Prague, Czech Republic - Entry!!

Trip Start Apr 01, 2007
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Trip End Ongoing


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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ok.. so time for another entry... and yes folks, I have decided they will always be a long read, so go grab a cup of tea, turn your monitor away from the hallway so your boss doesn't know what you are doing and prepare for the long haul...

So... We we ventured from Spain to fly into Berlin and I honestly have to say, Berlin is a town of liberal attitudes, good, healthy cuisine and efficiency.  Not to sound morbid, macabre or insensitive, but if anyone else other than the Germans made an attempt at the holocaust they wouldn't have been even moderately as efficient and effective as the Germans.  You will see froim the pics I will be posting of how modern yet aesthetic the city appears to the tourist eye.

Scot was lucky enough to contact a friend, Kirsty, to help offer free accomodations for our visit to Berlin.  One thing we discovered AFTER the fact, is that we were located smack dab in the centre of Berlin's most GAY district ever.  Nearly every store was 'gay friendly', marked with Rainbow stickers and very obvious icons of the Gay culture.  This didn't phase us though, save the one time we wanted to go into a 'Military Store' as it was so covertly named.  Needless to say, when we walked by the windows, ripped male models with mesh t-shirts, leather jock pouches and ass-less 'army chaps' did not indicate the store we were looking for was to be found. Infantry helments on 'bondage slaves' and gas masks on raving dance twinks helped us understand where we were and where NOT to go shopping.  Nonetheless, we were in QUITE a safe district, to say the least....

We sampled many a cuisine, did a walking tour of the town (including all the war memorials, Nazi history, etc) and checked out the uber-busy centre square (near the Reichstag). We checked out local amatuer photo exhibits, visited the Bundestag (Reichstag (letdown to say the least)) and got raped by the German health care system (oh yeah, I paid 90$ canadian for 12 Malaria pills for Africa (go canadian health care system!)).  My German lexicon actually experienced an overhaul and by the end of the stay, I would like to say, it wasn't too shabby. 

One generalization I must assert about travelling is this, the people will treat you relative to the amount of effort you try to make to know them.  I found, that if you barge into a place, spouting off English and giving them frustrated looks - of COURSE they are going to treat you abruptly and short - no wonder the French don't like the Americans.  Advancing ahead a bit, when I was in Poland (which I knew nearly ANY words at all), when I went to the local Kebab stand, I attempted a 'please' and 'yes' in Polish.  As far as I could tell, it was probably a dismal disaster of an attempt, but, it managed to get a smile out of the girl serving me, and she even answered back in Polish; even though her English was quite sufficient as I could tell when she served Scot, moments before.  I would like to think, that THAT is the authentic European experience - when you get to understand the culture and not barrell through Europe on a brief timeline.  I mean, not everyone has 2 months to spare in every country, but if I stay longer in each country and make a general good ol' college try at the local language, my experience changes dramatically.

Segue aside, Berlin is a place I would go back to for a city experience.  Then, it was onto Krakow, Poland to see Auchwitz-Birkenau. 

Krakow is a student town, with lots of VERY good looking women.  I am writing this after being in Prague for 5hrs (they say the women in Prague are gorgeous), but so far, Prague women pale in comparison to some Polish girls - and their penchant for really showing off their boobs in nice shirts! Woot woot! 

One note on Krakow, on the weekends - do NOT plan on sleep.  for 48 hours straight, there was constant music, beats, yelling, singing and carrying on outside - being that the clubs don't close on average until 7:00am, and the people are right back outside at 8:00am.... I suffered myself unto this phenomenon for 2 nights, and that did me over big time! I think I will tell everyone I am allergic to alcohol now, because that was just silly.... 80's bars, cheese music, White polish guys who REALLY don't know how to dance and Polish women who do - and half litres of beer for 3.50 CDN.... Party central for any fresh-18 year old I ga-ron-tee....The one thing I did love about Krakow, is the centre square which was about the size of a football field, with Europe's smallest church and what not in the centre, was ALWAYS booming with life no matter what day of the week it was.  Buskers, flame dancers, groups of kids, gaggles of pigeons, tourist groups - you name it! If you wanted to be oot and aboot, that was the place to be! I will try to put up the pics soon!!

Auschwitz was interesting to see, but we made the mistake (yet, again) by going on a 50 person coach tour.  If anyone does do it that reads this, just do it on your own and you will be able to sit and reflect on every part of the exhibit.  Amongst the mountains of human hair, shoes, suitcases and other possessions of the Jews that were on display for all tourists, the most moving part of the exhibit was the actual gas chamber itself.  The large mass chambers at Birkenau was not available to us for this tour.  We did however see the smaller, scaled down chamber within Auschwitz. Being in the room where the Zyklon B gas was dropped in and staring at the cold concrete walls hammered into your  imagination  how the last thing these victims saw was this empty chamber of death, watching all their fellow bretheren slowly die an agonizing death... so..yeah... something to remember for sure...

