The Prague Blog- Part Four. Czech!

fixedw_large_4xThere’s nothing like seeing a city from above. All the flaws and imperfections disappear, leaving only a panorama of color and beauty.

Fortunately the Old Town City hall, which features the previously mentioned Astronomical Clock, offers tourists a ride to its top for some awesome views of Prague.

So we forked over the ten euros and took a gander at a city that had already captured our hearts with its old world beauty and charm.

IMG_9671Speaking of old… um, anyway, since it was December, things were a little brisk up there, but I snuggled Carolyn up to me with one hand and took photos with the other. I accomplished this particular photo by setting the phone timer to a 3 second delay and then artfully tossing it in front of us. By the 15th try I had the perfect shot, plus a very beat up iPhone. Well, okay, maybe a kind stranger took the shot for us, but I like my story better.

IMG_9664“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” Okay, if we had to wait for Carolyn’s hair to grow long enough to escape we’d be long dead. So we settled for, “Elevator, elevator, move up the shaft!”

The rest of the photos of the city landscape below are sans any of the usual jocular commentary.

IMG_9682IMG_9674IMG_9663IMG_8866IMG_8865IMG_9684IMG_9676IMG_9666

 

Not far from the castle was this memorial to the victims of Communism. World War II resulted in a significant number of countries toiling under the yoke of their Soviet overlords, but the Czechs are very happy to be rid of all that. In 1993, Czechoslovakia peacefully dissolved, and the Czech Republic was born.

The history of the Jews in Prague is a troubling one, mostly due to the occupation by Germany during the war. Most Jews were deported and killed. None of the old buildings where they used to live exist today. However, there are synagogues (one of which was used by the Germans as a warehouse during the war). One of the more famous ones is called the Old-New Synagogue. It is the only active synagogue remaining in what used to be the Jewish ghetto.

They charged money to get in, but we didn’t think it was overly interesting (and they didn’t allow photos… the skeptic in me assuming because it wasn’t impressive enough to charge money to see). It is mostly just one fairly small room, which is somewhat sparse besides. But there is a lot of history there that is very meaningful to Jews.

IMG_9915The one that was larger and a bit more interesting was the Jerusalem Synagogue, the front of which is pictured here. In the balcony they had interesting displays with stories of the history of Jews in Prague. It is a sad, solemn thing to go through. We should never forget how easy it is for groups of people to hate other groups of people, usually for no reason whatsoever. Anyone who calls for people to belittle, hate, ostracize, or instill fear about any other group of people should be ridden out of town on a rail. Unfortunately, there is a little too much of that coming back, even in Europe, although that call for fear and bigotry is more marginalized than it is in the US.

By the way, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that according to Wikipedia, The Czech Republic is a developed country with an advanced, high income export-oriented social market economy based in services, manufacturing and innovation. The UNDP ranks the country 14th in inequality-adjusted human development. The Czech Republic is a welfare state with a “continental” European social model, a universal health care system, tuition-free university education and is ranked 14th in the Human Capital Index. It ranks as the 6th safest or most peaceful country and is one of the most non-religious countries in the world, while achieving strong performance in democratic governance.

We wrap up our Prague adventure by buying you a spot of metaphorical lunch in a restaurant built inside a former coal mine right in the middle of Prague.

IMG_9784We got a kick out of these bathroom signs. I give kudos to them for not only making sure everyone understands which gender is supposed to use which room, but doing so without a hint of embarrassment or shame over body parts.

Lunch in a coal mine w hammerCzechs drink more beer per capita than anyone, so it’s only appropriate that they insist you either get hammered by beer, or an actual hammer. Otherwise, Praguians (Praguesters? Praguemen? Praguetonians?) generally enjoy a meaty cuisine with lots of sausage and potatoes, not too different from their German neighbors.

Lunch in a coal mineAnd so we usher you to the exit, with memories of Prague still dancing in our heads, and the results of drinking too much beer still interfering with our dancing.

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