Monday, November 17, 2014


For some reason I decided it would be a good idea to go to Prague for the weekend. Actually, when I say weekend I really mean 30 hours... which is a very short amount of time. But, if I'm being honest, any time spent in Prague is a good time. It was so nice to travel to the fairytale town of Prague. Last time I was there I fell hard for the city and I wasn't about to say no to an opportunity to visit again.

Saturday November 15

Getting up at 5am to head to the airport wasn't the best way to start the weekend. But hey. Not all travel is pretty/fun. 

I had a layover in Frankfurt. If you've never made a connection in Frankfurt I would suggest you keep it that way. 

Pro tip: when making a connection through the Frankfurt airport you WILL have to go through passport control AND security again. Yes, that's right, if you bought a big bottle of water after you cleared security in your last airport of departure, that bad boy is going straight into file 13, unless you down it on the spot. 

Thankfully, I didn't have to actually run through the airport this time, but I pulled a mall-walker jaunt that could only be rivalled by Olympic speed walkers. I made the flight by the skin of my teeth, literally I was the last person on the bus to the plane. (another pro tip: Frankfurt keeps their planes and terminals separate, except on rare occasions, which means after you land you will be bused into the airport, then after walking down seemingly endless amounts of long and empty hallways, passing through passport check and security, and arriving at your gate, you will then be put on yet another bus to take you to your next plane). I met Jessica and Blake on this flight and when we landed in Prague we dropped our stuff at the hostel and took straight to the streets. 

PRAGUE!!! As viewed from our walk up to the castle
Our hostel was right at the base of the castle. So, we went up to see the cathedral before it closed for the evening (it's the one thing that is free to enter within the castle). 

Entrance to Prague Castle
St. Vitus Cathedral (inside the Castle)
Inside St. Vitus
Back of St. Vitus
Awkward panorama of St. Vitus (main entrance around the left side)
Significant doors on side of St. Vitus, but I don't know why they are significant.
Basilica of St. George
Seflie for mom in front of St. George Basilica
Then we walked across Charles bridge and to the Old Town Square. Jess and Blake had a rehearsal to go to, so I wandered around Wenceslas Square and back to the Old Town square where I people watched while eating a nice hot cinnamon roll and sipping on hot mulled wine. 

View of Prague Castle at dusk from Charles Bridge
It was a long long day, and it seems only a little bit of it was actually spent in Prague, but I was very excited to be there nonetheless. 

Sunday November 16

At this point I only had about 5 hours of sleep a night for the past three nights in a row under my belt.  

I got up early because I originally wanted to bus out to Theresienstadt, a concentration camp an hour outside Prague in the town of Terezin. (I should clarify that my sole reason for traveling to Prague this weekend was to see Jewish art created in concentration camps during WWII, a topic on which I am currently writing a paper and am thinking about writing my dissertation over). My dad even stayed up super late (in good 'ol America) trying to figure out the bus for me Sunday morning, it's VERY confusing. But, when I was looking to see whether it'd be worth my time, I realised I was not mentally and emotionally capable of touring a concentration camp that day, and it seemed that there was little art on display there. Little sleep, high stress from school, and a one night stay in a foreign country in a different bed is a hard enough task without experiencing the additional emotional and moral weight sites such as concentrations camps put on me. 

So, I went to the Jewish Quarter and spent the entire morning touring their sites they have open to the public. 

It was a Sunday morning and I had the whole city to myself. Below are some pictures I snapped on my way to the Jewish Quarter.

View of Charles Bridge
Charles Bridge
Selfie, cause I was sporting a bright pink polk-a-dot umbrella all morning in the drizzle
Charles Bridge
View of St. Vitus in the castle (the row of buildings just beneath the cathedral is ALL the castle too)
When I found the Jewish Quarter I bought a Jewish Museum pass which allowed me to get into most of the synagogues and museums within the area. What I mainly wanted to see was the Jewish Cemetery and Pinkas Synagogue, which displays art created by children in Theresienstadt.

I accidentally snuck into the Jewish Cemetery with a large tour group, but didn't realize that Pinkas Synagogue is attached to the cemetery, so after walking through the cemetery I had to go back to the entrance and actually scan my pass, which means I then received the important directions to "do Pinkas first", which ALSO means I got to do the cemetery twice! Winning!

Pinkas' walls are used as a memorial and as such are covered with the names of the 80,000 Jews from Bohemia and Moravia who were victims of the Holocaust
View from above, you can see the names on the top part of the ground level walls.
Unfortunately I could not take pictures inside Pinkas, even though I snuck out with these two, the pictures I tried to take of the children's art display were useless.

Let me tell you more about the Theresienstadt children's artwork. Theresienstadt was the camp that the Nazis showed off to the Red Cross. Because of this they made sure it was nice and looked like an ideal place to live. There was a concert hall, amongst other recreational activities, where the residents could put on theatrical plays and orchestras. Art was also created there. What I hadn't realized is that today in Prague children are still creating art similar to how the children in the camp created art.

If I remember correctly, an organization was created that uses art therapy to help children today depict how the Holocaust and WWII still currently affects them. They use similar techniques to those that were used in Theresienstadt. The children get markers, paper, magazines, and newspapers and have 15 minutes to create, to create their feelings and emotions about how the dark past of the Holocaust is still affecting their lives today. They are not given any instruction, just told to create. A few of these pieces were hanging in the gallery in Pinkas. I have always loved children's art. I can't wait to have kids of my own to create art with. Seeing these works by children of today and children of the 1940's was powerful, and did not differ too extremely in their appearance, which I found rather interesting.

