Prague, Prague, Prague!!!

I think I loved Prague almost the minute I saw it. Prowling around the city today only increased my joy in it. It is a beautifully, lovely, almost unbelievable city. Apparently the only capital in Europe untouched by WWII, hence the extremely uniform building designs.
I was/am so torn about heading out of it tomorrow but feel like I still have so much to see and do (precisely what people warned me about…lol.. oh well).
A day later, here I am again – trying to recover (over a cheap bottle of wine) from the hassling, harrowing ordeal of trying to get on this train to Zagreb, Croatia…I think I must have stood in the railroad station staring at the blue board for 45 minutes waiting for it to announce what station our train was departing from…too nervous to leave and use the bathroom or charge my phone…hence both phone and ipad are almost dead. Lovely. 17 hr train ride and no old-fashioned paper books to read…should be fun. I’m absolutely exhausted though so it probably won’t matter anyway. anyway, after feeling like I was getting a fever from staring at said blue board after heaving my backpack around and dressed in about 4 layers of shirts, I ended up in 2nd class as supposedly all the seats were already taken in 1st class which I’ve pre-paid for – mandatorily. Anyway, long story short, there are multitude of free 1st class seats, as I found out and am luxuriously lounging in one and tapping away on this ipad – which one of us will hold out longer, the ipad or me, I’m not sure…
Soooo, today was absolutely GLORIOUS and amazing and magical. I found out about this small, start-up company based out of Prague called BIKO and they do outdoor biking, running, skiing “tours” but often only take like one or two people at a time. So, Ive been communicating with the founder, Filippo, trying to set up a time and early this morning, one of his guys, Marik and I set off for Karlsteijn castle, 35 KM from Prague. I was totally in my element. We chatted the whole way, and rode through the most charming towns. It almost hurt it was so enchanting and confirmed the ever growing stronger desire of mine to live in a little town. We sat and ate pastries next to a river with cottages lining the hillside and climbed on foot the last 20 min to the castle, situated on the top of the hill. Marik was SO fun to be with, and we talked about practically everything: his studies in London, the fall of communism in their country, etc etc. Anyway, I really was in my element and loved every minute of it. Absolutely can’t wait to come back to Prague and BIKO 🙂
So, my self-guided tour of Prague: really a lovely day – despite getting quite lost, both on foot and getting on the wrong tram. (These trains just might do me in before the end of my trip though I have to say, I’m starting to navigate them more and more effectively despite the extreme language barrier, there being so many czzzczzzzczzzz sounds in the Czech language that I can barely understand a thing.)
Ummmm…Well, the ipad won out… had a little snooze…and now I’m sitting in a nearly deserted train. It’s almost spooky. Two more connections after this and I can sleep for several hours! Mom is probably freaking out at this point as I haven’t had a moment of wifi since waking up this AM. Hi, Mom, I haven’t been abducted or had a biking accident or been food poisoned or run over by a train. Whew…the empty train started moving. One of these paragraphs I really will get to my Prague travelogue. I promise….
Ok, travelogue: Sir Toby’s serves a lovely breakfast down in their basement/bar/gathering area so after eating I ventured forth. The castle that sits atop the hill is magnificent – after doing a bit of sightseeing around there, I wandered back down to the city – discovering breathtaking scenic overlooks on the way. I walked the famous St. Charles bridge, had a good hearty Czech lunch and beer and started hunting for the Jewish quarter only to embarrassedly discover I was on the wrong side of the river. So much for my map reading skills. Good thing I bought a new pair of hiking shoes before leaving the US! I finally found it after MUCH walking…
The most moving part of the day was the tour in the Jewish quarter. As you step inside the first memorial to the Holocaust victims of Prague, I literally said out loud “This cannot be real.” Covering the walls, in small writing, bottom story, top story, around corners are all the names and dates of the victims. A somber background recording of all the names is continually playing. As I walked, the tears just started running down my face. Next, there was a whole room featuring the art work of the children in the Jewish ghetto. I just continued weeping as I viewed everything. It was all so real: these could be our children, and is still somewhat unbelievable to me that this really happened and so recently too.
The Jews in the ghetto recognized that their children needed a degree of normalcy and security and went to great lengths to educate the children and believed that art was a huge part of expression and learning. No pictures were allowed till one went outdoors to the cemetery. More tears. Throughout the years, the Jews in Europe were only allowed small plots of land to bury their dead and so had to stack graves one upon another upon another, leaving tombstones practically sitting one atop another in an eery yet sacred feeling cemetery.
That pretty much wrapped up my Prague explorings. Getting back to Sir Toby’s I chummed up with a couple boys from the Netherlands and we all went to get a bite to eat together. Getting back I made friends with a couple quite funny Aussie brothers – absolutely so fun just sitting talking and that kind of wrapped up the happenings of yesterday:)
Signing off for now…missing my family and friends. Love you guys!

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