Our trip out of Munich was HEAVY to say the least… with our bags now packed with souvenirs we're both now starting to struggle… Hahaha. The train ride was beautiful, but I ended up getting some much needed rest as I tried to sleep and get rid of the migraine that was coming… (thankfully it never came into full effect!!!)
After some confusion we made it to the correct train station, and then had to try and get to our hostel with no map and no idea. A short stop to the tourist point and to the ATM and we were set to go… if only SOMEONE would break our 2000 CK note and give us some coins for the train machine… the only place we could get change was Burger King, and then we went to buy the train tickets. There was a local guy there (presumably homeless) who 'helped' select the ticket we needed (I say helped loosely cause I'd already figured out the fare, and was just looking at the correct button to press when he hit it before me).
From there we made it to the Czech Inn - the nicest place we've stayed in by far. Somehow we were lucky enough to only have the two of us in the four bed dorm. The showers were the best we've had - it was like being rained on… AMAZING!!! Hehehe
That night we went for a walk up to the castle and across the Charles Bridge. From there we walked into the Torture museum (kind of like Ripley's but with just torture things) before heading out for some REALLY average dinner and then back to the hostel for a relatively early night.
So our last day in Prague was a massive day, and once again we planned to do the Sandemann's free walking tour. I was up early at 7:30am because I'd gotten such an early nights sleep the night before. The plan for the morning was to hit the breakfast buffet, get to the supermarket before our tour and check out… Once again, plans and us failed as Nick overslept - mainly due to my refusal to have to mother him anymore on the trip so that I actually get a holiday too!
After much rushing we made it to the walking tour meeting place 10 minutes late and jumped onto Brian's tour which had already started. Them wearing bright red t-shirts makes it easier to spot them! As we came in late we missed all of the introduction but heard about the Czech people's love of defenestration (throwing people out of windows) as a form of protest.
We wandered around to see the Astronomical Clock which apparently was like the iPhone of it's day (the 14th Century). This clock not only tells you whether it is day or night, but also gives you the time. And has a separate clock running under it which shows whose name day it is (there are only 365 names to choose from in Czech). Apparently the rule for name days is that you have to buy all your friends drinks, so not too many people celebrate that. The man who built the clock got a great reward too… to ensure that the clock could not be replicated anywhere else they took burning hot pokers and removed both his eyes… he then returned to the site of the clock and put a curse on it so it wouldn't work for 100 years…
So, on every hour this clock does something very special - it puts on a little show. There are 4 figures around the outside of the clock - from left to right they are: vanity, greed, death and infidel. These were the 4 biggest concerns and fears of the time. On the hour, the bell starts to chime and each of the figures moves on body part (three move an arm, the infidel shakes his head) and two doors at the top of the clock open and a procession of the 12 apostles takes place. People wait up to 45 minutes to see this, and apparently each of them is severely disappointed… We missed it by 10 minutes, and there was no chance of waiting for it to take place!!!
We also got to see the oldest functioning university in eastern, central and northern Europe, which was set up by Emperor Charles to try to bring all the intellect from Europe to Prague - only 10% of students were Czech. The university has been open consistently since it's first day, and still has many international students coming to study there.
Next to the university is the Mozart Theatre. Prague was one of his favourite place to play as he felt the Czech got his music a way no one else did. He premiered Don Giovanni there - and afterwards told one of his close friends that it was one of the best moments in his life due to the Czech peoples reaction. The complexity of the piece is a challenge to both the orchestra and to the audience.
From there we moved up to Moat Street which divided Old Town and New Town. Here we learned about some of the other forms of Czech protest… The Soviets planned to silence a Czech who was spreading ideas about democracy that were being repeated throughout Eastern Europe. They decided to sweep into Prague at midnight, knowing that their radios would be off then, and there would be no way for them to communicate for reinforcement, or to tell anyone until it was too late… which was a brilliant idea, except that they forgot that they were operating on daylight savings time, and the Czech were not.. so midnight their time was only 11pm in Prague, and all the radios were still working… So, as the Soviets approached the Czechs sent out word - but that only non-violent protest forms were to be used, as they had little hope if things became violent. A few of the things that they did were during the night they removed almost all of the street signs - with the exception of ones that pointed back to Moscow, they renamed all towns to the same name (which was the name of the guy who had come up with the democratic theories), and that all of the trains soviets were on only circled the outside of Prague. This served to confuse the Soviets to no-end, but unfortunately the eventually managed to take control of Prague.
