My adventures while studying abroad continued as I ‘czeched’ out Prague during the last weekend in October!
Although I did not know very much about Prague or the Czech Republic before going, I was excited when my friends Rachel and Jaina talked about planning a trip to Prague. (Exploring European cities is a key part of what studying abroad is all about, right?) The weekend’s plan consisted of the rendezvous of Rachel, Jaina, and I from Edinburgh and three other Georgetown girls (McKenzie, Abby, and Caroline) who are currently studying at the Villa in Fiesole, Italy. To our good fortune, McKenzie’s older sister had studied abroad in Prague and provided our group with a ‘czech-list’ of the best things to see, of great places to eat, and of fun places to go out in Prague. We had 6 girls, three days, 1 ‘czech-list’, and lots to do!
On our first evening in Prague, we walked around the city and had dinner at fun Mexican restaurant. (Yes, Mexican food in Prague. We all missed good Mexican food in America, and the girls studying in Italy, who have their exclusively Italian meals cooked for them at the Georgetown Villa, were definitely up for some non-Italian cuisine for a change.) After dinner, we went to U Sudu, a bar that has a maze of underground rooms with cellar-styled settings, which McKenzie’s sister had recommended to us. On our walk back to our hostel, we crossed over the famous Charles Bridge and stopped for some traditional Czech street food–sausages and fried cheese.
The next morning, we headed to the Prague Castle in Old Town to begin our touring of ‘Praha’. As it was snowing, we were fortunate to look down on the city of Prague dusted in white.
In the snowy white atmosphere, we walked around the Prague Castle complex, which is the largest coherent castle complex in the world with an area of 70,000 meters (according to the Guinness Book of World Records). We went inside the magnificent St. Vitus Cathedral, which is owned by the Czech government and in the Prague Castle complex. This Roman Catholic Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Prague, and it is the largest church in the country of the Czech Republic. My post-trip research on Saint Vitus informed me that Vitus was a Sicilian who died as a martyr in the persecution of Christians during the Roman Empire in 303 A.D. Vitus is considered the patron saint of actors, comedians, dancers, and epilectics, and he is the patron saint of Bohemia, of which the Czech Republic is located today. I also learned that the relic of a hand of St. Vitus resides in St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.
Next, we continued our tourist agenda by walking to the John Lennon Wall. Starting in the 1980s, young people decorate the plain wall with graffiti about changing the communist regime of Gustáv Husák. Although the original portrait of John Lennon was covered by paint long ago, people today continue to add graffiti, poetry, and song lyrics with themes of love and peace to the wall.
Next, we went to see the Prague Orloj, or Prague Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square. The oldest parts of this clock date back to 1410! The clock contains components that mark the signs of the zodiac and that trace the movement of the sun and the moon. The clock also is surrounded by four figures, which represent things that were despised at the time the clock was created; these include Vanity (depicted by a figure admiring himself in a mirror), Greed (depicted by a figure holding a bag of gold), Death (depicted by a skeleton), and Pleasure (depicted by a figure of a Turk).
That night, we tasted some Pilsner Urquell beer (a pale lager produced in the Czech Republic) while on a bar crawl which started a bar called the Drunken Monkey. The bar crawl completed our full day of touring the city!
The next morning, I attended Mass at the Church of St. Giles in Old Town. The church was founded in 1371 and was full of beautiful gold decoration.
During Sunday afternoon, our fantastic group divided as the three girls studying at the Villa headed to the airport and Rachel, Jaina, and I headed to tour the Jewish quarter of Prague. We went into the six synagogues in the Jewish quarter and learned about the traumatic history of this Jewish ghetto during World War II. We also saw the bronze statue of Franz Kafka near the Jewish quarter. Kafka was a one of the most influential authors of the 20th century and was Jewish German who both studied and lived in Prague. I was familiar with Kafka from a literature class I took in high school, for which I read his famous and bizarre novella, “The Metamorphosis” (1915).
Prague is a beautiful and unique city, and I had a great weekend there. The architecture and atmosphere (as well as the snowy weather) of Prague were very different than that of the other European cities I have visited this semester, and I really enjoyed visiting the city!