Strength does not come from physical capacity it comes from indomitable will -Ghandi

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Prague Days 3-4

Welcome back for part two of my Prague trip. Day 3, I went on a tour of the Terezin Concentration camp that is about an hour outside of Prague. On Day 4, I did a tour of the Prague Castle and some shopping. See below for the stories and pictures!!

Day 3:
Terezin Concentration Camp

Terezin was originally a military fortress when it was built in the 18th century, then a garrison town. They kept the town the same but used the buildings to house the Jewish prisoners during WWII. Today, some of the soldiers and those who worked in the area before, still live there and are raising their families there. Most of us found that very strange and you can tell that it is a very poor town. They were pretty dirty, unkept people walking around. I am not sure why people would want to stay there...

Terezin was used during the end of WWII (started bringing Jews in 1941). There was a lot of deceit used to get the Jews to come, they were often told that they were leaving the Jewish Quarter and other areas of Prague to go for a "Spa Week" or something similar. Those same stories were told when they moved people from Terezin to a killing/extermination camp such as Auschwitz.  The Nazis, forced the camp prisoners to write letters and notes confirming how great it is and that more people should come.

It makes my heart so sad to hear those things. But it is also very interesting because this was in the 1940's, the war had been going on for years at this'd think that the Jews would have been a little bit more aware of the situation. It shows how much was covered up and how much the Jews wanted to just turn their heads and not pay attention.
There are actually stories about a few people who were able to escape (Terezin and Auschwitz) and they tried to come back and rescue a few people/warn them about what was happening at Auschwitz but people wouldn't believe them. It shocks me that they wouldn't believe!
The Red Cross was worried about the camp and the Nazi's ended up creating a "beautification campaign". They made the town look like a spa town, made movies to send out, and other "marketing" rouses to fool the Red Cross. They made some of the Jews play soccer and they were recorded playing and laughing. They also had children draw pictures and perform in a play. In the video, they showed that there were only two beds stacked for bunk beds when really there are three stacked on top of each other.  Many things like this were done in order to show the outside world that people were being treated well inside the camp, even though it was clearly not the truth. But it worked and the Red Cross and others slowly left them alone.

Entering the Camp:
There is a graveyard and then the first building you encounter is the crematorium. These are located outside the actual walls of Terezin. When people died at Terezin in the beginning, they were buried, several people together but they soon learned that the water level was only 1-3 meters below. They didn't want to be contaminating their water supply so the crematorium was built. People were cremated and then kept in urns  (pic further below).

There is an owl above the entrance of the crematorium. While in most cultures the owl symbolises wisdom, for the Jewish it symbolises evil. The owl's hoot is a groan and the Jews believe that it is mourning over devastation. In the Hebrew Bible it symbolises destruction and desolation.

Crematorium and the Owl

Graveyard next to the Crematorium

Next we saw the Columbarium, funeral rooms, and mortuary. The first picture is a stone where it lists where prisoners came from. There were a lot of places listed--people from all over Europe were brought to Terezin.

This next picture is a picture of the original caskets that people were buried in. Very skinny. But again as mentioned above, they weren't used for very long because of the high water level.

Next we have the picture of some of the cardboard urns that people's ashes were stored in after being cremated. This entire area was lined with urns and people came here to say their good byes when they could.

The picture below has five locations and dirt from those locations. On the ground you can see the star of David. The locations are sacred but I cannot recall all the details about the different places.

This railroad has some interesting consequences. People originally thought it was great and that people wouldn't have to walk as much to get to the camp. But what ended up happening is that prisoners by-passed the city outside of Terezin and went straight into the camp. This means that anybody who could have started to warn people no longer had the chance because they just rode the train straight into the camp.

This is how the town looks today. I was told it hasn't been changed much but it wasn't in quite as good of condition when the Jews were here. The same structures stand though. There were 49,000 Jews here at one time...and if you were to walk around here, there is not room for that many people, even with lots of bunk beds. Many people ended up sleeping in the streets and the town square as well. In the end over 140,000 Jews went through Terezin.