During one of the times of Czech oppression (it seemed that they got taken over a LOT!!!!) they almost lost their language - Czech became outlawed and it became a language only used by the peasants as a spoken communication, and was almost forgotten altogether. The only way it survived was because of two scholars who decided to resurrect it and printed manuscripts in Czech as well as Czech to German dictionaries and translators.
I've just realized how long this blog is going to be - so some of what I was going to write I'll just put into my picture captions instead, and keep the main juicy stories in here!
So, another place we visited was a church which had been redecorated in Baroque style, and had a very interesting story about a thief. See, the statue of the Virgin Mary who resided in the church was really elaborately decorated, so one day a thief decided he was going to steal it… it wasn't until he had his hands on the jewels and the statue came to life and grabbed his arm (before turning back to stone) that he thought it might have been a mistake. After trying to free himself, he decided the best thing to do was to wait until morning, explain to the priests and beg for mercy. In the morning he asked the priests if they could break off the arm of the statue and promised to stay away from the life of crime forever. They went back and discussed it and came back with this decision -we will cut off the arm, but it won't be from the statue, so they went and got a massive saw and cut off his arm from just below the shoulder joint. As soon as they cut through the last bit of skin holding the arm still on, the statue awoke again and let go of the arm, resuming her normal position. The priests then took the arm and mummified it, and it can still be seen inside the church today!!!
Kafka is also one of the celebrities of Prague and he has his own statue, all because he had a dream about this giant walking through the town and he was lost so he climbed on his shoulders to guide him. He was sickly for most of his life, and so spent the majority of it inside writing, but was never published while he was alive. When he got TB he asked his best friend to burn all of his works as he believed that no one should have to see them they were that terrible… he died shortly after, and his friend ended up getting almost everything published…
Another incredible place I would have loved to have gone into had we had the time was The Pinkus Museum. This place lists the name of all of the Czechs who were murdered in holocaust. It also contains a series of paintings by the children who were housed in the concentration camps. Lots of the children could not cope with being imprisoned, and became so depressed that they could barely make it out of bed in the mornings - which of course would have led to their immediate extermination. In one of the camps was a German artist who gave underground art lessons to children to help them to express themselves, and why they felt so depressed. Apparently many of them painted their homes, or big green open spaces - all of the things that they thought they would never see again. This artist managed to hide almost all of their work before she got taken to Auschwitz where she and most of the children were exterminated. The only proof of their short lives are the paintings that hang in this museum, as most of their birth certificates were destroyed by the Nazis.
On a lighter note… another big feature is the Charles Bridge. Emperor Charles decided he wanted a bridge that would last forever (lots of Prague is prone to flooding) so he asked his best people to come up with how this would happen and they came back with: 135797531. They said in the year 1357, on the 9 day of the 7th month at 5:31 if you start to build this bridge it will last forever. So he followed this to the letter, and the bridge is still standing! There are many statues on this bridge but one of the favourite ones is of a man with the dog. This is the patron saint of comedians, actors, dogs and epilepsy and praying to him will stop you from being struck by lightning, attacked by wild animals and suffering from oversleeping. A few years ago was one of the cases of flooding and is how Gustav the sea lion became famous. This year the flooding was so extreme that everything including the zoo became flooded - and a lot of animals had to be evacuated. The sea lions however waited until the flood waters reached their enclosure and then made a break for it! Three of the four were captured almost immediately, but little Gustav swam his little lungs out and made it all the way to DRESDEN GERMANY before he was captured. He has the entire nation captivated as they tuned in each night to find out how far down river he had made it… three days of non-stop swimming was a little much for him though, and he died as he was being transported back to the zoo - there's a statue of him there though to commemorate his spirit - so akin to the Czech people with his quest for freedom!
I'll leave the tour talk for there, or else I'll keep going all day!!! The last interesting thing we learned though was about how the Czech people liberated themselves from the Nazis! There was also the story of an attempted assassination attempt on one of the leaders of the Nazis which failed but gave him a massive blood infection - rather than accepting Czech blood for the transfer, he declared he would wait for Aryan blood… and died waiting for it to arrive! Hahaha - how ironic… lol
As the tour came to a close Nick and I hightailed it back to the hostel to grab our things before getting to the train station... as luck would have it our train was late, so goodness knows what time we'll be in to Berlin tonight!
Only three stops to go, and looking forward to each one of them… not to mention less than a week to my birthday now!!! Far out time is going quickly!!! Will be back home for my visit sooner than I could have thought… looking forward to catching up with you all in Melbourne!!