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Entries in Prague (4)

Saturday
Feb022008

Homecoming!

map FlorenceLocation: Florence, Italy

Ok, well, as much as I love not being a vegetarian... I am CRAVING some veggies right now. Last night started with another bowl of goulash and ended with yet another fried cheese sandwich. I mean, give me some green. I would probably eat an entire head of lettuce if I was given it. We didn't even want to go get food. Toma was a little hungry and wanted some garlic soup (which we still have not gotten, three days in prague and no garlic soup) but then as soon as we found a place for her to eat, we all decided to get food.

After this, the plan was to go back to the beer factory (the place with the taps at each seat) and then to the discotech, but... we never made it to the discotech. We got in a race with these 4 Irish guys at the beer factory and didn't leave until almost closing time. We actually beat the four Irish guys AND a group of 4 English men as well. The English guys actually came up to us when we were leaving to congratulate us on a late start but a "noble comeback." We drank 16 liters of beer. 16 Liters. Not sure how we had room in the tummys for fried cheese sandwiches, but we made it.

Today started early. We chatted in bed while Toma and Ange got up and got ready to leave (their train left at like 11) and me and Karen laid in bed until we absolutely couldn't anymore. Got up, packed and started the journey for the airport. After saying goodbyes, I got on the plane, flew to Milan and then took the bus to the central station to catch my train back to Florence.

So, I go up to make a reservation and the guy says that all of the trains are booked until 6 (it was about 2:30). So I have to just suck it up and sit around until that train leaves. I find a nice little panino and park it on a bench on the far side of the station and start reading (by the way, I finished the book A Thousand Splendid Suns today and it was WONDERFUL - definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a read. It's an easy read, but extremely sad and extremely moving). I had been sitting there for about 20 minutes when this guy comes up and starts talking to me. At first, I think he's a bum and I'm not being rude but I'm watching my pockets and holding my purse in my lap. Turns out though, he was just this normal 20 year old kid who had been robbed like 3 weeks ago as soon as he got to Milan from Holland (he wanted to come work here) and he had no money, no phone, no passport, nothing and he had to get a job to make enough money to buy a train ticket back to Holland so he can regroup. He even got like beaten up when they robbed him and they took his shoes and his jacket as well. Craziness. I think he may have been on something, or maybe he was just messed up from the crazy emotional roller coaster he's been on, but he said he just wanted someone to talk to to keep him awake until his train leaves.

He was a very strange human, but the conversation was easy, so we talked for about 2 hours until I had to get up and go. I grabbed some salami, cheese, bread and chocolate and headed for my train. I snoozed a little, finished my book and ate my dinner and arrived in Florence at a little before 10. I'm back at Sampaoli and loving the familiarity of the place. Ricardo greeted me and we chatted about my travels since last week and I feel like he is a good friend now. Not sure what the plan is for tomorrow, but it will definitely be low key.

Maybe Ufizzi Gallery?

Maybe the laundromat?

Who knows.

XOXO

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Thursday
Jan312008

Do NOT try the green fairy

map PragueLocation: Prague, Czech Republic

Well... the pub crawl was... great. Really great.

We started the night by going to this neat little Czech restaurant near the central square and got some beer and goulash. It was SOOO good. They had these potato cake things in the goulash that were like fried garlic mashed potatoes. They were delicious. Afterward we went to this great little restaurant to get desert and then headed towards the beginning of the pub crawl. We met up with a guy from LA (who owns the pub crawl deal) and chatted for a while until a group of 5 Brazilian boys came to come on the crawl with us.

We started at a little bar where we had a power hour of free beer, absinthe, and wine for an hour. It was a nice atmosphere, but rather boring because we were pretty much the only people there (it was 9 o'clock so I guess we started a little early). After this we headed to an Aussie bar down the road which was great. There was a hippie guy playing guitar (think classic rock acoustic, it was great) and we danced and sang and chilled out for a while watching Soccer and talking English to people. After this we headed to this great nightclub. It's the largest night club in Europe and has 5 floors, each with a different theme. We spent most of our time at the American discotech themed one where there were quite a few people dancing to some good old fashioned American rap.

