Prague was amazing. It was a great surprise as I was not expecting to have such a great time in the city because I knew so little about it. I am starting to lean more and more towards coming back to Europe next summer to backpack after I graduate college. There is so much in this world to see and I feel so much more enlightened having spent only two days in Prague!
Yesterday, after our hostel’s amazing American style breakfast buffet, our tour guide took us to the Lennon Wall. While Czechoslovakia was under a communist government, this wall was one of the ways that the Czech people were able to express their displeasure towards the government. They mainly wrote phrases or drew pictures on the wall to express their hopes for peace. Many of these were related to songs by The Beatles, hence the wall’s name. Initially, the police kept painting over the wall saying it was unacceptable as the wall was private property, but the owners of the wall told the police that it was fine and asked them to stop painting over it. It eventually became a symbol of rebellion against the government. An interesting fact is that what was written on the wall when I was there was not what was written on there during the communist regime, people are always writing over what people wrote the week before. My tour guide said she noticed a lot of things that were new from when she was here last week. It was a very cool concept.
After the Lennon Wall, half our group went to eat at a traditional Czech restaurant, u Fleku. It was very, very similar to German food and a German restaurant. I suppose that makes sense given that the Czech Republic is bordered on the north by Germany. I had beef goulash and potato pancakes. The food was good, but the atmosphere was even better. The restaurant was huge and had an older man playing an accordion.
Beef goulash & potato pancakes
After lunch, we took a tour of the Prague Castle – the largest castle in the world! It was not exactly what I expected as it was not just one big building that was the living quarters for the king of Prague, but a whole complex that was open to the people of Prague for things like church services, welfare, or jousting matches. I was most excited to see the Rose Window at St. Vitus Cathedral. I had heard so many things about it and it was beautiful! We also learned about monks that brewed their own beer and about how one of the towers of the castle was built after the others, so it was completely different. Two are gothic and one was baroque – it looks really weird! I don’t know what they were thinking. The castle also had some beautiful, panoramic views of the city!
St. Vitus Cathedral
St. Vitus Cathedral – Interior
St. Vitus Cathedral – Rose Window
St. Vitus Cathedral – Exterior Rose Window
View of Prague from Prague Castle
After the Prague Castle Tour, a few girls who are studying abroad in Siena and I went down to the Charles Bridge to go souvenir shopping. I found the two souvenirs I am collecting – a Prague shot glass and a book of postcards. We also took a few pictures of the bridge.
Now that we are on the bus to Germany, I had a bit to reflect on my time in Prague. A few things really intrigued me:
1) It’s beauty. I was not expecting a former communist state to be so beautiful. From what I have heard, however, most of Prague was remodeled after communism fell with financial aid from the West.
2) How Westernized Prague was. I think Prague was more Westernized than a city like Rome. From the consumer goods industry, I saw far more stores and chain restaurants here than I would expect to find in Italy. I found a TGI Fridays, Starbucks, McDonalds, Adidas, Target, IKEA, Subway, and many other stores. I also was able to get Arizona Iced Tea, one of my favorite drinks from home, in my hostel. I also had a Starbucks Iced Coffee. My theory behind the amount of Western establishments in Prague is that after the wall fell, all these companies tried to gain entrance into this new market that always had desire for luxury goods, but for the past 40 years they were unable to do so. It was as close to guaranteed money as you could get!
So far, Prague is the only city in Europe where I’ve seen Arizona Iced Tea
I even found a TGI Fridays (no, I did not eat there)
3. Communism. It is so refreshing to hear first hand from people who lived under it that communism did not, does not, and will not work. All of the people who were giving the tours were passionate about their hatred for communism and socialism. This, combined with what is going on right now in Northern Africa, makes me even more proud to be an American. We helped and are still helping improve the quality of life for people all over the world!
We are now on our way to Berlin – the city that divided the world and then re-united it! I can’t wait for the history lesson of a lifetime I am going to get over the next two days.
Note: This post was originally published on March 26, 2011 in a blog entitled “Romeing Around Europe” which chronicled my study abroad experience.
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