Then, I walked through the cemetery. Jewish people take burial very seriously, it is very ritualistic and symbolic, as well as religious. Thinking back to the Holocaust, and the amount of Jews who were murdered and left to rot or burn, this criminal act by the Nazis takes on an even more disgusting characteristic when you know about the Jewish burial customs. I will leave it at that because I am very close to getting on my Holocaust soap box, and I know you don't want that, and neither do I. But, anyway, the cemetery is located above street level and takes on a very serene feel. As you can see in the pictures, grave stones are stacked right up next to one another. Some are tiny little stones and others are large and ornate. It seems that the majority of them are angled this way and that and it gives the feeling that the cemetery is a being in itself. Limited space within the Jewish Quarter of the city, and the Jewish custom that no grave shall be disturbed, means that old graves are covered with dirt to make room for new graves. Apparently there are up to as many as 20 layers in some parts of the cemetery (which explains why it is so built up above the street).

Jewish Cemetery 
The Jewish Cemetery was very powerful. It was so calm and serene even though it sits just above a busy street.
The reason why Prague's Jewish Quarter is so phenomenal is because it is actually still physically there today! Six synagogues still stand in the Jewish Quarter in Prague, SIX!! During WWII, Hitler decided not to bomb Prague (Hitler, along with everyone else who has ever visited the city, fell in love with Prague) and actually began collecting Jewish items, amongst other things. He did this so that he could one day make a museum to educate people about the extinct race, the Jews. While this chilling idea/plan of Hitler's is extremely disturbing on many levels, it saved Prague from destruction and bombings.

Right off of the Jewish Quarter is Parizska Street, which leads straight to the Old Town Square. Parizska is the Czech word for "Paris,"  so I felt very much at home.

The Old-New Synagogue. Unfortunately I did not tour this guy, which is a regret I'm sure I will have someday soon. It's not included in the Jewish Museum ticket, but apparently the inside is amazingly decorated. It is also rumored to be the legendary resting place of Golem, the predecessor of Frankenstein's monster. 

Its my name in Czech!
After a somber and humbling morning in the Jewish Quarter, I met Jess and Blake in the Old Town Square where we began our hunt for lunch.

View of the Church of Our Lady before Tyn from the Jon Hus Monument. Jon Hus was a religious reformer who was burned at the stake. 

Old Town Tower of Charles Bridge
Hi, my name is Paris and I am a cinnamon roll addict. This was my third of four I ate within the 30 hours I was in Prague. No ragrets.
We went up to the castle to find lunch and then we split ways yet again. Jess had never been to Prague and Blake spent a summer studying there, so he took her on an actual tour of the fabulous castle grounds and I decided to trek over to the observation tower.

Found some graffiti that applies to my life while hiking up the hill, "From Paris with Love"
View on a portion of the walk up the hill. This walkway was lined with these white encased murals (left) which portrayed different scenes of the crucifixion. 
FINALLY made it up the hill to this tower full of promise. Blake said there was a funicular up to the top but I didn't see it the entire time I was up there.
View of the castle! In this picture you can see the entire length of the castle grounds. I think it starts at the brown roofed building to the left of St. Vitus and extends all the way to the red triangle roof on the right! This is the largest castle in the world folks, and has been the seat of the Czech Government for over 1,000 years!
Climbing to the top of the tower!
Prague is just breathtaking. Fun fact, I love heights and prefer to be high up with a view down on the world. I think this might be due to my shorter height, but it also helps me keep a perspective of the bigger picture.
Walking down the tower 
The closest bridge on the right is Charles Bridge and the green dome in the bottom left corner was just down the hill from our hostel 
Honestly, I'm glad I never ended up finding the funicular. The park and walkways surrounding the observation tower were stunning and I needed a nice late afternoon walk through the park to reflect on the heaviness of my time spent in the Jewish Quarter.
I was surrounded by crunchy golden goodness! Blake said that in the summer Prague is insanely hot and humid. My first time to visit Prague was in March and it was miserably cold. This weekend greeted us both with perfect weather, in the mid 50's and feeling just like autumn should feel! I would definitely recommend visiting Prague in the autumn, I'm sure it's also fantastic later in the spring, maybe around mid April? but I wouldn't take my word for it.

View of the castle as I headed back to the hostel
Castle selfie!
Prague is so picturesque! (The black flags on the left pinkish building was the entrance to our hostel.) 
This is what the cinnamon rolls in Prague are called. Anywhere you see this sign they will be cooking dough that is wrapped around a rod, and then when its nice and hot and crispy on the outside they roll it in their cinnamon/sugar/nut mixture and you end up with what is pictured below. 
This was my fourth and final trdelni'k of the weekend. Sad day. BUT I ate it up the walkway to the Prague Castle overlooking the city. Can it be any more perfect?
There was a restaurant located above our hostel that had a roof top terrace. So we sat up here to watch the sunset over Prague before we headed to the airport. Sipping on hot chocolate in the Prague autumn watching the sunset over the city is my kind of party. Also, the hot chocolate was so thick that I actually didn't sip it, I ate it with a spoon. It made for some yummy hot chocolate pudding! I love that European hot chocolate is the equivalent of a melted chocolate bar!
We headed to the Prague airport (I passed out snoozing on the ride there) and played a couple rounds of big life-size floor chess before we went through security (Jess had never played chess so it was a great opportunity for her to learn). Thankfully, I flew through Munich instead of Frankfurt on the way back, so I didn't have to rush through the airport (it was smaller and I only had to go through passport control, not security). I got to my gate with 10 minutes to spare before boarding and I made it back to my room in London by midnight. It was a very packed two days of travel and I am beyond exhausted, but my 30 hours in Prague were so wonderful! I can't wait for my next European city adventure!

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