Saturday, 22 March 2014

Winter Spirit day 18-19: Prague

Day 18: Kraków to Prague
This morning we were stopping at the former concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Our trip leader gave us a good introduction to the camps, nazi occupation of Poland and Eastern Europe, which sadly included his family's personal experience with the holocaust. We had a tour guide there and spent about 3 hours between the 2 camps. I'm not going to lie, it was awful and even remembering my time there is hard. It was interesting to learn more about it, and would recommend a visit to everyone who is visiting Eastern Europe. 
After the tour we had a very quiet bus ride to our next service stop, and then watched the movie the Pianist, which was interesting after learning about the holocaust.
Once in Prague we had our dinner, then went into town for a walking tour. We learnt a little about the city, including a story about the astronomical tower, where the maker was going to make more astronomical towers for other cities and the people in charge of Prague didn't want them getting tourism, so they got the clock maker drunk and when he passed out cut our his tongue and burnt his eyes. The clockmaker woke up blind and mute, unable to make more clocks, and once realised who had done it he made his way up the clock tower and threw himself onto the gears, killing himself and making the clock stop. Today it does work, but it took them over 100 years to fix it.
We ended up at the Charles bridge, and started our night out! Our leader took us to a bar where we got a welcome shot and a few drinks, and watched our leader do some pole dancing (and guess what, he's Polish! Haha). Then we went to the biggest night club in Central Europe, which has 5 floors! Even though it was a Sunday night, there were quite a few people there. We went to the ice bar, which was 150czk to get in, but you got a very strong drink with it! The ice bar was lots of fun, and after we'd finished there we went upstairs to dance the might away. We ended up at Macdonalds a little after 3.30 after getting a deep fried cheese burger from a street vendor, had a very loud tram ride back to the hostel, and ended up getting to bed around 4.30!

Day 19: Prague
As much as it would have been nice to have a long sleep in, today we wanted to get to the castle by midday to see the changing of the guards. We made it with enough time to have a look at the St. Vitus Cathedral, where the stunning gothic architecture rivals that of Notre Dame in Paris. The changing of the guards was interesting, even though I couldn't really see, and there was a lot of music coming from a band in the castle.
After the guard change, we went inside the cathedral, then a few people in the group we were with wanted to go to a classical concert, so 5 of us headed back down into town. We visited the plaque on the wall of part of the university in memory of a student who set himself on fire in protest against the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviets.
We went to Old Town Square in time to hear the astronomical clock, which although was a little underwhelming was still fun. We went up the tower, which luckily enough has a lift, although many people choose to walk up the ramp for some reason! The top of the tower gave beautiful views of the city, especially the Tyn Church, a church in the square with beautiful gothic towers, which were uses as inspiration for towers in one of the Disney princess movies.
We walked through the Jewish Ghetto, but unfortunately didn't see the cemetery there,  a small site where many Jews were buried up to 15 people deep to make sure everyone was buried.  We then walked for almost an hour as a girl in our group had a map that pointed to a cafe that did 'the biggest best banana milkshakes in the city'. When we got there they didn't have chocolate milkshakes, which is the only flavour I like, and the milkshakes came in a cup the same size as as a small coffee. We got the tram back to the hostel, went for a swim and 9 of us went for Mexican food at a restaurant down the road from the hostel which was no Zambreros, but delicious none the less.

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