You are nothing without Slovakia.

Trip Start May 31, 2009
1
14
Trip End Jul 07, 2009


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Flag of Czech Republic  , Hlavní Mesto Praha,
Thursday, July 2, 2009

The directions to our pension were hilariously wrong. It didn't seem hilarious at the time, as it was hot and we had our bags with us, but the "ten minutes from the train station" was really (even if we hadn’t gotten turned around) at least twenty-five.

We visited the Museum of Communism our first day here. It very nicely focused on Czechoslovakia, making my Eastern Europe Communism tour pretty much complete. The video in the museum on the Velvet Revolution (their revolt against communist leadership) was really great and definitely worth the fifteen or twenty minutes it takes to watch.

We ended up being quite late to the walking tour (a Sandeman’s New Europe Free Tour) after spending much longer than we thought we would in the museum, but we joined it anyway and it was pretty well-done. Certainly better than the Budapest one, and the guide did not tell us how much we ought to tip. The guide was some American dude with extreme amounts of energy who loved to point out the cubist architecture around Prague with a “Bam! Cubism!” that I thought was a “Damn! Cubism!” at first.

We did very little in Prague Castle (there are like six different ticket tiers that get you into different parts of it) besides walk around the free parts, but we did go to the toy museum (entrance fee not included in the big ticket) there, which was pretty swell. Saw some really weird things in there, for sure. There is no question that Germans and Americans are the toy/game innovators of the past 200 years. I do wonder why that is, but that was not explained in the museum.

The Mirror Maze in Petřin Park, where we visited next, was stunning. Stunning in that they charge that much for something that you could easily be done with in about three minutes. The maze part of it wasn’t much of a maze at all, and I certainly didn’t get lost or run into any mirrors. The whole building is maybe the area of a modest home, and the maze itself takes up about half of that. The other main part of the building is full of fun house mirrors. Good for a laugh, I guess, but certainly nothing new; without a camera to play with, I would’ve bored very quickly.

The next day, after much searching, we stumbled upon the Miniature Museum. The man who created all the sculptures/paintings inside once designed tools for microsurgery, so I guess he figured might as well keep going with the “small” theme. When I say miniature, don’t think of things that would fit in the palm of your hand. These are things that would get lost in the crease of your hand. All of them had microscopes on them so that you could actually figure out what you were looking at. A whole camel caravan in the eye of a needle. The Lord’s Prayer on a human hair. The world’s smallest book. 1”x1” detailed replicas of famous paintings. All this and more at the Miniature Museum. Certainly worth your money.

We topped this great experience off with a visit to McDonald’s, a place I rarely visit. It was actually pretty good, though, and cheap compared to all the other touristy restaurants in the area. It’s not the food that offers comfort, but the fact that you can eat in busy places without getting charged half your day’s budget for hidden fees you don’t know about until you get the bill.

The Franz Kafka Museum, apparently a pretty new attraction in Prague, was pretty great. I would say, though, that you should have at least a slight interest in his work to visit, or you will be pretty bored. The best thing in there was a scale model of the torture machine from “In the Penal Colony” (which is far and away my most favourite Kafka story). It had been made by David Černy (more on him later) as a model for a never-made film adaptation of the story. What a shame; I’d be the first in line to see that movie (though I’m sure it would be dragged out to at least 90 minutes, probably much longer, and turn out to be a turd. Never mind).

Our Lady Victorious church in Prague, where we visited a couple days later, is where the Infant of Prague can be found. We attended mass at noon there (English service), which was filled with mostly Africans and Filipinos—evidence of the death of Christianity in Europe. The infant is quite small—much smaller than I ever imagined (but not small enough to be in the miniature museum, sadly)—and the church is quite nice.

Franz Kafka’s grave, in a free-entry cemetery in the far-eastern part of town, is not much to see, but it’s always nice to wander around in a cemetery in peace. Just a few metro stops away is David Černy’s Miminka (Babies) sculptures crawling up and down an otherwise ugly TV tower. Černy is a great artist who has sculptures all over Prague that are quite nontraditional. His web site (http://www.davidcerny.cz/) is quite a laugh and has lots of photos of the work we didn’t get to see (or, nobody got to see…many projects were scrapped due to the controversy they may have caused). See my photos for more great Černy sculptures and stories.

After Klemm and Kerry left town (their flight was one day earlier than ours), we felt like we had done just about all we could in town. We went by the new town hall, where the First Defenestration of Prague took place (if you don’t know what that is, look it up) in 1419, but there is nothing to do there except guess from which window people were tossed.

The John Lennon Wall, one of the last things we saw in Prague, is
nothing special—certainly not worth your time if it is precious—but is
neat in that graffiti is encouraged. After Lennon’s death, he was seen
as sort of a pacifist hero for the Czechs, who painted him on the wall
and covered the rest with revolutionary slogans. Though communism fell
twenty or so years ago now, the wall remains. I participated in a bit of
corrective graffiti, as you can see below.

Prague is often billed as THE tourist destination in Europe, and all the tourists there certainly proved that. It certainly has a lot to offer; however, I would not say that it was any better than some of the better capital cities I’ve visited in the past. Both Berlin and Madrid were at least as good as Prague, if not better than she. And both were cheaper than Prague, too, and felt much less overrun by tourists.

I regret that the only time we were able to spend in the Czech Republic was in Prague (besides the one day in Kutná Hora)—the same could be said for Hungary (Budapest) and Poland (Kraków). The parts of the trip I enjoyed the most were the weeks we were able to spend in Romania and Slovakia, and I don’t necessarily think it’s because they are better countries to visit but because we were able to do and see more. One city in the country does not give an accurate portrayal of the country by any means. I don’t know that I will be going back any time soon (so many other places I’d like to visit), but a long trip through these countries would probably serve one better than the whirlwind trip we made.

One more thing: getting out to the airport by bus was painless and quick—don’t waste your money on a taxi.  
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