A Long, Cold, Great Day in Prague

Trip Start Feb 22, 2013
Trip End Mar 05, 2013

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What I did
Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola
The Battle at the Cyril and Methodius Church
Memorial of the Victims of Communism in Prague

Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Thursday, February 28, 2013

Vicky and I set out early at 7 am to tour the city. Prague is not an early-start kind of place but we eventually found a great little breakfast near the Spanish Synagogue that Vicky wanted to visit. 

From there we walk around the city towards the Cyril and Methodius Church. This Orthodox church was built in honor of St. Cyril and St Methodius, the men responsible for the Slavonic alphabet. However, most people know about this church because of what happened here on the morning of June 18, 1942 when the Nazis discovered, acting on information from a traitor, that the seven Czech parachutists involved in the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich were hiding in the crypt. The west side of the church was cordoned off by 800 troops from the SS and the Gestapo. Three of the soldiers died as the SS stormed the church. The remaining four fought on from the crypt and tried to dig their way out. After hours of shooting and a long stand-off which led to the Germans deciding to literally flush them out using the fire brigade, they used their last bullets on each other. The bullet-scarred exterior wall holds a plaque in honor of their bravery, there is also a museum and the crypt.

Memorial of the Victims of Communism in Prague - The Memorial of the Victims of Communism is a truly magnificent memorial although sad. It is a modern memorial, from the year 2002. It contains seven “phases” of a man living in a totalitarian state – from the first statue being a full man, up to the last statue where only a part of him remains. This evaporation represents the gradual physical and psychical destruction of a man who is ruled by any undemocratic regime. The man disappears due to censorship, secret police, no freedom of thoughts and expressions etc. On huge stairs leading to the statues you can read a line saying the terrible truth: during the years 1948 to 1989, 205 486 people in the back-then Czechoslovakia were found guilty for political reasons, 248 were executed, 4 500 died in prisons, 327 died when trying to run away from the country and 170 938 people emigrated. 

The Choir sang mass at Our Lady of Victory Church of the Holy Infant Infant Jesus of Prague, or as Will Ferrell would say, “cute, chubby, infant baby Jesus”. There is a 16th century wax-coated wooden statue of child Jesus inside the church. Pious legends claim that the statue holds miraculous powers, especially among expectant mothers. The mass was beautiful and very, very chilly.

I thoroughly enjoyed my much-anticipated time with Calvin that included lunch and a walk up Nerodova Street while hunting house signs. The boy ate and ate and ate! He later told me that he had a hole in his toe

Nerudova Street is named after Jan Neruda, the famous Czech writer who lived here in the house At the Two Suns. There are so many splendid historical houses with well-preserved ancient decorated doors and historical house signs such as the beautiful statues, reliefs and symbols. The symbols are placed at the house entrances in particular. These symbols were in the past used instead of our today´s house numbers. So the houses usually had the names such as: At the Two Suns, At the Red Lion, At the Golden Crown, At the Donkey in the Cradle.  I could easily get obsessed with hunting these signs, Check out this blog for more examples.

The parents and children were treated to a guided tour of Prague’s castle district including St. Vitus and Golden Lane. Calvin and I dedicated the tour to our boys at home since Elliott has chosen St. Vitus (Patron Saint of Dancers) as his saint for his upcoming confirmation and first communion and all the adorable cherubs in the castle looked exactly like our baby Max. The best one was at the entrance with Max riding a lion, as I’m sure he would do if given the opportunity!

We set off for another Choir Concert at St. Ignatius Church where I nearly perished due to hypothermia. The music would have been a wonderful send off of course. 

The evening finished with a dinner cruise for kids and parents. Calvin was such a young gentleman as we shared a great conversation with the Lemke family. He had such insightful contributions as we shared our thoughts about the visit to Terezin and the holocaust history. My boy is growing up. (sniff, sniff).

This tour has been an emotional one for me, maybe my first trip abroad is a rite of passage of sorts that has me reflecting on both my past and my future. It is as if seeing these historical places and experiencing a new culture prompts a reflection of my own history and future. All this, coupled with news from home that will force us to make some challenging decisions in the coming months has really been a surprise aspect of the trip. Maybe we will figure it all out on the ling place ride home... or not.

After a long and very cold day, I packed my bags for the morning and jumped right into bed with my laptop and proceeded to struggle with the internet access until I gave up and went to sleep in preparation for our departure to Vienna. 

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