Originally published 21 June 2013
The Saturday morning market on the Vltava river
When we lived in Maine, they had a saying....."Ya can't get there from here". Today....I've found the Czech equivalent.
We woke this morning to find a street market right in front of our hotel, on the riverfront....we of course went! It was a farmer's market for the most part, but about 40 percent of it was a flea market, full of all sorts of fun and unusual Czech things. What a great time we were gonna have!
Shopping for fresh vegetables!
Last year, I started collecting pins from places we visit. They're small, have the name of the place on them, and easy to store in a backpack. They're usually fairly cheap. I've paid 8 euros (about ten bucks) for a fancy one in Germany, on down to 50 KC (about $2.50) for one in Prague. One of the vendors at the market had a felt covered board, about the size of a sheet of notebook paper. He had probably over a hundred pins on it.....most dating back to the communist days. I thought they were a really cool relic so I wanted to buy a few.
My new pin collection!
I asked, hoping he understood english, "how much each?" He replied "No each. Sell all." I knew I didn't want to spend a ton of money on this outing....so I started to put the card back down. He said "200 KC for all". This is ten bucks american......what I paid for a single (but very fancy) pin in Germany. I had no clue how we'd transport them, but I bought the whole card....in a very unusual move for me....I didn't even haggle. I was incredibly please with my find....and took them back to our hotel room so I didn't have to tote them around all day. They include pins from from the CSSR (Czechoslovakia Socialist Republic.....also known as the Commies), car companies, athletic things......just some really cool stuff!
Cabbage and potatoes
We head out from there and visit the Memorial to the Victims of Communism. It's a very well done memorial and has not had the roaring acceptance one would expect because there are still quite a few Communist floating around here. I told David this was a living testament to the fact that some people are just too damn stupid to learn.
Memorial to the Victims of Communism
The monument starts out wide at the bottom of the hill, with a man made of bronze at the bottom. As you ascend the hill, the width of the monument narrows and it becomes steeper and more difficult to climb. The bronze man appears in different stages as you ascend, and in each statue, there is a little less of the man. When you reach the top, there is nothing left but a single foot......showing the destruction of a people, piece by piece, step by step.....and how it gets harder and more confining the longer it goes on. An exceptionally well done piece..........and if you're a communist here, it rightfully makes you look like a real asshole. So I can see why some people complain......not that I care.
At this point, the crew wants to go to the Kafka Museum. I'm not that interested in unhappy novelist from the early 20th century, so I passed....planning to visit the Public transportation museum. I head back into the parts of town that are almost exclusively Czech....back among the locals. I take the subway and get off to catch the tram to the museum. I wait a while and eventually figure out that none of the trams that run on the line to the museum seem to be running today. I figure "the hell with it. I'll take the bus".
A random and naturally occurring monument to communism
I go to the bus stop (I'm at a bit of a regional transit hub) and look for a bus map. There isn't one. So I figure I'll match the names of places the buses go to something near where I want to go. This didn't work either as none of the names matched. I said "okay.....it's only a mile....I'll just walk".
I walk about half a kilometer up the 6 lane boulevard to discover that the sidewalk was blocked on both sides and you could not walk up the road. I backtrack and figure I'll flank the construction barriers and come through the neighborhood. I go down a street to find a construction barrier for ANOTHER jobsite and I can't cross there. So I go down another block......TO FIND THE SAME THING! I guess the Mainer's were right.....you really can't get there from here. At this point, I realize I'm running out of time and won't be able to do the museum......so I wander for a while before heading back.
Coffee truck at the farmer's market
I wander through an area with another farmer's market. It's very near a huge, sprawling roundabout from the Communist times. I check out the market, take a few pics, and board the subway to meet the crew for lunch in old town.
Stunning art deco mall from the 1920's
Old town hasn't been a favorite of mine. It is VERY crowded, sometimes shoulder to shoulder. It's very touristy, and very noisy....and not a type of noise I deal well with due to my hearing. Yes, there are historically significant things there.....but I didn't like it much. Wenceslas square wasn't as bad....but very touristy as well. The people waiting on you aren't anywhere near as friendly or nice as the people I have encountered out in the non tourist areas. To me, it's just more pleasant an experience out with the locals.....and a HELL of a lot cheaper. A beer in the tourist areas usually costs two to three times what you can get the same beer for in the locals areas. And the service is better and more cordial.
