Monday, August 20, 2012

Prague, Czech Republic - Europe Trip 2012

Prague started out as an adventure for us! We got off at the wrong train station (in a Slavic speaking country) and had to figure out how to get a hold of our transport. It was an especially stressful situation for me because I had arranged our stay in Prague and felt extra responsibility. Luckily, Airbnb has amazing customer service and was able to call our driver for us and have him pick us up at a different train station. Our driver took us directly to our amazing apartment so that we could check in right away, and even gave us a legit dinner recommendation. It was a classic Czech restaurant, with killer food, and a celebrity siting (the young actress from Moonrise Kingdom)!

After dinner, we hit the streets! Prague at night is absolutely magical. We all started to refer to it as the "Disneyland" of Europe because it's main cathedral looked like a castle and the buildings are so beautiful they look fake. We managed to watch the world's oldest astrological clock ring at the top of the hour (with hundreds of other tourists), walk along the Charles Bridge, and stroll through Old Town all within our first night. We were bummed to have to leave Berlin, but those feelings were soon eclipsed by our excitement about our new city. 

Our first full day in Prague was LONG. We started with the New Prague walking tour, went straight onto a second tour (the Castle Tour), and then the boys went on a beer tour! Needless to say, we did a lot of walking and took in quite a few sights. The architecture in this city is incredible and full of diverse architectural styles, including (but not limited to) Art Nuevo, Art Deco, Cubism, Renaissance, Victorian, and Soviet. We learned that most of Prague’s buildings, including their synagogues, were spared during WWII because Hitler had decided that Prague would be the city that held his museum of the extinct race. It’s a creepy reason to be spared, but fortunate that original buildings are still standing. Some of the other tour highlights included:
  • Prague’s Velvet Revolution and Velvet Divorce (non-violent political movements that were said to go so smoothly, they were like velvet). 
  • How Praguers liberated themselves from Nazi occupation at the end of WWII. 
  • Life within Soviet occupation, which lasted until 1989 (to this day, older generations remain completely silent on public transportation for fear that their conversations will be overheard) 

We had a quick break before we started the next activity, the Castle Tour! The Castle Tour was neat because we were able to see a whole different part of the city we wouldn’t have found on our own. We saw the Royal Castle, various government buildings, and amazing views of the city. I started to lose steam toward the end, so I began lagging behind with Ian, taking pictures. One of the major highlights of this tour was our stop at St. Norbert’s Monastery. We rode the city tram to the top of Castle Town and were dropped off to AMAZING views of Prague. The sky was blue, red rooftops were sprinkled over the building tops, and there was a calmness in the air; it was one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen. It spurred the voice inside of me that says, “You are young, you are seeing the world, and you are doing exactly what you should be doing”. After taking in the views Robbie and Ian went to grab a couple of beers from the Monastery’s brewery. In order to support themselves, the Monks would brew beer and sell it to locals. The guys said it was some of the best beer they’ve ever had and described it as, “drinking a sandwich from a bottle”. After the boys took off for the beer tour, Sarah and I strolled through the Royal Gardens and even stumbled upon a bride and her groom enjoying the city’s views. I definitely enjoyed the slower pace, especially after running around all day.

Our second full day in Prague was SO much more relaxed than our first. We found a breakfast place and gorged ourselves in the name of Ian (it was his birthday, after all). We all enjoyed munching on delicious pastries watching locals go by. After breakfast, Ali and Lijah took off for a daylong tour to the concentration camp in Terezin, a site used for propaganda during the war. Since Nazi’s couldn’t make prominent Jews (i.e. doctors, professors, lawyers, etc.) just disappear, they were sent to this “model” camp. There, a doctor named Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, created a drawing program for children to express their feelings during the war. It was incredibly powerful to see images of fear and hope coming from such young people. Luckily, the doctor was able to hid thousands of drawings before she volunteered to go to Auschwitz to follow her husband. 

The four of us explored New Town, found the right train station, lost Ian for a bit, and bought cigars (at least the boys did). We visited the Metronome Statue that has replaced the statue of Stalin that once overlooked the city. Right next to the statue was a makeshift skate park full of skate kids doing their thing. It was refreshing to find a place that Praguers call their own without trying to sell something. 

We walked through the park to a beer garden our tour guide recommended. The park and beer garden sat on top of a hill, so we had panoramic views of the city as the guys enjoyed their beers. We ate in a cute little restaurant that was soaked in sun and alive with people. It was wonderful to sit in the sun, enjoying conversation and a meal with my guy. 

Before dinner, Robbie, Ian, and I rushed to the clock tower in Old Town Square. We ran up the stairs as fast as we could (as fast as my short legs would carry me), and made it just in time to watch the trumpeter announce the top of the hour. It was an experience I have never had and don’t imagine having many more times in my life. The tower gave us striking views of the city. We saw everything from the castle, our beer garden, and open fields in the distance. I started to feel a little shaky and dizzy from the height, but it was well worth it for the experience. 

Our final morning was spent catching up on things we weren’t able to see the previous few days. We wanted to make sure we saw the Jewish Cemetery and memorial. The cemetery was pretty remarkable. Jews in Prague were walled into their ghetto for hundreds of years and weren’t granted any additional land from the Czech government. This lead to the community burying their dead on top of previous graves, up to 12 graves deep! Visitors can see the tops of some headstones resting at the foot of others. When the ghetto walls were taken down (just over 100 years ago) community members were given the option to either move out or stay within the ghetto; 80% moved out immediately. 

I was a little intimidated by Prague when we first arrived. I think it’s because I am completely incapable of the language; I have no idea how to pronounce Czech words and don’t even know where to start with pronunciation of the letters, and felt insecure about that. That said, since Prague relies so heavily on tourism it does an excellent job accommodating English speakers. English is all over signs, in menus, and individuals throughout the city do their best to use it. The language barrier was scary at first, but it definitely got easier. 

Prague may have been the biggest surprise of our trip. I don’t think any of us were expecting just how beautiful it would be. We were struck by architecture at just about every turn and had delicious food almost (ask Ian about his little hiccup if you have a chance :) every meal. It’s a gorgeous city and would highly recommend making a stop the next time you’re in Europe!

(More photos after the jump!)


  1. Prague is the capital and the largest city of the Czech Republic. It has a temperate climate with warm summers and cold winters. Prague is home to a number of famous cultural attractions. It's main attractions include the Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge, Old Town
    Square, the Jewish Quarter, the Lennon Wall, and Petřín hill. In 1992, the magnificent historic center of Prague was included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.


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