From here we went to a really cool rock bar. I had never seen anything like it and to be perfectly honest (although most of the other girls weren't too happy about the choice),. I really enjoyed it. They only played pretty hardcore rock music, mostly 90's early 2000's stuff. Think Rob Zombie, Limp Bizkit, Korn, Bush, etc. The guy to girl ratio was probably 9:1 which was awesome and we stayed there for quite a while before heading to our last destination which was another dance club right across the street. When we decided to leave that bar at about 4:30, we (of course) thought it would be a great idea to walk back to our hostel past the McDonald's and get some late night. I officially ate my first Big Mac ever and we sat there for probably a half an hour (a couple of the girls got 3 and 4 sandwiches) and then we got a cab back to the hostel (which, was probably a mistake considering our cab driver was LITERALLY insane, almost killed us twice and did not speak ONE word of English). We got back around 6:30.

Woke up at like noon and took showers, ate breakfast buffet and slowly dragged ourselves out of the hostel. We didn't have much time for sight seeing so we decided to go to the Jewish Museum and then shopping. The museum was absolutely amazing. There were like 5 different buildings that we went to. The first was a Holocaust memorial where they had the names of the 80,000 Praguean Jews that died in a concentration camp near here. They're listed by surname and by family. There would be a group of like 8, a grandma and grandpa, mom and dad and then four kids. The youngest one I found was 3 but I'm sure there were more younger that I didn't find. It was sooo sad and extremely moving. It brings up all kinds of extremely difficult emotions to deal with. The persecution of these people throughout history has been horrible and it doesn't make any sense. It makes me really sad to think that Christians could treat a group of people so horribly, especially since SO much of our beliefs are EXACTLY the same. I mean, don't get me wrong, I understand that not believing Jesus as the savior is a pretty large difference, but I mean when you get down to the basic principles and morality of our religions, they are almost identical. I mean, Jewish people are God's chosen people and whether you agree with their beliefs or not, it's appalling that we, as Christians, could treat such a sacred group so horribly. *sigh*

I'm off my soapbox. The synagogue was gorgeous though and everything is very still intact. The guys have to wear the little kippahs (the little skull caps that basically cover their bald spot :) ha, jk... but you know). They were very plain and we were eavesdropping on a tour guide telling the group all about the front of the main room where there is a spot to kneel and how you're supposed to be lower than the ground or something. Obviously I wasn't paying THAT good of attention. After this memorial, we went to the old Jewish cemetery which is where ALL of the people that died from 1400-1700 were buried (since the people weren't allowed to leave the little quarter). There are 12,000 tombstones, many right on top of another and apparently they think that a lot of the bodies are just buried like 10 or 12 deep so they estimate their are more like 40,000 bodies buried there. Eventually, they built another cemetery across the street (where Franz Kafka - Metamorphosis - is built) but the generation it was built for, was all killed in concentration camps, so it's almost completely empty.

After this, we went to two more synagogues and a museum with old burial artifacts (it was really neat to read about the whole traditional burial process of Judaism - and sad to think that the Germans ripped them of all of this tradition when they would just slaughter them). There were also a couple examples of old traditional dress and some paintings from really long ago showing different ceremonies. We also looked at this book of children's paintings and poems from when they were in the nearby ghetto and it was so sad. These little 7 year old kids are writing these poems about the most deep things. There was this one called the last butterfly talking about how she's seen her last butterfly because there are no butterflies in the ghetto and how she wants to go home but she is afraid that she has seen her last butterfly. So sad.

After we went here (these girls are a REALLY bad influence on me not eating American food in Europe), we went to KFC and got those awesome bowls with the mashed potatoes, corn and chicken all in them. It was amazing. We were instantly tired so we trekked home to nap and while they're chilling in the room, I'm updating you :)

I shouldn't need a nap though, I had like 8 hours of sleep last night and I don't think we're going to go as hard tonight because we have to all be on planes/trains around 10.

