quarter and parts of New Town. In the afternoon, we rode the funicular (an incline tram) to Petrin Park and climbed a 300 step spiral staircase to view the city below. Apparently, the height of the tower the hill on which it is built is equivalent to the height of the Eiffel Tower. That night we meet Keith and Linda (from SB) for dinner and late night crepes in the Old Town Center, followed by a stroll over the famous Charles Bridge. We watched the clock strike midnight and called it a night as the rain started to become more heavy and constant
The next day we caught the tram to the Brevnovsky monastery for lunch before catching the tram to the Castle/ cathedral complex.The food and drink equalled the ambience. We only had time to tour the Cathedral, before closing. This complex now houses parliament and associated. We walked across the well-known Charles Bridge into downtown. this venue is normally buzzing with vendors selling their wares, but the rain had put a real damper on things and only the hardiest vendors were holding out. Fine ink pen drawings of Prague landmarks seemed to dominate those that were left. We dined downtown at a microbrewery that night and met a young American from Phoenix who had been working for an American auditing company in Prague for several years and was loving it. As we walked back to the hotel it was obvious that the rain had not dampened the spirits of the young crowd and they were out to enjoy Saturday night.
On our last day in Prague we were lucky that the Dahlia Inn allowed us to keep the room all day to use until we left for the train in the evening. In the morning the rain began again and we caught the tram back to the castle to finish the tour. It seemed to start raining each time we went from building to building learning about Czech history on the hoof. We finished the day with a very brief tour of the Jewish Quarter including the Pinkas synagogue containing multiple walls with of of the names of 77,000 Jews who were sent to the gas chambers. Very impactful, as was the walk through the adjoining very small Jewish cemetery containing an estimated 100,000 bodies in 7 or 8 layers.