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The last stop on our vacation was Prague. This was a paid extension to the river cruise but I felt it was worth it since the airfare was a sunk cost. I was very glad that we did.
Prague is another beautiful city with a very dark past.
What is today known as the Czech Republic has a very complex history that I can only scratch the surface of here.
Czechoslovakia was carved from the remains of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of WWI.
Annexed by Germany as part of the infamous Munich Conference in 1938.
Brutally occupied by the Nazis during WWII.
“Liberated” by the Soviets at the end of the war.
Invaded again by the Soviets during the “Prague Spring” of 1968. Noticing a trend with these guys.
Became democratic during the “Velvet Revolution” of 1989.
Split into two countries (Czech Republic and Slovakia) in 1993.
So when you tour this beautiful city keep in mind that they had a rough go of it for much of their history.
It was about a three hour bus ride from Nuremberg to Prague. Fortunately these European tour buses are pretty comfortable. Better than a lot of regional airliners I’ve been stuffed into over the years.
We made a rest stop just after crossing the Czech border.
“C'mon, it's Czechoslovakia. We zip in, we pick 'em up, we zip right out again. We're not going to Moscow. It's Czechoslovakia. It's like going into Wisconsin.”
Note that when you visit a non-EU country in Europe they will probably be happy to take your Euros but your change will be in the local currency.
Okay, time for the walking tour. I may not remember what some of these buildings are but feel free to ooh and ahh over the architecture anyway.
European tour bus drivers are fearless. I don’t know how they do it.
This was the symbol of the Czech resistance during WWII. More about them later.
Prague is just full of this sort of architecture.
Now I did find Prague to be a bit touristy. It seemed like the same stores selling the same trinkets repeated themselves about every fifth block. People gotta make a buck (or a Koruna) somehow I guess.
This is one of the main squares. Note the scaffolding on the one building. I’m sure these old structures require a lot of upkeep.
This was late September but temperatures were chilly. Fortunately the outdoor cafes had heaters.
I think one thing I love about Europe is the sense of history. Here in the US we think something is old if our grandparents saw it.
Part of our tour dealt with WWII history and specifically the plot to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, who was evil even by Nazi standards. I was going to include that here but there is enough material for it to get its own diary. Plus the subject matter is very dark.
The Old Town Hall building houses the famous astronomical clock dating back to 1410. Some of the fancier bits were added in later centuries but it’s still an amazing piece of Late Middle Ages technology.
When the clock strikes the hour figures of the Apostles move past the windows.
Tile mosaic of the Golem of Prague in the Jewish section. What exactly is a Golem? Imagine something like Frankenstein’s Monster except made out of clay.
Instead of a mad scientist most stories have them being brought to life by a rabbi by writing a holy word on it. The Golem of Prague was according to legend created to defend the Prague ghetto against pogroms (anti-Semitic attacks).
Mrs. Kong and I are both fans of Art Nouveau and particularly Czech artist Alphonse Mucha. There are at least two Mucha museums in Prague and we toured both.
In case you don’t know what his stuff looks like, this is pretty typical.
We walked across the Charles Bridge to the opposite side of the Vltava but didn’t go all the way up to the castle. It’s very impressive looking and the pictures don’t quite convey the sheer size of it.
This Communist-era television tower looks like something from a science fiction movie. You can actually go up in it (we didn’t). There’s actually a restaurant up there.
I would have liked to spend a couple more days in Prague. We barely scratched the surface in the short time we were there.
In summary we really enjoyed the river cruise plus the additional bus trips. This isn’t how we normally travel but it was nice to let the cruise line take care of everything. All we had to do was show up at the appointed time. Kind of like the military, except more organized and the accommodations were a lot nicer.