Oh, Prague has been wonderful!!

XOXO

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Thursday
Jan312008

Tap your own beer

map PragueLocation: Prague, Czech Republic

We found THE coolest place last night. It's a sports bar where you sit at a table for four and you each have your own individual tap. And there is a little revolving LCD screen on top of it that tells you how many liters of beer your table has drank. AND THEN... on a big screen TV on the wall, it shows how much your table has drank in relation to the other tables and has it in a sports book kind of layout so it's like a game to race eachother. We drank 3.2 liters of beer and it was only 240Kc which is like 12 bucks. it's like $1.20 a pint. Incredible.

Today, we took a walking tour with this guy named Paul and it was great. We left at noon (which made for a very casual lazy morning - oh and our hostel actually had REAL breakfast. It was an all you can eat buffet of cereal, eggs, toast, rolls, cheese, nutella, yogurt, juice and tea and it was wonderful). We started by walking down to Vaclavske nam which is Winceslas Square and is where the national museum was (the main street I was walking down yesterday). We got an intro to Prague and heard a little about the history. We saw an old memorial to Jan Palach and Klan Zajic who were these two 19 year old kids who burned themselves alive in 1969 to protest the Soviet invasion. People still leave flowers there daily.

From here (Nove Mesto or new town / 1400's new) we walked down the street past a couple cafes and then stopped at the bottom to go into the Mustek train station which is where the old bridge went from old town to new town and because the city has risen so much over the past 100 years, the bridge is in the metro station. It was really neat. The city has risen up because they are afraid of floods here (there have been quite a few REALLY bad ones) and they just keep gradually building the roads higher and higher. Most of the buildings "ground floor" is in the basement and makes for a ton of underground clubs and restaurants. After we left the Mustek we walked down to the Stare Mesto which is old town.

Old town is amazing. The buildings are so beautiful and there is a huge square in the middle with this famous clock. The clock has the hours of the day, the minutes of hte day, the days of the year (which all have a different name related to saints that did things on each day) and the astronomical signs. On the hour, the little skeleton rings a bell and shakes his head up and down saying that he is going to kill the other people on the clock and the little saint guys shake their heads no to say that he can't get them. Somewhat uneventful, but the thing is OLD (1410) and the guy who built it got his eyes burned out because the towns people didn't want him to reproduce it anywhere else.

Next we walked to Josefov which is the old Jewish Quarter. it was literally a walled in ghetto where Jewish people were "kept" and weren't allowed to leave. For 400 years before WWII all of the Jewish people in Prague were kept in this area and lived there. Absolutely insane that it was going on for that long. It's very cool though. Everything in the quarter is in hebrew and there are tons of synagogues, cemeteries and shops. After WWII, all the Jews were shipped to Auschwitz and the Prague Jewish population went from 120,000 pre-WWII to about 1100 now. Most of the city is a museum now.

From here we walked across the Charles Bridge which is this really old bridge that crosses the Vltava (the river that runs through Prague). The bridge has 30 statues on it and has all kinds of stalls with little knickknacks and a guy playing this circus music machine. One of the statues is a crucifix with Hebrew writing on it and the story behind it is that the Jews did something (like revolted or something) and the city of Prague erected this huge crucifix with the words, "Holy, holy, holy is the lord" in Hebrew in gold letters underneath it to basically mock them and put them back in their place. YIKES!! There's another statue of this guy who was a martyr for the city (St. John). His story is that the king came to him and wanted to know what his wife had said in confession because he suspected that she had a lover and the priest wouldn't tell him so the king cut off his tongue and then threw him off the bridge into the river. The statue is of him and underneath it, there is a little plaque with a carving of him falling over the side of the bridge and it's good luck to rub him as he's falling off. So, of course, I did.