Hung horse statue
We head back to the apartment and hang out a while.....then have a nice Chinese dinner at a restaurant around the corner from the hotel. Gonna get a shower now.....tomorrow we'll wander town a bit then head to the airport. Tomorrow night we sleep in a much smaller place in London. Now a word from Laurie.
While Bill was doing his thing once again I did mine. The highlights of which were going to the Jewish Quarter, Josefov, here. There are 5 synagogues all in a small area. The Jews were kicked out of here in 1099 during the first crusade and then came back because the then monarch gave them the swampy land nobody else wanted by the river to settle on.
They developed a thriving community here for a while. The Old New Synagogue was built around the end of the 13th century and one of the oldest surviving synagogues of eastern Europe. These synagogues survived the Nazi regime because Hitler was going to make them a museum to a dead race - thanks but we won, so there.
Walking into the first synagogue, the Pinkas, all the walls are white with writing on them from the floor to the part where it curves up into Gothic arches. This extends through the entire synagogue. The writing is divided into sections according to the town or area in Bohemia from where the people came. Family names followed by individuals. All who perished under Nazi rule. It is incredibly powerful and made me cry from beginning to end.
The end upstairs is an exhibit of art work from the children who were imprisoned in Terezin. The adults tried to make their lives as normal as possible but there art work shows how much they really were aware of was happening. Very few of the children survived. SO much loss, so many lives not lived, families destroyed. The impact on the survivors incalculable. Makes me want to scream and scream.
From there into the Jewish cemetery with 100,000 graves tumbled on to each other because the jews were not allowed to bury their dead anywhere but in this small area. The synagogues are all laid out with exhibits of the life of the Jews through the ages in that area and well done. Photos were not allowed which made me angry - with no flash there was not a reason for that and it seemed contrary to the message of educating the world of Jewish history. But so be it.
The Vltava is a bit "scuzzy".
From there we went to the castle area and walked through more medieval history. Opulence this time and the showcase of the privileged. That night we went to a free concert in the Old Town square with about 10,000 of our closest friends. Bobby McFerrin did his thing with the Prague Philharmonic orchestra which was awesome. Never heard a scat singer with an orchestra before. They played some other things too of course.They were projected on a large screen which was nice because of course we couldn't actually see the orchestra.
Today we went to the Kafka museum which was actually more interesting than I thought it would be. Haven't read much Kafka and what I did was a long time ago. He was a very tortured soul. Tormented even as a young child, not fitting in, he grew to an adult who hated his job and lived only for writing. His death seemed like something he would write about, dying of starvation and suffocation from a swollen larynx due to TB. He certainly embodied the adage, "life's a bitch and then you die".
Back to meet Bill and we had lunch after we watched the astronomical clock do its thing. Walked to St. Wenceslas' square to admire his statue and walk through some other sites Rick Steve's points out including a huge upside down horse being ridden by Wenceslas statue hanging in a vestibule. Done by David Cerny who is a famous Czech artist.
View from our balcony at night
I really liked Prague for the most part. It was very crowded with tourists and that wasn't much fun but the city is beautiful with the variety of architectural epochs. It is much grittier and has a more lived in feel than the Austrian cities. There is trash on the streets, graffiti everywhere and evidence of rebuilding after the communist rule. They have embraced capitalism wholeheartedly and there is shopping from low to high end everywhere. If they can make a buck off the tourists, they do.
They have that particular attitude in the tourist areas of people who really wish all these people would just leave their money and go away. Kind of like Maine. Can't blame them though, its pretty crazy in the tourist areas. Getting away from those areas people calm down and are much friendlier. So we leave this interesting city and culture tomorrow and continue our adventures without David and Sheree. I will miss their company, its been fun having them to hang with and do the things Bill doesn't want to do.
I'm Bill. My wife Laurie and I love to travel and share our stories. We especially love it when we have been able to motivate our readers to start traveling on their own, and making their own stories.
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