This composer Pavel Haas was writing music but also disguised Hebrew messages in his music. You can see below one of the messages. It says: "This is the souvenir of the Anniversary of the First Day and the last day of Tenezin."

The picture below is the town square. During WWII, they would have drills, roll call and such here in the town square as well as in enclosures between buildings.

This was one of the nicer rooms, sadly. There was a small kitchen and five people could sleep here. People thought it was a privilege to live here because you could live those you loved. If you weren't in this small room, you could get split up (men, women, children and elderly were all separated).

Below we have a secret prayer room. On the main wall (a little to the left) it says: "May our eyes behold your return to Zion in Compassion" and on the side wall (to the right) it says: "Know before whom you stand." Even though I am not Jewish, I think those are some powerful statements. There were some other statements on other walls as well. This room was kept secret because the man who built it was afraid the guards would destroy it or take it away if they found out about it.

I can't say seeing the camp was fun or exciting. The camp has valuable messages, a good learning experience, and the stories definitely make you sad. You only got bits and pieces but if you ever get the chance to see some concentration camps, I would highly recommend it. In June, my family is going to see the Anne Frank House, so that should be eye opening as well.

After two very busy days, my body started to get sick, so I decided to just rest for the evening.

Day 4:
Castle Tour

I got to tour the Prague Castle on a beautiful sunny day!! The first few pictures are awesome views of Prague from the Castle.

Here we have the Strahov Monastery and library. Apparently a lot of the locals like to come up here because there aren't tons of tourists that come up here. There is also a little pub where the monks have a micro-brewery and make their own beer. Obviously, I didn't drink any but some say it is amazing.

After the monastery we went to the Cathedral. We only went into the front part but there were a lot of stainless windows. It was very beautiful!

This is the entrance to the actual castle grounds. I thought it was interesting that the statues are very violent. But it is for protection. I also liked the gold on the arch. Then we watched the changing of the guards. They change every hour, so they don't have it too hard. Those pics are below.

Castle Entrance

Changing of the Guard

Changing of the Guard

This is another building on the Castle grounds it is called the Schwarzenberg Palace. It is a Renaissance building. I share this picture because of the design.  If you make the picture below you can see the intricate details on the walls. This was all done by hand with a technique called sgraffito. They put a layer of brown plaster then they did the lighter layer. Once they both dried, they had artists come in and scratch/sculpt the design on this building. It is around the entire building. And if you look close, you can see where the roof comes out over the building, underneath is also carved out!! So much work!!

Schwarzenberg Palace

This is a big courtyard before the cathedral. Apparently Tom Cruise runs through this courtyard in Mission Impossible 4 (I haven't seen it) there is also a scene with him on the Charles Bridge. Again I haven't seen MI4, nor am I going to watch it just to confirm that fact but I did google it quickly and there appears to be truth to it. So I get to add another place I've walked were a celebrity has walked!

This is the other side of the Cathedral. It is very medieval and dark in general but then there are bits of gold in there. The gothic architecture is pretty interesting!

After the castle tour, I walked around some new streets and checked out the Easter Market again. There were some new booths up...but they had the same stuff. I did take a picture of the Astronomical is in a war for the title of the most over-rated attraction in Europe/World (not sure which). I think the purpose of the clock is pretty dang amazing!! But the show it puts on, is yes, overrated. If you google "Prague Astronomical Clock Show" I am sure you'll find many videos of the little show it does each hour.

This clock was installed in 1410 and is the oldest astronomical clock still working. It is so interesting to learn about and wikipedia actually has most of it correct, so click here if you want to learn more about how the clock actually works.

I need to tell you about these wonderful treats called "chimneys" I had one last night and two today. During the Easter Market, I got one that had chocolate covered in the centre. I had whipped cream and mixed fruit. Soooo yummy!! See below for how they are made:

There are tons of shops where they make these chimneys. They make this sweet dough and wrap it around these sticks. The sticks rotate over the coals/flames and evenly cook the dough. As it cooks, they put butter on and cover the chimneys with cinnamon sugar. Then they are filled with different things. I've also had a chimney filled with ice cream!

