Friday, August 04, 2006


(The title of this post will be funny to one person on earth... the rest of you will assume I'm just being my usual pretentious self).

The highlight of my final day in Berlin was going up to the domed roof of the Reichstag building. If the Canadian parliament was anywhere near as attractive, I might actually make the trip to Ottawa (might!).

The train to Prague was rather uneventful except for having to get up at 5:30 to catch the early train. We travelled through some rather beautiful country, and also some awful post-communist towns.

After getting settled in my hotel, I walked over to Wenceslas Sqaure... which is a complete and utter lie.... If I'm being generous it's a rectangle... in reality it is part of a street that happens to have a statue at the top of it. It is very touristy, full of fast food and places to change money (think the Yonge Street strip only with older buildings and alleyways). I began to grow concerned that Prague wasn't going to be as good as everyone had told me. I then walked up to Prague Castle and my fears dissipated. The view from the castle -- to say nothing of the castle grounds themselves -- is absolutely phenomenal. Unfortunately, as I was taking in the view, the torrential rains started. Despite having an umbrella, I was getting absolutely soaked. It was too late in the day to go to any museums, so I thought that my first day in Prague would be a wash. I started to head back to the centre of town from where I planned to return to my hotel and then figure out somewhere to go for dinner. Luckily, just as I was coming out of the subway, I saw an ad for Don Giovanni which is playing at its original theatre as part of Prague's celebration of the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth. I'm not a huge opera fan (I have a problem with that whole suspension of disbelief thing), and Don Giovanni wouldn't necessarily be my choice, but this seemed like an opportunity that likely wasn't going to come up again. It was a great evening, the theatre alone made it worth the while (if you've seen Amadeus, it's that theatre), but the performance was very good as well.

This morning I walked across the Charles Bridge, which was absolutely packed with tourists (and understandably so) and then wandered through Mala Strana (the "Little Quarter") which is all windy streets and centuries old buildings (the odd church or fifty thrown in for good measure). I ended up back at the castle and went into the gardens (if you are looking for a new location for your workout the castle grounds might be something to consider... it takes a lot of steep steps to get views that good).

I then joined a tour group for a walk through the Old Jewish Quarter. It was largely demolished at the end of the 19th century, but there are still a number of old synagogues, the jewish cemetery (which is high above street level as it is many layers deep with bodies buried on top of bodies) and the Jewish city hall with a Hebrew clock that runs counter clockwise. Much of the rest of the day was spent walking around the streets of the old city. I had planned to take the furnicular railway up to Petrin, because it apparently offers yet another fantastic view of the city (and has a tower modelled on the Eiffel Tower, but at one fifth the size), but it is currently closed for repairs.

Tomorrow I'm taking a trip about an hour north to Terezin (known to the Germans, and thus the world, as Theresienstadt) to view the Nazi concentration camp which served as a transit camp for Central European Jews en route to Auschwitz and other death camps (and which they dressed up for visitors, leading to the rave reviews from the Red Cross).

No comments: