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Friday, 25 April 2014

PRAGUE- CZECH REPUBLIC

With Good Friday, weekends and Easter Monday, we had altogether 4 days holiday. Again, it was another opportunity to step outside Germany for a while. During my first few months in Germany, I was still feeling like a guest  but now, after spending 7 months here, it is more like a homeland. So, now and often, I prefer to travel outside. If not anything else, it gives a sense of peace and consciousness of being away from the work for a while.

On train, we passed through beautiful scenes that gave the feeling of both peaceful and forlorn life people might have there. Tall hills and river in the bottom reminded me of my country, Nepal. The strange thing about Europe is, there is no border. I don't actually know how they decide at which point each country starts.  We didn't know we entered into Czech Republic zone until the stations' names had unfamiliar umlaut in alphabets. 


Prague had temperature of about 20 degree Celsius. It was like heaven for someone coming from the cold weather. I found the overall expenses quite cheap compared to Germany. Not because of exchange rate though every time we converted the Crown into Euro before buying anything. I was hugely impressed with the train system there. They were very efficient, clean and punctual. If you are travelling for few days, there are tickets available for 24 hours and 72 hours. Since we were there for 3 days, we decided to get 72 hours ticket that cost 320 Crown. That ticket gave access to all trams, buses, metro and funicular railway (one of the attraction). We actually didn't know funicular railway was free with that ticket. So, we bought extra ticket and later on, we were busy selling those tickets to others. The strange and good thing about Prague is there are free tour guides available. The only way they make money is from the tips people give them after the tour. The tour starts at 11 am and 2 pm every day in Astronomical Clock and Old town square. I would highly recommend this service.

PRAGUE CASTLE
Prague castle is the main attraction in Prague. It is situated in the hill, bit higher level from the town. From this spot, people have opportunity to enjoy amazing panoramic view of the city. The castle expands in an area of nearly 70000 sq. m, recording its name in Guinness world record book as the largest castle in the world. Actually, it is known that it wasn't that large in the start. Many kings from different countries like Germany and Poland have ruled Czech in the past. Every king wanted to make something that represents him. So, the castle kept increasing its size. There is a famous incident that president of Prague stole golden pen from one of the conference in Chile. After he came back to Prague, many people signed a campaign to send him pens in a mail. At this point, our guide said Czechs are very popular in stealing, everyone laughed but my housemate and I checked our bags. 

Around the castle, you can roam around for free but there are specific places where you need to get ticket for, such as Palace, Golden Lane and Powder tower. The ticket costs 250 Crown but 50% off for students under 26 years old. The Cathedral was really beautiful. I loved the architecture of it. Looked like every little detail was given an attention while constructing it. To be honest, the places we visited with ticket were bit overrated. For eg. the palace had nothing inside and Golden lane was just a small congested road with smallest possible shops at the side. To go inside those shops, people had to bend themselves. 
Cathedral- you can go inside for free
Inside the Cathedral
Attention to detail inside Cathedral
PRAGUE VIEW FROM THE CASTLE
Around the castle is really nice and more than anything, view of Prague city from there is breath-taking. We visited the castle on both days. If you are visiting every corner of the castle, it takes 3 to 4 hours. I don't know whether it was because of holiday but there were just too many people. After a tiring tour of the castle, resting at the side and looking towards the city, you forget all the tiredness. It looks so peaceful and beautiful that it was difficult to leave that place. 
Prague view 1
Prague view 2
Prague view 3
CHARLES BRIDGE
Between the Prague flows a river called Vltava. It has many bridges but the most famous one is called Charles Bridge. Apparently, the bridge was originally built up of wood in 12th century but later on it was badly damaged by flood. So, in 14th century, Charles IV built another stone bridge in the same position. Apparently, he built this bridge in such an auspicious time that nothing could destroy this bridge after that, not even 2002 flood that covered half of the Prague. There were local people at both sides of the bridge trying to sell their business. Although the bridge was very crowded with tourists, it was cheerful.  
View of Charles Bridge from far
Walking in the Charles Bridge- Look at the statues at the sides


The bridge has 30 statues of famous figures in both sides but what struck me the most was a statue with 5 stars around its head. So the story is, this statue is of a Priest during Charles IV reign. The king had a suspicion that his wife was cheating on him. He went to church and asked this priest about his wife's confession. The priest being obedient servant of the God refused to tell the king about his wife's confession. The king tried to get a word out of him so many times but the priest never told him anything. So, finally, he killed the priest and threw his body in the river from Charles Bridge. That night, 5 stars were seen in the sky and because of that, his statue has 5 stars. Some locals believe that after his body was thrown in the river, an angel came and took him to the heaven but some people believe his body ended up in Germany because Vltava River forms Elbe River when it comes to Germany. 
Statue of a Priest in Charles Bridge
HISTORY AROUND THE CITY
Rudolfinum
Every city has its own history. Most of the Prague's history is more related to World War II. One of our stop was a big concert hall called Rudolfinum. It is situated in the bank of river Vltava. The building was designed by architect Josef ZĂ­tek and Josef Schulz, and was opened in 1885. The statues on the top of the building are of famous music composers from Jews families. When Nazi captured Czech in 1939, this building was working office for them. They wanted to take the statues down but never succeeded because people who were responsible for taking it down struggled to figure out which statue was of Jews and which not. Now this building is used as a concert hall.   
Hebrew number and roman clock in Jews quarter
Jews quarter is another history as well as an attraction of Prague. The history of this place goes back to 13th century. During that time, walls surrounded this place and only Jews could live here. The surrounded land was 4 m lower than normal level so just imagine how they lived in case of flood. In 1700, Jews people became more liberal and they were allowed to go out and live in other places. In 1850s, Czechoslovakia decided to destroy this place but there are still some old buildings remaining. This place later became memorial of World War II. In one of the building has a collection of the pictures painted by children in concentration camp during World War II. Apparently, there were about 15000 children. Our guide told us that once an old man came to his touring group and claimed that he was one of those children who survived concentration camp but he was only 2 years old during that time. Nearby this area is Jews cemetery. The area is really small and fully walled. Jews people were only allowed to bury here. The space was so small that people were buried on top of each other. 

Frank Kafka
Frank Kafka was one of the popular Jews writers in Czech Republic. Apparently, once he saw a dream where he was followed by an empty suit. It followed him everywhere. This statue is to remember him and his famous dream. He wrote many stories but during his last days, he decided not to become famous and told his friend not to publish anything he has written but his ex-girlfriend and a friend published them. He then became very famous but when Nazis took over, they burned all of his books. After Soviet Union clashed, his popularity was still on and tourists who came to Czech Republic asked about him. Then Czech thought his name is a very good business so they named most of the things after him. Later, his books were translated into Czech language. 
Astronomical clock
Astronomical clock is one of the popular tourist attractions in the heart of Prague town. The clock (upper dial) consists of black map, a globe from 1400. It was installed in early 15th century. The clock has roman numbers at the outer edge which represents the timescale of normal 24 hours a day. There are four statues, 2 at both sides of it. Apparently, These four figures represents the vitality of the people living in that era. The first man on the left has mirror in his hand which represents 'insecurity of his look', the second is holding gold in his hand that represents greed. Another statue on right is a skeleton that represents fear of death. The final figure is a man in turbine that represents entertainment. At 11 am everyday, all the tourists including tour guides gather here to see the show where a skeleton rings the bell and all other three statues shake their heads to step aside death. The two blue doors above the clock opens and 12 men are seen one by one each representing one hour. 

The lower dial was built in 19th century. The outer layer of this circle has names around it (which can't be seen in this picture). If a child is born in Czech Republic, you have to pick the name from there to name your child. There are 365 names, one name for children born on one day. If you want a name that is not listed there, you have to prove the government that it’s a real name. For someone like me who has already chosen names for my future children, it would be worry to give birth in Czech Republic :P. In the second circle towards the centre is the picture of harvesting in different seasons. The third circle is of 12 zodiac signs. In the middle is the Castle, which is the symbol of the city. 

The dancing house, built in 1996 is another attraction in the city. Its architecture is amazing. If you look at the houses, the house that's twisted is supposed to be a woman and the house next to it is supposed to be a man. So, buildings represent man and woman doing salsa dance. 

So that was all...... Once someone said- 'Your mood depends on what you know is coming in future'. A day before leaving for Prague, we were totally stressed out with our work but still we were happy inside because we knew the trip was on the way. On the last day of the visit, we were having fun but we were sad because tomorrow, we were returning. On the way back on train, my friend and I constantly frowned looking at each other. Usual days were waiting for us in Germany.