Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Weekend Review

As the year is coming to a close, and many of my friends are planning on not returning in the fall, the pressure to get in all those last minute sights is growing. Due to this rush, I spent this past weekend in Prague, hitting nearby sights with my friends Nicole and Crystal.

Friday afternoon we boarded the "communist" train and headed off for Prague. Due to
current reparations on the tracks, we go along for about an hour before being transferred to buses for an hour before returning to the tracks for the last couple hours. It's a real treat. Especially if you want to have a car to yourselves every time. We did manage, fortunately, which made it all much better. Naomi was actually with us for the train ride as well, so we all had a good time visiting on the four
hour trip.

Upon arrival in Prague we had to make a rush trip out to Kelly's in order to drop off our bags and pick up her extra set of keys so she didn't have to worry about our return. We thanked her profusely for her endless hospitality and then hurried back down the mountain (she lives up a crazy steep hill) and into town to meet up with some other friends for a movie. We went and saw the newest Indian Jones flick. It had it's ups and downs, but in all honesty, being able to have nachos for the movie was enough to make me really happy. :) We returned to Kelly's and spent the rest of the evening visiting with her.

Saturday mid-morning we headed out to the main square in town. The weather was nice, and we walked around a while as we waited for our train. We went into the biggest Bat'a store in the world there. Bat'a is a Czech shoe brand that is sold all over the world. Except in the US that is. The store was seriously huge, and we no doubt could have spent a long time there, but the train departure time was calling to us. We picked up some really tasty Gelatos and then got on the train to Kutna' Hora.

Kutna' Hora is a city about an hour from Prague. Back several hundred years ago it was the second largest and most important city in Prague. It is home to several silver mines which led to its former fame. Now, however, the greatest attraction (at least for us) was Kostnice with the Ossuary Chapel. For those unfamiliar with ossuaries, they are receptacles for bones. My dad used to do children's sermons in which he would talk about ossuary boxes from the old days, and then would tell the kids that he had an ossuary box containing real human bones as well. He would then pull out a small box and reveal the teeth of his children. I always loved that. :)

As the description indicates, this chapel is the "home" to the bones of around 40,000 people, most of whom died during the Great Plague. In the 19th century an artist chose to use these bones to decorate the chapel with the bones of the people. He had some ideas about the spiritual implications of displaying the bones, but I can't remember all the piece of paper that served as our tour guide said. All I can really say was that it was an awe inspiring experience to walk into the tiny chapel and be surrounded by so many bones.

The pyramid piles of bones aren't held together with anything but gravity, which makes them especially impressive. There is also a chandelier that consists of every bone in the human body. It was all just so fascinating. We are such temporary beings on this planet after all.

After the bone church we made our way into the main town. We were hungry and decided to stop by a gas station for drinks and snacks. It turned out to be a pretty nice place, way to go Jet, and so we ended up eating at a little table in a corner of the shop. It worked out quite nicely.

The weather has again taken a happy turn and was spectacular for traipsing around in. The walk was fairly long, but the cute town was worth it. We wandered aimlessly around the streets for a while, enjoying the architecture, before finally finding our way to the main square and the information center. From there we were sent in the direction of the largest church, St. Barbara's, where we again enjoyed some photo ops, including a great picture I took of some old Czech ladies just taking in the sunny afternoon.

After the church we headed back to the train station where we had to sit a while and do our best not to get on the wrong train. For some reason it seemed like everyone was confused about the trains today. Maybe it was partly because most everyone at the station was a tourist...There was one couple that we kept running into who seemed particularly confused. I felt a little bit responsible for them, just because I kind of know what I'm doing. In the end, amidst all the confusion, we're pretty much certain they got on the train heading to Brno instead of Prague. Doh! But we could only do so much.

We got back to Prague around 6 and met up with Naomi and Kelly for dinner at Bohemia Bagel. It's always a hot spot with the Americans as it serves food that tastes like home and is the only place I've found in this country where they have unlimited drink refills! Oh the beauty of it all!

After dinner we had a nice back to Kelly's enjoying more of Prague's famous sights.

Isn't the architecture just so much fun? Makes me think a little bit of all the great buildings in Hong Kong.

We had a real European cultural experience back at Kelly's. This was the night of the Eurovision final. Eurovision is a big European music contest, where the countries are supposed to send their best musical offerings. If these are the best they have to offer it's a really sad statement about European music. It's definitely on an amature level. It did provide hours of laughter however. Honestly, you can't even begin to imagine how ridiculous most of the acts were. Imagine Latvian Pirates. That's about all I can say about that. There were a couple that were decent, but sadly all the countries bowing to Mother Russia made it impossible for the good bands to have a chance. "And Ukraine's 12 points go to Rrrussia" (spoken with a REALLY strong and meaningful accent).

Sunday morning the three of us headed out once more, this time for Karlstejn. This is home to one of the largest castles in the Czech Republic. It was really a beautiful sight. Sadly, you can only go through it on a tour and they don't allow photos to be taken inside the castle. I still managed to get some sweet shots from the outside.

And don't even get me started on the really annoying tourists who kept taking photos inside despite constant reminders that they weren't allowed to do so. Honestly, what is wrong with people?

After the castle we wandered down and got a really tasty pastry with nutella inside. It was still warm from being cooked on a big hot pipe. Hard to describe, but it was good.

We had to carry our backpacks around here and decided we deserved a nice meal after the heat of it all. The place we went was pretty nice, all except for the random and horrifying charges. It was bad enough that they charged exorbitant prices for soda and dipping sauce for my smazeny syr (fried cheese), but when they charged me 40 Kc (over $2) to have my left overs put in a little styrofoam box, I was really NOT impressed. But there wasn't a whole lot I could do at that point. (sigh!)

We looked around at some small shops and fell in love with a pottery store there. I bought several really beautiful pieces, but the joy of having them wrapped in bubble wrap and packing tape is dissuading me from reopening them to take photos. They'll just have to wait until they're stateside and I can open them up again. :)

After spending a nice piece of change there we headed back to the train station. Again we had a bit of an ordeal figuring out where we were supposed to be, and in the end almost didn't get on our train, but eventually everything made sense and we managed to get back to Cheb by 6.

In all it was a really nice weekend. Just another thing to help remind me that it really is pretty amazing to be able to live in Europe for a while.

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