Seeking Communists... above McDonald's

Trip Start Jul 06, 2009
Trip End Jul 27, 2009

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Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Thursday, July 16, 2009

Last night, after doing yesterday's blog, we decided to take a walk toward the river along a less-touristy street.  Along the way, we happened upon Wenceslas Square, which had been on our itinerary for today.  Being so close, we had to explore it last night anyway.  This is the square where protests were held during 1969 (Prague Spring) and where a young man set himself on fire in protest of the Communist regime.  At that time, 500,000 Russian troops were called in to stop the movement.  Hard line rule was the rule for the next two decades.

By 1989, the climate had changed slightly.  Seemingly very enthusiastic about commemorating anniversaries, thousands of Czech people began turning out to the square again in honor of Jan Palach (the student who took his own life in 1969).  This was during the time of Gorbachev-era reforms, the independence of Poland, and in early November, the fall of the Berlin Wall.  The Tienanmen Square massacre had also occurred that year.  Would the Russians respond with equal force and brutality in Eastern Europe?

Taking great personal risks, the Czechs made Wenceslas Square the center of their pleas for freedom.  On November 19, 1989, the "Velvet Revolution" succeeded.  Forty years of oppressive rule were no more.  What a feeling of energy and emotion we all felt from such a historic place.  The Czechs have so much to be proud of for standing up in the face of injustice. 

We followed up yesterday's experience this morning with a visit to the Museum of Communism.  It was oddly located above McDonald's and next to a casino.  (Lenin must be turning over in his grave.  Too bad, buddy!)  The obscure location did little to hamper the excellent layout and organization of the museum.  It told the story of Communism taking root in Czechoslovakia in the post war years.  It was disturbing to read that the Czechoslovak government had initially indicated a willingness to participate in the Marshall Plan, but were summoned to Moscow and forced to change their tune.  Per the museum, it was at this point when "Czechoslovak sovereignty was no more." 

The museum chronicled the history of Communism in Czechoslovakia as well as the various resistance movements, particularly in the late sixties, late seventies, and late eighties.  The Czech disdain for communism was very much made clear in the way the museum was organized.  (See photos for more information.)  A video presentation of the Czech independence movement was particularly moving.  It is hard to imagine what it would have been like to live under such an oppressive regime.  The use of fear, propaganda, and brutality by the Communist government were terribly evident, including their villification of America.  One poster blamed the U.S for introducing a "potato bug" that was harmful to the crops.  Another proclaimed, "No American will pass through our village!"  The artifacts were arranged into scenes such as a school room, a factory, a shop (without any materials for sale), a living room, and a pretend Berlin wall.  Rick Steves, if you're reading this, we vote three diamonds, not two.

After this experience, we had to return to Wenceslas Square for one more walk through a place where history was made in our lifetimes.  What a place.

We paused to reflect along the banks of the Vltava for a combined total of 3.5 liters of reflection.  It was a very good lunch.

From there it was an afternoon of wandering, shopping, and a stop inside Tyn's church.  After a power nap, we are back, blogging, and ready to say goodbye to a place we have enjoyed greatly.

Internet access will be touch-and-go, for tomorrow at sure.  Jeannette hopes ATM access will not be.  So, stay tuned and we'll see you soon after our arrival in Berlin.

The Pilgrims
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