Our advisor gave us an easy packing list the day before we took off for Prague: International Student Identification Card, passport, good shoes, and good moods! With that advice in mind, I loaded my suitcase with those items and then absolutely everything I didn’t need. (I think I packed 5 pairs of pants for a 4-day trip. I need help.) Heavy suitcase in tow, I boarded the tram with my 25 new friends.
Next stop was the Charles Bridge. I think Jan and Martin were impressed with our abilities to be perfectly content taking pictures for half an hour. New Rule: We all have to hold on to a rope to stay together.
Upon arrival to the train station, we were greeted by our guides and professors for the weekend trip, Jan and Martin. They passed out our seating arrangements for the two-hour train to Prague. The group was spread out throughout the train cars. Thank goodness we had at least one other UNK student with us in each individual compartment. “Good luck and see you in Prague, hopefully” were his last words to us as he made his way to his train car. I had the pleasure to be paired up with Kelsey.Kelsey and I kept a close eye on the time so we wouldn’t sleep through our stop. We thought it was strange that our arrival time had already passed but didn’t think too much of it because hey, we all run a little late sometimes. The announcer came on the speaker and we heard * muffled Czech words that we don’t understand- Praha * Perfect! That was us! Kelsey and I peeked out our compartment door and Lacey and Hannah were also collecting their things to get off the train. All was great. Until Lacey and Hannah stepped off the train… and it started moving. Kelsey and I were still on the stairs and she urged me “Get off the train! Get off the train!” In a complete panic, I hurled my suitcase down to the platform and hopped off. Craziness, right? Well that was the easy part. A quick scan of the platform revealed that we were the only four who got off the train at this stop. Again, Kelsey with the good ideas: “Get back on the train! Get back on the train!” We took off running after a moving train to rejoin our class. Lacey and Kelsey planted their feet on the small step first and dove into the car. (Remember the fun story I told earlier about my suitcase being heavy?) Never have I regretted a decision more than in the moment where I had to pick up my suitcase, toss it in the moving train car, and then throw myself on top of it (and Kelsey, sorry girl). People, we are still not done. When I turned around (in the most cinematic fashion I have ever experienced) Hannah was running after the train with her arms outstretched to try to grab on. The three of us were frantically trying to help her on, but the door was insistent on closing without Hannah. I will never forget the look on our faces when we realized what just happened. A quick facetime call to Dr. Biggs was in order to explain that he was now one student short. Doug and Martin took a taxi to retrieve Hannah and she was laughing about the whole thing in no time. (Note: there were two Prague stations... we missed that detail). All this excitement before we even stepped foot in Prague! New Rules: No jumping off and on moving trains and pack lightly.
Our first stop was to visit the Saint Cyril church. If you haven’t seen the movie Anthropoid, you need to. It does an amazing job of recreating what happened to the Czech soldiers who were assigned to kill Reinhard Heydrich (one of Hilter’s higher-ups). To watch the movie and then see the actual bullet holes in the church made me appreciate the events so much more. There were memorials to entire families that were killed for helping anyone who opposed the Nazi reign. New Rule: Appreciate all that you are given because when you think you have it bad, I promise you these families had it worse.
After that sobering experience, it was time for some fun. Old Town Prague had an Easter festival going on with booths selling everything from hotdogs to hand-painted eggs. There were tons of bright colors and spring-looking flowers (it was cold and overcast when we were there, but they also sold hot cider so we were game). We strolled through and realized the cider wasn’t cutting it. We ordered “kabob dogs” and “paprika dogs.” I think I might have been hungry because that was the best food I had eaten in Prague so far. New rule: If it doesn’t taste right- add some paprika. It fixes everything.
The John Lennon Wall also made for a great photo stop. The wall is different everyday thanks to visitors and artists who paint new messages of love and peace constantly. Neat to think it will never look like it does in this picture again. New Rule: “Wet dog” is an acceptable new hair style thanks to the frequent rains in Prague.
Jan and Martin gave us time to wander off on our own and check out anything that we missed or to revisit a place we had already visited. A small group of us made it back to the Church of Our Lady Victorious to see the Child of Prague statue one more time. The statue was originally a gift from Spain. I am really glad we came back because this time we ventured upstairs to see the collection of robes that the statue has. Different countries donate robes for the infant that represent their culture. The Carmelite sisters of the church change the clothing on the statue. Different colors are for different times of year. Green is Ordinary Time, purple is Lent, red or gold is Christmas and Easter, royal blue is Feast of the Assumption. New Rule: I need more clothes because this statue has over 300 outfit changes.
Prague castle was a hike (thanks Jan for the good shoes advice) but completely worth it at the top. The views were breathtaking looking out over the city.
A day trip to Dresden is just what we needed! (I love checking off countries that I have been to. My list is up to eight). Jenny, Zach, and I had lunch at an authentic German restaurant just off main square (try the strawberry lemonade beer. You’re welcome).
The group also had the chance to see this Lutheran church that was destroyed during the war but restored with some of the original pieces. The darker parts are the original building.
We also explored the Residenzschloss Dresden Mueseum. We spent the majority of our time there in the armory exhibit. New Rule: Know your way back to the meeting point before you leave the museum. Jenny and I found ice cream, but not the statue.
Last stop of the weekend was to the Jewish Quarter. Another very sobering experience. The cemetery was packed so tight that some of the graves were 6-8 bodies deep. That’s why the ground is raised and the gravestones aren’t even. The two hands on the gravestone means that a Rabi was probably buried there.
|One synagogue had the names of all the Czech victims of the Holocaust painted on the walls|
New Rule: Learn everything you can about other religions and cultures. Experiencing them first hand are memories I will cherish forever.