You may be as surprised as I was to learn that Nuremberg is actually quite close to Prague. Just a three hour bus ride and Maggie and I were together in the Czech Republic. As soon as we dropped our bags off at the hostel we were out and about in Old Town Prague, joining a free walking tour of the city.
Our tour was really great in that there were only four of us—Maggie and myself, a girl from Melbourne, Australia and a young man from Mexico. This would be the second Mexican backpacker I had met on my trip and he was just as friendly as the first. The four of us chatted quite a bit in between learning about the intriguing history of Czech—now the new trendy “Czechia”—and Prague. Our tour guide was a South American of Czech decent. Through his heavy Spanish accent I enjoyed learning from the knowledge he shared with us.
The short story is that Prague has been a major player in global power for many centuries. In mideval times it was the third most important city, twice it was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire today it is one of the top-five most visited European cities. The country of Czech has been in and out of communism. I was engrossed to hear that Czech's freedom from communism stemmed off of the collapse of the Berlin Wall in East Germany. I couldn't have planned a more perfect itinerary for learning the history of all of this!
Many parts of this history came into play as we saw the major sights of Prague. We began with King Wenceslas statue and his very famous square, which has hosted many rallies, demonstrations and politically important movements throughout the years.
We moved on to the statue of King Charles the IV who is credited with the claim of shaping Prague into the cultural hub that it is. He gave to the city the well-known King Charles Bridge, Charles University and many churches and buildings that are still standing today.
Stemming off of King Charles' influence is the Astronomical Clock, which was built by the university. The oldest working astrological clock in the world, this machine was built in 1410 and still operates on 75% of its original parts. Our guide explained the four different types of time that is told by this renowned clock.
Charles University was the second site on my trip that has ties to Einstein. Here he taught physics for a whole eighteen months. I'm sensing a biography of Einstein in my future reading list.
Around the corner we found the Jewish Quarter which has an intriguing history all on its own. Formerly a poverty-stricken area of Prague, this section is now a high-end shopping area modeled after parts of Paris. Here we found stumble-upon cobblestone memorials for the Jews killed in WWII, along with the oldest synagogue in history that still functions. The place was highly monitored by police and security cameras for just such reasons.
One of the irking questions of the Jewish Quarter is, 'how did it survive Hitler in WWII'? The story is that Hitler spared it because he wanted to show the world a historical museum of an extinct race.
There were dozens of other historical stories and sites we saw along our tour and by the end Maggie and I were reeling with knowledge and full on facts. With this we walked on to get a good view of King Charles' Bridge and soon after found ourselves drawn to a Czech restaurant with cold beer. I had a traditional Czech meal of stewed beef, sauerkraut and dumplings. Maggie and I both enjoyed the unfiltered local beer that, believe it or not, is cheaper than water.
After dinner we wandered through a very artsy district of Prague. Dozens of tiny shops sold original art, design pieces and jewelry. I fell in love with a mural that I later found a print of in one such shop. All of this beautifully colored art led up to one amazing destination: The John Lennon Wall.
Since the early 1980's this wall has been a source of expression for love and peace, especially during communist rule. As communism fell, the message of the wall expanded. Originally there was a huge picture of John Lennon painted on the wall but it has since been painted over with messages of hope and lyrics from Beatles songs. I thought it was particularly interesting that the wall can still be painted on today, therefore it is ever evolving. Still, the message remains the same: let love rule.
Maggie and I ended our very full day along the banks of Prague's local scene. Lined up all along the river were hundreds and hundreds of young people relaxing with their barefeet hanging over the water's edge. Maggie and I grabbed our obligatory street beers and joined in to watch the sun set over a beautiful cityscape.