WHEN IN ROME
Documenting my travels across the globe
Prague is a fairy tale city that is completely different from any other city in Europe. The green and orange topped buildings, large stone bridges, and the medieval castle remind me of a modern day Camelot. I think the city is magical and absolutely stunning. The Czech people keep very much to their selves. My friend Amanda, who is studying abroad in Prague, explained to me that since the Cold War and the fall of communism, Czechs are very skeptical of strangers. They are unsure of who to trust, so they are normally only close with their immediate family members. Apparently it takes a lot to gain their trust and build a relationship with them. After she explained this, I began to realize that everyone really does keep to their selves. The city is beautiful, but the people are cold for the most part. Regardless, I loved the Prague and really enjoyed my visit.
When I arrived in Praha (Prague), my friend Amanda picked me up and brought me back to her apartment. Her apartment is amazing compared to the ones in Rome! The rooms are huge, the ceilings are high, there are two levels, and their kitchen connects to a large balcony. And apparently her student apartment is not even the nicest one! After dropping off my bags, we went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant with her friends. We also went to the P.U.B. (Pilsner Urquell's Bar) where there are beer taps in the middle of the tables. Each person gets a separate tab, the tap keeps track of how much beer you pour yourself, and you pay accordingly.
Friday, we visited the Jewish Quarter of Prague and toured the synagogues. Amanda explained to me that the Jewish Quarter in Prague is one of the best preserved because Hitler wanted to make it into a "museum of an extinct race". Hitler and the Holocaust fascinate me because I just don't understand how one man convinced people to rally behind his horrible cause.
One of the synagogues is home to a children's art gallery. The artwork was drawn by Jewish children who were relocated to Terezin's concentration camp. Terezin was the "model" concentration camp that the Nazis used to show organizations like the Red Cross and the United Nations, who allegedly knew what the Nazis were doing. The Jews there were supposed to act happy and make outsiders believe they enjoyed the camp. A teacher had the students draw artwork to express their feelings about being transported, the camp, how their lives used to be, and so on and so forth. When the Nazis moved the woman to another camp she packed all the drawings in two suitcases and left them at Terezin. Now the emotional artwork lines the walls of this synagogue and gives people a chance to better understand the children's perspectives.
Another synagogue had the only Jewish cemetery in the area. Under the Nazi rule, the Jews could only be buried in this one small plot of land. There are around 12,000 gravestones in the cemetery and they are practically on top of each other. But the saddest part is that there are over 100,000 Jews buried there. Knowing that the tombstones made up about only a tenth of the bodies made me sick to my stomach. This was definitely a surreal experience.
The third synagogue that I really enjoyed was the Spanish one. It was absolutely stunning inside. The walls were hand painted with gold accents and other beautiful colors. It was a nice end to a rather solemn site seeing experience.
Later that day we walked to the Charles Bridge, a bridge where cars cannot cross and is lined with amazing statues. I always enjoy a good view and water, and this site surely did not disappoint.
Then, we visited the John Lennon Wall which was really fun to look at. It was smaller than I expected, but still really neat. We took a ton of photos and signed our names on the wall, which changes practically on a daily basis. People are constantly drawing new graffiti over the old.
Afterwards, we stopped by the "mini Venice" and lock bridge. Which just so happened to be by this amazing food market. Me, Amanda, and Dani split a bratwurst and a traditional Czech dessert, trdelni'k. The dessert is essentially soft bread covered in caramel, cinnamon, sugar, and almonds cooked over an open flame. It was delicious
That night we are some traditional Czech food, which I really liked. The Czech eat mainly meat, potatoes, and bread. We tried some fried cheese and this spicy chicken dish. The fried cheese is like a lighter mozzarella stick because it isn't breaded and you can get all different types of cheese. Oh and we got some Czech beer, which is known for tasting great and being cheaper than water! Most things in Prague are extremely cheap.
Saturday we visited the castle. A lot of the architecture reminded me of Lord of the Rings, specifically the elves. The first part of the castle was the cathedral. Prague is known for their stained glass and the windows of this cathedral is a great example of this skill. I have never seen stained glass so beautiful in my life. Each window was carefully made with thousands of little pieces of glass. I was in awe of the detail and elaborate color schemes. Besides the cathedral, the other castle sites weren't too impressive. All the sites were also freezing because castles had the worst designs ever when it came to retaining heat. On our way out we went though this passage way that had armory on display. I got to shoot an authentic crossbow and got a bullseye! Basically I could rival Katniss from the Hunger Games.
Other than the castle sites, the view on the way out is amazing. I could see the entire city perfectly. And the bottom of the stairs had these potato twists that were a blend between a french fry and a potato chip. Yum!
Afterwards we ate lunch at another traditional Czech restaurant and I tried goulash. I didn't care for the bread dumplings (a.k.a. undercooked sourdough bread slices), but the beef was tender and really tasty.
After lunch we went to Old Town Square. The square has a beautiful astronomical clock tower and is filled with street performers. Little kids were making large bubbles, fake statue people were holding parrots, and one man created the illusion that he was a baby. It was really disturbing but I just couldn't look away.. Oh and Dani casually got eaten by a shark.
Amanda then took us to the Beer Museum Pub. The pub has about 50 unique beers on tap that you can sample for about a dollar a piece. I tried four beers. The Baronka is supposed to be a pale ale with hints of hazelnut, but I only tasted a light beer haha. The Konrad is supposedly the best Czech light lager. I liked it but it was nothing too special. The Modra Luna tasted like beer but then has the after take of blueberry. I loved it! And my last taste was of the Sedm Kuli. It has about ten flavors in it, but mainly tastes like a blend of licorice and basil. It sounds gross but it was really unique and yummy. My favorite was one that my friend got called Maz. It had hints of flower and was very refreshing. The Beer Museum was definitely a fun experience!
To end our trip to Prague, we went out to this bar called U Sudu which resembles a dungeon. You can walk down about three different flights of steps and wander into different rooms with bars and tables to sit at. It was dark and smokey (the Czech smoke more than any other European I know of) but it had a great atmosphere.
After the dungeon bar we decided to be tourists and go to the famous five story club, Karlovy Lazne. Each floor of the club has a different theme to it. The top floor has ballroom-esque dancing. The next felt like a rave with cage dancers above you and lights flashing everywhere. The third played classic 90's music and had a light up dance floor. The second played a lot of rap and was not too interesting. The bottom floor had an ice pub which was awesome to try. Even though it draws in a lot of tourists, I'm glad we went because it was a lot of fun and I probably won't go somewhere like it ever again.
My clothes may wreak of cigarettes and I am currently running on three hours of sleep, but Praha was definitely worth the trip. The city is so different from the rest of Europe and I loved visiting Amanda there!
When In Rome
Two of my most cherished hobbies go hand-in-hand. Writing is my favorite way to reflect after traveling to a new country. I have kept this blog ever since I studied in Rome to share my travels with families and friends. I hope you enjoy learning about my experiences and getting a sense for my writing skills. If you have any questions, please reach out!