In my first post, I mentioned that I fell in love with a few pieces of art. I did decide on one piece so I bought some art. I LOVE it :)

And that ends my trip! I woke up early on Sunday to fly home. Prague was amazing...I would have to say as of right now, it is my favourite non-costal city. If it isn't on your "to-do" list: ADD IT!

I am off to travel with my mother for a few weeks. I will have some fabulous blog posts once I return (and if I am on top of it, I may even get one out while we are travelling!!)
Enjoy the rest of your week!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Prague Days 1-2

Riding the bus to the hostel
Last Wednesday was a busy day of classes, a presentation on online and offline networks, cleaning up of the apartment so no food would rot while I was away...and then I grabbed my backpack and made my way to Prague!

Getting There....
Dark Street of Prague: Day 1
There were two girls that got the attention of the entire plane because of their immature, loud behaviour. They were the perfect blonde stereotype! Skinny, blonde, barbie type girls (no offense to anyone I know and love and respect that is blonde and does not fit this stereotype!! :) ) They were a row in front of me on the other side of the plane. Within the first five minutes, we all wanted to throw them off the plane. One flight attendant came and asked girl B if she "was okay" because he could hear her at the front of the plane, when she said she was fine, he told her to keep the noise level down. Within 30 seconds, she was already shouting and using offensive language with her friend (girl A). Girl A was on the aisle and started looking around and caught my eye, I got her attention. I said, "Excuse me, everyone around here agrees with the flight attendant, you need to keep your noise down and watch your language please." Everyone around gave their silent thanks with nods and smiles to me. These girls were so immature, I can't really explain it. About five minutes later, the girl B is bad-mouthing me saying that it is okay for the flight attendant to say something but other passengers shouldn't be saying anything and blah blah blah....everyone was basically laughing and gawking at them in disbelief. They gave me more support yet it was still silent, which didn't really help the situation. I didn't say anything more, clearly, they have other issues that they need to work out and I am not going to cause a scene. The flight attendants had to talk to them multiple times and when there was about a half an hour left in the flight, they finally calmed down.

My first real view of Prague! That is the Charles Bridge.

Although my patience was tried during the entire plane ride, I made it safely!! I landed in Prague, took a bus, then the metro tram, then walked the dark streets of Prague to my hostel. There was only one other girl in my room, so it was pretty quiet, which was nice for the first night. I didn't get in until late, so I planned out my trip and hit the sack!

Day 2:
Statue on Charles Bridge
Well my bed was nice but hostels are not the greatest if you want a good night's rest. Once people left, I ended up sleeping for another hour...just because I could! After waking up, I went on a search for breakfast. I crossed over the Charles Bridge and it seemed as people were starting their day as well but I beat too many crowds. I looked at the many statues lined across the bridge and then looked at the waterline. Such beautiful buildings.

Charles Bridge

Waterline view from the Charles Bridge

Hot Chocolate and Croissant from
"Good Food" bakery in Old Town
Once I crossed, I found a bakery and bought a croissant and some hot chocolate. The hot chocolate was the complete opposite of the London. I'm pretty sure most of the hot chocolate I get in London is low or no sugar; it is not very sweet at all! This hot chocolate was pretty much straight melted chocolate! I almost had sugar overload just from my small cup. The guy who served me, I'm pretty sure he was the owner, was very attentive to me. As I left, he says, "See you tomorrow!!" I laughed and told him we'd see. I kept walking down the small streets. I knew I needed to make my way to old town but I was mostly just wandering at this point. I went into a few little art shops and instantly fell in love with a couple paintings and I decided I would leave Prague with a painting. I found another pastry shop and decided to look and there was this lovely pastry with fruit on top, I couldn't resist. I ate it as I walked and I found old town square as I kept walking.
Delicious fruit pastry from "Krusta"
My first view of Old Town Square
Once I made it into the square, there was a massive Easter market set up in the square. This happens around Christmas time as well.