Krakow is definitely for the young and the party-forward people.  There were teams upon teams of British guy groups, all celebrating Stag parties due to the cheap beer and hot women.  For the people looking for Polish culture, I would venture north - but that's just me. Oh, but the hearty polish food makes up for any shortcomings of this town. Polish Bigos (saurkraut, sausage and mushrooms and some other goodies mashed into a pile), perogies and Borscht really fill the gap! And if you go to the right place like we did, 5 times, you won't pay more that 7$ cdn for a huge meal and a beer... score for sure!!

So I have determined, I am done with Europe for the time being.  I am now ready for a different type of experience.  You can only see so many churches, castles and old crap ad nauseum, before it just begins to sound like a 5-year old banging on a pot with a wooden spoon for 3 hours.  And yes, Europe does rape your pocketbook, gladly, with a big smile on it's face.  It is a great experience, but as I didn't expect - don't expect to escape the tourist trap because Europe is the WORLD'S tourist trap - bar none. It is awesome, don't get me wrong - but come with the right mindset and you will not be let down!

Ok kiddies, reflective time.. yes, this blog is about my travel progress, but at the same time, it is my outpouring of thoughts that I choose to verbalise for others, but primarily myself.. read on if you dare...

One thing I can say for sure, if you want soul searching - this is the experience for you.. Going on a 2 week or even month long vacation is nice, but your brain doesn't start to eat itself like a school of Pirhana until you are at least 2 months in - or maybe this is just my experience.

I have assessed my career, life decisions, existential direction, spiritual motivation, humanitarian motivations and hell, pretty well have solved the meaning of life - for me.  Let me qualify immediately, I don't claim to know the meaning of life for anyone. I am not wise, learned or have acheived enlightenment by ANY sense of the imagination by travelling for 2 months. Far from it.  But one thing I can say, what is coming to light, very quickly, the meaning of life for myself.  Diving in to the deep....

Multiple 6/9hr train rides and hours upon people watching and exhibit attending have brought one thought to the forefront:  What, or now more aptly, WHO am I living for? 

1.  If I am living for myself, then I should be trying to make as much money as I can, amassing as much wealth as I can and trying to provide as much entertainment, enjoyment and carnal satisfaction as I can my whole life.

2. If I am living for God, I should become a monk/priest and abondon all my belongings and serve God preaching, spreading the word and the like. 

3. If I am living for my family, then I should take Goal #1 and only vary it slightly, including my wife and the best life education for my child/children.

OR.......

4. Should I be living for my fellow man? I have started coming to the conclusion that the worst sin possible is Selfishness.  It may not be a deadly sin (or is it?), but as I may have mentioned before, I feel it is the catalyst for greed, war, imperialism, racism and countless other human flaws we feed daily, in every culture.  If people would concentrate on others instead of themselves, embodying some THEORIES of communism (but obviously NOT the historical practices of it)), and living to be kind, considerate and the servant of others - life would be better for everyone.  Oh yeah, and I have a feeling deep down that by living this way, Goal #2 will get pretty close to being covered at the same time. 

So, why don't we all just drop our jobs and voluteer overseas for the 3rd world countries? Well, as I came to realize, some people can make a huge difference with the gifts they were given. Bono is in a HUGE legendary band, and at the same time - one of the most charitable and selfless artists in the business.  If you have a gift, use it and do it to the best of your ability. Maybe you can do that and help the world all at the same time...  the only problem is, it is soo easy to just forget about others, and concentrate on yourself I find.  And therein lies the problem to most of humanities classic flaws.  Lust for power, money, carnal desires and yearning to be in the elite are the direct opposites of selfishness. 

Therefore, I travel to Africa.  I am not planning on a 4 week volunteer opportunity so I can feel good about myself after funding some 'corrupt' volunteer organzations backyard pool renovations. I want to give back and hopefully be the one person that changes at least one kids life. 

Not to be negative, just to be a realist - I don't have what it takes to be the best at being a small business owner, corporate lackey, sports star or musician. I realize that.  But one thing the world is short of is legendary leaders in selflessness.  Revolutionaries that make a difference like Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa or the like.  I am not trying to glorify myself or gain fame for being selfless, nor trying to become what these amazing people have become, but I think if the desire is there, you can become an amazing hero to someone - no experience necessary. Over and out in Prague...

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June 1st update - I just decided to put the right photos in the right date placement to not confuse anyone.. It wasn't done before because I thought it wouldn't show updated pics and people might miss some, but it seems to be doing it's job.. if you are getting confused or mossing photos, please let me know if it aint working!
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