July 24, Prague
Our hotel is a historical building dating back to 1366 and is located just beside the old square. This morning we went down for our free buffet breakfast, well I guess we pay for it in the room price, but it has probably been the best free breakfast of our trip. After filling our bellies, we set off for our Prague tour. We started beside the Church of Saint Nicholas then moved into the centre of the square to see the 14th century Church of Our Lady before Tyn. It is an awesome looking gothic church with two almost twin towers topped with cool looking spires. The right tower is larger than the left and supposedly they are called Adam and Eve. Next in the town square was the old town hall. Unfortunately, it was pretty much destroyed at the very end of World War II. Only a small portion of it remains. Here at the old town hall, instead of beheading people in the old days they would be thrown out of the windows and get impaled on sticks or spears that were placed below. This method of killing is called defenestration. There are 27 white crosses in the cobblestones to commemorate the people that were tossed from the town hall window. We got a history lesson starting with the past Kings, most notably King Charles the first Christian king of Bohemia who got the Roman Empire to make Prague its capital. We learned the history behind all the changes in names of the country, there have been many, and the rise and fall of communism, the Velvet revolution being when communism here ended peacefully in 1989. We heard about some of the wars including the 30 Years War between Catholics and Protestants which claimed the lives of 8.5 million people. We moved on to see the astronomical clock built in 1410. It is quite neat. Besides telling the time, it shows the phase of the moon, has the 12 months of the year, the zodiac signs and an outer ring with 365 men's and women's names. Here in Czech Republic (also in Poland) they celebrate their name day the same way as birthdays are celebrated, with gifts and parties. Too bad Christine wasn`t here, today was her name day, she could have gone into restaurants and had free food and drinks!! There are 4 figures on the edge of the clock representing 4 vices. On the hour each hour hoards of tourists watch as a skeleton pulls a chain ringing a bell as two small doors open and the 12 apostles move past the doors then a golden rooster crows and during daytime hours a trumpeter plays, it like a huge cuckoo clock. We moved on to see the last theatre still standing where Mozart played and then continued on to see Wenceslas Square. The buildings lining this square were built to mimic a Paris streetscape. We continued up to the Municipal Building along where the old city wall used to be and where an old entrance tower remains. Next we heard a 700 year old story of a tired, cold, hungry thief that had gone into a church in search of food and shelter. Inside the thief found a stone statue of The Virgin Mary with a gold medallion around her neck. When the thief tried to steal the medallion the statue grabbed the thief's arm and wouldn't let go. In the morning the priest found the thief whose arm had to be cut off to free him. The arm was hung in the church and remains there today, although it doesn't look like an arm any more. Next we went on to the Jewish Quarter which once had a wall to protect the Jews but eventually the area fell into disrepair, the ghetto was then rebuilt in the 19th century. We saw a Hugo Boss store, Hugo was the designer of the Nazi uniform and he used Jews from the ghetto as slave labour. We saw the metronome, an art piece symbolizing time lost to communism. The Jewish cemetery here was the inspiration the artist used for the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. Since Jews can only be buried, not cremated, the graveyard here has been layered one on top of another over time because of lack of space. That is the reason for the different height of blocks used in the Berlin memorial and why some lean slightly like the headstones in the graveyard. On the walls in the Jewish museum are the names, birthdates and death dates of 77000 Czech Jews exterminated by the Nazi's. Next we saw the Old New Synagogue from year 1270 and heard the story about the Golem of Prague. In the 16th century, Rabbi Loew created a golem to protect the Jews and was brought to life by putting the word "emet" (truth or reality) on the Golems head. Eventually the overworked Golem became violent towards the people he was to protect and the Rabbi was forced to deactivate the Golem by erasing the E leaving "met" meaning dead. The Golems body in said to still be in the attic of the synagogue. We eventually were back near the river and heard that the Czech's had the first music on the moon which was being played as Armstrong and Aldrin were stepping out of the lander. We saw the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle in the distance which we will tour tomorrow. After the tour, we backtracked along our tour route to take photos and spend more time looking at some of the sights. We strolled down to the end of Wenceslas Square and watched a street artist drawing with chalk and some guy playing drums on miscellaneous cans, jugs and garbage. Eventually we ended up back at the hotel for a break. Brenna caught up on some communications with her friends and I did some laundry. After our break, we headed across the river to have a look around then we came back on the Charles Bridge which has many statues, artists, craft sellers, and lots of tourists enjoying the sights. We went to the supermarket and picked up a couple cheese buns, apples, chips and a drink and went back to sit on a bench in the middle of Wenceslas square to eat supper. We headed back to the Old Town square, grabbed an ice cream on the way and watched the astronomical clock again. We bought two black beer (black like Coke), from a cafe on the square which we got in plastic cups and then sat on the cobblestones right in the middle of the square between the Tyn towers and the clock tower. It was such a nice evening and the beer was so cheap, $1.85 CAD, we ordered a second round of beer before calling it a night.