Prague, Děkuji.

One thing that I realized is that while I am NOT fluent in any language other than English, I do at least know how to say “Thank you” in at LEAST eight languages.  I think that’s something; I don’t leave my manners in the homeland when I travel. 🙂

The above photo was taken with my iPod, so once again, I apologize that it was a low light situation and poor quality.  BUT! LOOK at those snacks. And at the books–I was ready.  One of my favorite things about traveling anywhere is trying the weirdo snacks that “look interesting”.  Kinder chocolate is just unbeatable and those gummy snacks were kind of weird.  But the most questionable one of the bunch was that middle package.  It was completely opaque and I could not tell what was inside, but when I opened it I found a bear shaped Twinkie with strawberry filling and chocolate paw pads.  I only ate about two bites before I was thoroughly grossed out by the spongy texture. And, let’s face it nobody eats Twinkies anymore, right? I hope not.

One more train shot for good measure.  In case the video below didn’t quite capture how much I loved taking the train from Budapest to Prague.  It was peaceful and beautiful most of the ride and rained for about five minutes.  I managed to read the entire book I brought with me (The Last Window-Giraffe) and did a good deal of staring out at the countryside as well.

Upon arriving, I was instantly overwhelmed and had no idea where to go in order to get to my Hostel.  I managed to find my way, but quickly realized that the map I had was simply not a good map.  Not compared to the awesome Budapest map I had anyways.  Always, ALWAYS get the Streetwise Maps from now on.  Not only is it just a small, laminated, fold up map but it also has an awesome street and site index and I never felt like it let me down.  It put the guidebook with TWO fold out maps (which initially impressed me in Powell’s) I got for Prague to shame.

The City of Prague is very easy to walk, is fairly small, and is FULL of tourists and walking tour groups.  In Ukraine I was afraid I’d get run over by drivers, here I was afraid a tour group would trample me to death if I wasn’t careful.  I tried to steer clear of the super touristy areas, but had to see the Charles Bridge, Astronomical clock, Prague Castle and Old town Square at least once.

I found this street sign to be utterly hilarious…while meandering through some residential streets (ok, I was lost) I came across it and it looks like someone made and stuck all those extra people all over the sign.  To me, it is a perfect representation of Prague as well as evidence that Eastern Europeans have a wonderful sense of humor.

Strahov Library, featured above was a must see.  This library houses very unique collections, including books on growing specific types of trees which are then bound in the bark of that particular tree.  I wanted to touch them SO BADLY, but we weren’t even allowed to take photos unless we paid extra.  I got really good at pulling my point and shoot out of my purse and aiming for what I hoped would be a good photo (above) 🙂

The libraries of Eastern Europe are simply amazing and the fact that collections have shifted between cities and countries for centuries cannot be ignored; books were confiscated as intellectual property (much like land was confiscated) throughout the world wars.  They take pride in their collections because they have truly fought for them.  It’s not something we often think about as Americans.

The statue of Jan Hus watches over Prague in Old Town Square, meant to keep foreign invaders at bay.  The beautiful St. Nicolas church behind Jan was completed in 1735 and is a gorgeous example of Baroque style architecture.  That was one absolutely amazing thing about Prague, the Baroque and Gothic styles give the city so much of its beauty and ambiance.

One of my favorite things I did was see a movie at Kino Lucerna, an old theatre with a very Art Nouveau interior.  Lidice, a Czech film about the genocide of an entire town during the WWII Nazi invasion, was absolutely heartbreaking but had some of the most beautiful cinematography I’ve seen, ever.  I know the trailer doesn’t have English subtitles, but you can see how moving this film is just through visuals.  I highly recommend seeing it!  But don’t expect to leave with dry eyes.  Even I, she-who-does-not-cry-at-movies, spent most of the movie crying.

My other favorite activity was visiting the Alphonse Mucha Museum.  Mucha was one of the first artists to work in the style of Art Nouveau and his work from Paris is probably more well-known than his later, more political work in Prague.  But it was interesting to see the progression of his work, up until his death.

Prague is truly a unique city and I’m really happy I got to visit and made this my last stop.  I did a LOT, while I was there, but you can never see everything.  So maybe some day I’ll return.

And I won’t add anymore photos here but for the full set, please see my Flickr account: Eastern Europe Photo Set

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