On the other side of the river we walked up this HUGE hill (Prague is EXTREMELY hilly and it's very steep to walk around) and up to this cute little restaurant where we had a little mid afternoon snack of potato soup in a bread bowl with a liter of Pilsner. Oh this is the life. (Oh and Karen just brought me a beer because she felt bad that they're all talking in the room and I "have to update the fam" - Ha!! - Velkopopvicky Kozel Svelty is the name of the beer, how's that for Czech!! - On a side note, this language is SOO difficult, There are accents on every letter and it is impossible to try and sound it out). After our snack we walked up to the Prague Castle.

The Prague Castle is the biggest castle in the world. It is this HUGE complex of buildings, churches, villages and shops where the President of the Czech Republic still lives (we saw his car, so we know he was in there). St Vitus Cathedral, which is the Cathedral in the castle, was beautiful and the inside was full of interesting little secrets. There was a tomb to the saint that was pushed off the bridge (the one with the lucky statue) and it has tons (literally, like 3000 lbs) of Silver above his tomb. There is also a secret room where there is a door with 7 locks on it, and each important person in Prague has the 7 keys and it leads to a staircase that takes you up to the room where the crown jewels are kept. They have guards here like they do at Buckingham palace or Windsor Castle and we saw the keys on one of the guards, they are HUGE old skeleton keys - very cool.

After wandering around the castle, we walked back down the hill and caught the metro up to the top of the hill where our hostel is on. I ate a banana and some nutella and now we're preparing for our authentic Czech meal (goulash) we're about to have and our pub crawl.

Hopefully I'll survive. Just need to pace myself.

XOXO

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Tuesday
Jan292008

Hey... I'm Czech

map PragueLocation: Prague, Czech Republic

Oh man, have I been taking the warm weather for granted. After my nice city bus, airport shuttle, plane, city bus, metro connection that I took this morning to get here, I finally arrived in Prague at about 12:30... and it's COLD!!!

The travel was decent. Not too many problems on the way. The plane ride was beautiful. We flew right over Switzerland and the alps which were so pretty. They seemed to go on forever. Everything was white. And so many of the mountains were so covered in snow that you couldn't see the rocks at the top. I mean, plateaus of snow so big and so untouched. I also saw a few places where there were avalanches and you could see the lines where the snow had fallen down the mountain. It was great. And then, just as quickly as they had started, they were gone. And we were flying over very flat, very green land. The flight was quick as well and the directions to the hostel were very easy to follow so I was here in no time.

On the flight, I had this great idea that I was going to extend my trip by a day and just do now, what I had originally planned to do from Prague before I changed my trip to go to Florence first. Even if I didn't extend by a week, I could spend the next 7 days doing eastern Europe and then head to Rome. I would still have plenty of time. But then as soon as I got on the ground... and realized how cold it was (which it's really not even that cold) I decided to screw that idea.

After dropping off my bag, I walked up the hill behind the hostel to this cute little park where there was a dog park and tons of people. From there I walked down to the center of old town down a really neat shopping street. I walked past the National History Museum as well a really old theater. At this point, I was frozen and hungry so, feeling a little home-sick I popped into a Subway to get a sandwich (hey if I'm going to eat American fast food at least I could be healthy about it). So I eat my turkey and ranch sandwich (the ranch was NOT ranch and I only got like 1.5 slices of turkey) and walked back out to realize that I was still frozen and needed to (at the very least) go home and put my long underwear on.

So I caught the metro back to my hostel and stopped on the way at a supermarket to grab a fresh jar of nutella and some other necessities (including peanut butter, apples, bananas, lemon wafers, bread, salami and cheese) and headed back to make myself a little feast. The salami turned out to be a kind of bologna tasting mess of meat but the cheese turned out to be Gouda so it was all good.

I'm back pretty early so there's not much going on yet, but this place is supposed to be one of the rowdiest places in Prague, so hopefully it will pick up here soon. For now, I'm off to have a nutella and banana sandwich :) Yummm!!!

XOXO

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