I was going to meet a tour group to do a walking tour because I wanted to learn more about the city. A guy stopped me, commenting on my delicious looking pastry. He was a very cute man, so I stopped and chatted. He was from a different tour group and wanted to see if he could convince me to join his tour instead. I told him to give it his best shot. He did his sales pitch. I told him that the group I was going with was #1, so why would I chose his tour...he had to work if I was going to switch! haha He won me over and I decided to join his walking tour at 11am. They were both free walking tours but I just wanted to see why he thought I should go with his group. It was fun!

Easter Market

Food at Easter Market: there are tons of booths with
lots of different types of sausages. In the USA, we'd call it a hot dog;
in the Czech Republic it is "parek v rohliku".
They were serving them in buns like we normally eat them in-because it
is easier for the festival; but normally there is just a hole through the centre
of the bun that the sausage goes through.

Old Town Hall

I had a half an hour until my tour started, so I went to the top of the tower of the Old Town Hall building. There was a ramp that wrapped all the way up the inside of the tower and there were pictures of the tower throughout history-which was cool to see. Once at the top, there were wonderful views of all of Prague. I am adding pictures but truly they don't give justice to the view.

View from top of Old Town Hall Tower

Panoramic view from top of Old Town Hall Tower

At 11am I met up with my walking tour where we saw Old Town, New Town, and the Jewish Quarter. I would go into detail but it honestly won't mean much to you unless you've been there or know the history. So I'm going to post pictures and tell you the picture is and share any quick facts but I won't bore you with all of the details!


These first two pictures are of the Rudolfinum. It is the home of the Czech Philharmonic orchestra. Dvorak himself conducted the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in the first concert in the hall in 1896! There is a statue of Dvorak in front of the building as well.

This is a tower at the end of Charles Bridge but there is another tower that looks pretty similar to this in New Town. It is called Powder Tower. It gets it's name from the fact that during different wars, gun powder was stored in the tower. Pretty cool!

Current Jewish Quarter

This is what the streets of the Jewish Quarter look like now. It has become one of the most expensive places to live in Prague. But before and during WWII, all the Jews were confined to living in the Jewish Quarter or Jewish Ghetto. There was a large wall around the quarter and over 18,000 Jews were forced to live there at one time. Pictured below is the Old New Synagog and it has been used every Sunday, except during WWII, so it is the oldest, active synagog in the Europe (and maybe the world). It was also one of Prague's first gothic style buildings.

The current Jewish Quarter was designed with Paris as it's inspiration and was build on top of the old Jewish Quarter. So it is 6-9 meters higher than the Jewish Quarter was and is obviously much nicer design.

Old New Synagog

After the very educational tour, I found a cafe near my hostel for lunch. I ordered my first helping of goulash. I ordered it in a bread bowl and it was just delicious!! I would highly recommend it. I was served super quickly and just enjoyed a bit of a break from walking.

Goulash in Bread

After relaxing in the cafe for a little bit, I went back to Old Town and walked around the Easter Market. It was kind of like the craft fairs we have in Utah...everything starts to look the same after you've walked down a couple rows. There were lots of decorative eggs, paintings, hand crafted knick-knacks. And lots of food. It didn't take too long to walk through the square.

I wandered off the main square a little bit and saw that there was an art exhibit with a few different artists. I could pick however many I wanted to see and just pay for those ones. So I decided to go see the Andy Warhol and the Salvador Dali exhibits. I decided I don't really like Salvador Dali! Although there was one that I really liked! I walked into a new room and from a distance I saw Abraham Lincoln instantly. I walked up closer and it was a lady looking out at the Mediterranean Sea. The sign says that you need to be 20 meters away to see the portrait of Abe Lincoln but I wasn't that far away. As I was in a different room, there was another European couple walking very far away from the painting and the look on their face told me they had no idea who Mr. Lincoln was. From their tone and body language it seemed like they were saying, "I can see a man but not a specific man." I found it interesting since I saw Abe instantly. And I could still see him when looking at it up-close.

