Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ahoy Praha!

In the realm of European cities, Paris and Prague could not be more different.  I am not even sure what about each city makes it unique, and maybe it’s thanks to my art history class, but the best way to describe the difference is through architecture.

on the way from the hostel to the center of town

Parisian architecture is pretty standard: Haussmann apartments, boulevards lined with trees, and the occasional landmark with a style completely different, Notre Dame, le Panthéon, etc. And while it’s beautiful, it’s also consistent.  But in Prague, it's a mélange of styles all on top of one another, pastel colored apartments, gothic towers, and soviet blocs with statues on top.  Since the architecture was something completely new to me, it put me a bit mal à l’aise, but it also fantastically represents Prague, a city of old and new, weird and traditional, classic and communist and capitalist all in one. 

this is the view from a giant metronome on top of a hill,
crumbling tiles, graffiti, bridges and misty hills

My Smith in Paris friend met me in Prague and we walked the city and saw all the (admittedly) touristy sights to see, the Charles Bridge, the Jewish quarter, Prague castle, the John Lennon wall, the Astronomical clock, theaters, and towers, and churches.  The day before she came, however, I was on my own and decided to take a trip to see a bone church about an hour outside of Prague in a town called Kutna Hora.  It's a church I have been dying to see since I learned of its existence and I was frankly pretty proud of myself for figuring out how to get there, buying a ticket and getting on the right bus. 

here is the Sedlec Ossuary, over 40,000 corpses fill the church

Malheureusement, I never made it to Kutna Hora because I missed my stop, had to switch buses in a random Czech town to backtrack, but by the time I was back I had lost my moral and the sun had started to set.  I guess the bone church will remain a dream... I did learn some valuable lessons about what being a true foreigner (not knowing a word of Czech besides 'ahoy') and relying on the kindness of strangers to get me back to the hostel safely, so a day not wasted in the end.

Other highlights: I was woken up Friday morning at 8:30am to three Czech policie in my hostel room (which I shared with 14 other people) searching an older gentleman's bags as he had been accused of stealing another guests wallet.
We were stopped and the metro by several enormous ex-Soviet thugs who not-so-politely informed us that even though we had tickets, we had not validated them and must pay a 800 czech crown fine, because, as they said "we have a very good metro" and they won't stand for any abusers. 
We made some really great friends in the hostel, one of whom teaches english in a town near Prague and showed us around the 'lesser town' all day Friday, feeding us random and awesome information about the city.
I saw the Bearded Lady Saint at Loreta Church.  She apparently asked god to make her repulsive so she wouldn't have to get married so he gave her a beard.  He pagan father then had her crucified out of spite. There is still some occasional confusion as to who is Jesus and who is the Bearded Lady, because other than the ornate pink dress she wears, they look the same.

Prague is a really cool city.

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