Prague

Trip Start Dec 09, 2013
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Trip End Jan 27, 2014


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Flag of Czech Republic  , Hlavní město Praha,
Thursday, January 16, 2014

12/1/14
Prague breakfast, then walking around Old Town Square (), along the river, to Charle's bridge, across and up the steep cobblestone hill, past small dark medieval doorways to Bars, food and other wares, to Prague Castle and the Cathedral, then back across bridge. For us it seems cold, although it is fine. There is no snow, and locals assure us it is warm. It is maybe 2 or 3 degrees, ( overnight below freezing). We are hoping for some snow.
As we cross the Charles Bridge, with its collection of statues (copies, the originals for preservation in museums), Briony and I observe a line of tourists placing
their hands on one particular bronze statue and making a wish. We follow suit. The next day we find out that statue is that os ......who was pushed to his death by........at this exact place. However, we have positiioned our hands wrong, and not placed our toes exactly as we should and our wish is on hold. Oh well!
Beggars in Prague,as in Paris, have canine companions wrapped in coats. Many prostrate themselves across the cobblestones, avoiding eye contact, with a paper cup on the ground in front of them. Most people ignore them.Those with dogs fare better.
In Prague the wooden stalls of the Christmas markets remain active, although some are pulled apart as we watch. It's as if the rest are holding on as long as they can.

John bought a Russian fur hat ( not real fur we presume) hat to keep his ears warm. He removed the Russian badge after he had a couple of unusual reactions from locals.
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13/1/14
Waking tour of Prague with our guide Helga. Although we pass many places we have already seen, we now see this through the eyes of a local. In Wenceslas Square, we learn that not only was " good King Wenceslas only a Prince, or a Duke, but that he was famous for his benevolence to the poor, but also that he was murdered by his brother, ..........the Cruel, after an argument. Wenceslas was later made a Saint, so,so I suppose there was a miracle involved somewhere. We also see the place where two young students burned themselves alive in Peaceful protest against the the Russian oppression in the sixties. Prague has been occupied by the, the Germans and then the Russians.








14/1/14

On overnight city nights train from Prague to Zurich. We think. We are not 100%25 sure, and our Czech and German are not sufficient for us to understand the announcement over the loudspeaker. So we shall,see where we wake up in the morning.
Our last day in Prague started cold and overcast. Prague is still the coldest so far. But no snow. We had our Czech cornflakes in coffee cups, with milk, and watched meaningless stories on CNN news. ( with two Auzzie newsreaders).
We split up today. Jack and John went on a two hour tour of Communist Prague and to a nuclear Bunker. They came back with photos of themselves dressed in Russian uniforms, holding and firing bazookas, rifles and pulling pins of hand grenades. All dutifully uploaded and shared on Facebook. They found the KGB headquarters, which has also been used by the SS. It is now a police station.
Briony and I preferred the slightly more cerebral tour of the underground alchemist museum. The story goes, if I have the details correct, that after the floods of 2002, the tunnels and underground chambers were revealed. I will check this on Wikipedia when I have internet, and amend this if I need to.
This may or may not be true, but it is fun to get caught up in the magic and mystery of a time when magic and science were one. Apparently King Rudolph II, who suffered from depression and schizophrenia, had also inherited significant debt. He felt the only answer was if the alchemists could create gold from non precious metals and minerals, using a combination of heat and positive energy derived from symbols of the four essential elements: air water earth and fire. Alchemy had to be carried out in secret because the Catholic church was against it. The Jews more more tolerant. So alchemist labs were in underground caverns, fronted by a more conventional pharmacy. Alchemy seems to me to be a mix of chemistry, botanical medicine, and magic.
The sliding bookcase door is triggered by turning a dragon. This leads to the labs, and tunnels which traverse the city. (The tunnels have been closed by mudslides and town leaders over the centuries). In the labs, medicinal herbs are dried, fanned by heat from the furnaces and ventilation from sightless windows. Elixirs for youth, live and memory. Because the recipes were so secret, everything was written in code so the alchemists needed a good memory. Another project was to create a person from soil.
Rudolph recruited his physician, a Jewish Rabbi ( who created the Gollum, a man made from soil who protected the Jews ).
After the museum, and free of the boys, we did some window shopping, first in a regular Western mall ( free toilets), and then along the alleyways and tourist shops in Old town, where we bought some colourful glass and crystal bottles. Then we retreated into a coffee shop in the Old Square, where we could snuggle up,to a heater and also see the Astronomical Clock.
After the boys returned, we went to Starbucks. I hate the idea of this, going to Starbucks instead of a local cafe shop. But only in Starbucks can we buy a couple,of drinks, then eat sandwiches in the warmth.
Split up,again after lunch. John and jack to another military museum. The girls to see Salvador Dali. Not sure why so much of his work is in Prague. We picked up more.......bread cheese and salad, our staple for this part of the tour, for the train


Another day another train. Or three. But just when you think you know how it all works, it changes. That's what you get I suppose for changing countries/languages/ and in some cases currencies every couple of days.
We nearly missed out city Nights train from Prague. I cannot make head not tail of Czech, and gave up almost as soon as we arrived in Prague. Se we stood there at the Prague HRN, watching the departures........... Board flip over, waiting for our number 458 train to Zurich to appear. Moments before the Departure, and after two visits to the ticket office to confer, we realised that the 456 to Amsterdam was also the 458 to Zurich. We were not the only dumb tourists. Our Asian friends had to gallop down the platform as the train prepared to depart.
Our 4 couchette chamber took John, with Briony and Jack's,s help ( I stayed clear) about a half hour to set up, working out which bits were beds, which were seats, where our plethora of suitcases was to be stored, and that the ironing board was in fact a table. John then had to assist our neighbours, on either side.
We had a picnic tea, (bread roils meat cheese and salad again just for variety.) washed down with slightly warm wine. John also sampled the railway goulash. (Reheated and reconstituted in the microwave by the agitated Buffet staffer. (As the train lurched goulash spilled all over the microwave).
We slept. Sort of. More comfy than a plane anyway. Our hotel in Zurich was by far the most expensive, and we payed so much for breakfast we resolved not to eat out again for as long as we could hold out. Jack groans at the though of many more bread rolls, with cured meat and European cheese. We were too tired for much else than to walk around, marvelling at distant snowy Alps which ring the Lake, and sampling some chocolate in a chocolatier. Dinner consisted of Olives, and Food from the markets held every Wednesday in the hauptbahnhoff.
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