Can you see the president? Can you see the lady looking out at the ocean?

I found Andy Warhol's exhibit more interesting. I like abstract art but apparently Dali isn't my type. I knew the type of stuff Warhol had done but a few things I hadn't realised he had been involved with.
Andy Warhol: Campbell Soup Exhibit

Andy Warhol: Marilyn Monroe Exhibit

After the art exhibits I went inside this beautiful Cathedral. It is called, "Our Lady Before Tyn Cathedral". I couldn't take any pictures inside but there was a lot of gold and detailed wood working. Fairly similar to a lot of other cathedrals but more gold than others that I have seen.

Our Lady Before Tyn Cathedral
If you have ever had Czech food, you know it is super dense. And I think super dense is maybe an understatement. The picture below is my dinner and it actually looks like fairly small portions: pork medallions, bacon dumplings, bread, gravy, and whipped cream.  I almost couldn't finish the bread because I was so full. I also am not sure the purpose of the whipped cream....they seem to serve it with a lot of meals. It was very good-the meat was cooked well, the dumplings were good (not like Asian dumplings that you may normally associate "dumplings" with) but just very dense. I sat at the table for almost a half an hour after I ate just to let my food settle a little bit.

After my dinner, I went to the Old Town centre and listened to a Celtic Rock Concert for St. Patrick's Day. It was kind of funny because we had an Irish concert while everything was decorated for Easter. I've included some videos of the different songs played.

These first two videos are THE SAME SONG!! It is crazy how different...I like the beginning much more.

This last one is instrumental...but I am highly entertained but the guy in front dancing! 

After listening to the Celtic Rock band for a while, I went and met up with another tour. This time, I was going to hear legends and stories from around Prague that have to do with things that are believed to be haunted. The Ghost Tour guide was quite good at her story telling and it was fun to walk around Prague at night.

One of the stories was about the murdered nun:
If you so happen to be wandering about the environs of St. Agnes Convent in Josefov (Jewish Quarter) during the dark hours of a magical evening  be sure to watch out for the Murdered Nun! She appears to be quite moody, one evening she might be covered in blood and weeping bitterly and other evenings one may find her smiling tenderly at unhappy lovers. The child of a wealthy nobleman, this child tragically fell in love outside of her class with a poor knight. Her noble father of course refused to give his consent for marriage and as her payment for her unforgivable sin she was to be sent to live in St. Agnes convent, where she still resides today but only in transparent form. The night before her transfer to the convent she decided to follow her heart and met with her beloved but was, alas also met by her father who in an outrage stabbed her for shaming him. The Murdered Nun has been haunting the area of St. Agnes ever since but do not fret, for the Murdered Nun is not to be feared! It is known that the ghost once appeared to a girl who wished to poison herself because of an unhappy and poor love affair. The Murdered Nun grabbed the poison from the depressed  girl's hand and placed a bag of coins in it instead, enabling her to live a happy and prosperous life with her true love. If Prague only had more ghosts like the Murdered Nun (Story Found Here)!! 

One of the haunted houses

After the ghost tour, I slowly walked back to my hostel. It was dark and a lovely temperature. I just enjoyed the scenery. I love, love, love the skyline in Prague!! There are so many different types of architecture that it makes for such a beautiful skyline.

Lights: thanks to Rolling Stones
The picture above is a picture of the Castle (I'll talk about it more in the next post) at night. Apparently, the Castle is lit up because the Rolling Stones paid for the the lighting equipment and everything. I haven't verified that story but that is what my walking tour guide told me.

The big bright building behind me is the Dvorak Rudolfinum
building and of course the Vltava River running under
the Charles Bridge

As you can see this post was very long....and that was only two days of Prague. So I'll have another post for you within the next couple days with the rest! There I will tell you about a concentration camp I visit and touring the Castle.

Happy Monday!!