Prague

Trip Start Feb 15, 2008
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Trip End May 31, 2008


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Where I stayed
Prague Plus Hostel

Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Friday, May 2, 2008

The following day on our way to the Czech capital of Prague we made a stop at Mauthausen concentration camp. The camp was opened at a rock quarry in Aug 1938 as part of Hitler's ultimate solution for disposing of Europe's Jewish Population. The prisoners were forced to work 12 hour days to build the camp; the work was backbreaking and involved the prisoners carrying blocks weighing up to 100kg up what were known as the stairs of death, from the quarry to the worksite. Prisoners were fed only five spoons of food, once every three days. As prisoners became too ill or weak to work they were generally shot.

The SS officers began complaining that it was too time consuming and disturbing shooting so many prisoners and as a solution gas chambers were built and incinerators installed to dispose of the bodies. Conditions in the camp were horrendous with six or more people sharing each lice infected bed. The camp also featured rooms where medical experiments were carried out on prisoners. It is disturbing when you consider that over 110,000 people died in this death camp alone. In 1933 nine million Jews lived in countries which were later occupied by the Nazis; however by 1945 two out of every three of these Jews had been killed. I'd obviously heard about these events though actually visiting one of these camps made this history so much more disturbing and realistic.

Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic which previously formed part of the Soviet Republic. It's really pretty by night so if you're visiting this city make sure you manage to join a night walking tour. Majority of the narrow streets in Prague's old town centre are closed to traffic so walking or cycling are by far the best means of getting around.

We passed a number of Prague's highlights though as we walked through one particular street Erin, our guide, explained that we were just about to see her favourite monument in all of Europe. The fountain, which is located outside the Franz Kafka Museum, features two men urinating and what makes this fountain so amusing is the way the boys are facing off and how their hips twist and their penises make occasional up and down movements. This particular artefact proved to be a real hit for the entire group, but especially for our three gay boys. We concluded our evening with a stop at a pub in the main centre which features beer taps in the centre of each table so you can pull your own beers then just fix up a joint bill for the table once you're done.

The transport in Prague is great. Areas close to the town centre are serviced mainly by tram while a reasonable metro system provides services to other areas. Our hostel was about a ten minute tram ride from the town centre and as I made my way in on the tram I started to chat to the girl sitting next to me who was reading a Prague guidebook and from then on my day couldn't have gotten much better. Rocio, a lovely 24 year old skiing instructor from Mendoza Argentina, and I spent the day walking around Prague's interesting sites and laughing and chatting in Spanish.

Prague is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and is a very popular destination for tourists. The city escaped the bombings of WWII with only minor damage and therefore its historic buildings are largely intact and its centre has been included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sites of interest include; The Charles Bridge which is 516 metres long and features bridge towers at each end and 30 baroque-style statues which line each side, Prague's Old Town Square with its Astronomical Clock and Town Hall and Wenceslas Square which is named after the Saint Wenceslas of the popular Christmas carol. Prague Castle is regarded as the largest ancient castle in the world, though unfortunately most of it is not original following a fire in 1541 which destroyed large sections of the structure. The castle grounds also contain the Saint Vitus's Cathedral which features flying buttress similar to those of Notre Dame.

The Josefov or Jewish quarter was formerly a Jewish ghetto and features a number of Synagogues. We've all heard about the Jews and their obsession with money and it's true; cost to enter one of these tiny Jewish Synagogues is around 300 Czech Crones and includes a souvenir paper kippah for the boys to wear so they can have a particularly Jewish experience. As a comparison our lunch for two at a small deli cafe which consisted of a toasted cheese, tomato and salami baguette roll and a large beer each cost 130 Czech Crones. I just couldn't believe that so many suckers were actually queuing up and paying to see these places. Coincidently all the expensive European cars in Prague seemed to be parked up this end of town. Prague Plus Hostel is a fantastic place to stay. The rooms are large and have private bathrooms and full sized lockers, there's a huge bar and restaurant, breakfast is included plus free WIFI or free use of computers with internet access and there's even a pool and sauna. The following day we were back on our bus and headed for Berlin, Germany.
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