Thursday, January 5, 2012

Czech It Out

The first stop of our holiday trip was Prague, a city we'd heard was beautiful from many people.  And they weren't lying.  It was very pretty.

But first, I will begin with a story.  A story about the title of this blog post, for which I cannot take credit.  

You see, I grew up in Oklahoma, where there's also a town called Prague, which was originally settled by Czech immigrants (if you don't believe me, here's some reading for you).  I'm not sure how I remember this, but when I was a child, my uncle used to wear a t-shirt that said "Prague, Oklahoma: Czech It Out".  

I remember being mystified by this t-shirt, and by this other Prague in a faraway land.  

Now that I'm typing this, I can't believe I forgot to look for a "Czech It Out" t-shirt in the original Prague.  I also feel the need to visit Prague, Oklahoma when I get back to the U.S. to make a comparison, as I've never been to the Okie version.

Anyhow, on with the trip.

We arrived on December 22nd, and had a couple of days to explore.  There were beautiful buildings.  There were Christmas markets.  There was glühwein (mulled wine they sell at Christmas markets).  There were (semi-scary) sausages.  And there were people smoking in the "non-smoking" sections of the restaurants.  

Oh, and this is very important!  I have to give a shout-out to the friendly people of Prague.  

When we arrived in the city, I had to lug a heavy suitcase up the stairs in the train station a couple of times.  And as soon as the person walking behind me saw I was struggling with the suitcase, they kindly grabbed the end of the suitcase and help me up the stairs with it!  

Without saying a word, they just helped.  This hasn't happened anywhere else I've ever been.  When I felt the burden of the suitcase lifted the first time, I looked back and saw a smiling person holding the other end.  I heaped words of gratitude on them, that's for sure!  A little while later, it happened again.  It was such a thoughtful, nice gesture, and I assume it happens all the time there if it happened to me twice in one short journey?  I hope so.    

All in all, Prague was an interesting place.

Walking along the Vltava river.

Church of Our Lady Before Týn.

Same church, from the Christmas market in Old Town Square.

Old doors are some of my favorite sights in Europe.

Pretty buildings.


And more.

Václav Havel, the first President of the Czech Republic, passed away on December 18th.  This sign says "Thank you, Václav."  (At least that's what I got from Google translate.)

His memorial service was held at St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle while we were in Prague.  We went up to the castle when the service was over, and watched a long procession of cars carrying dignitaries away from the castle.

A tribute outside of the memorial service.  

The Charles Bridge, connecting Prague Castle to Old Town.

Statue on the Charles Bridge.

View from the bridge.  We walked across the bridge approx ten times in two days.

Kafka statue.  I read The Metamorphosis in college, and thought it was pretty odd.  This statue seemed equally strange, and fitting.

And the Moment of Zen belongs to Ken this trip:

Very cheap, very good Czech beer by the half liter.