Breakfast was included in our room rate at the hotel and it was a pretty good spread including fruit (a lot of varieties), eggs (scrambled, boiled and fried) and usual extensive selection (for Europe) of breads, rolls, meat & cheese.
We headed for the Museum of Communism after breakfast. Ironically it is situated in one of the Palaces which it shares with a swish casino and downstairs is MacDonald’s. It is a street with shops both ways and those included all the major chain stores like H&M and even a Hamley’s. Communism long ago it seems. It wasn’t the best museum I have ever been to and given how much they charged (190 Koruna per person which is about R115 or just under $10). But we did get a bit of history of Czechoslovakia especially post-WWII which was helpful in understanding the country a little more. The most interesting part was a video that was playing perpetually of the civil unrest in the 80s that eventually lead to the fall of the communist government. It only took 10 days of protests (17-27 November 1989) for the communist government to resign and Vaclav Havel (a political writer, dissident & philosopher from 70s) to take over as President and he also presided over the separation into Czech Republic and Slovakia and then became the first Prime Minister of Czech Republic as well.
The other thing that struck me about the museum and movie was the brutality of the police against their own people. But then again who am I as a South African to be surprised by that given our country’s history. The video did make me wonder how a handful of policemen can dominate thousands of people. If the people just turned on the police they could have easily dominated them given their numbers. But fortunately the protests were very short-lived and democracy restored. It is also clear that capitalism became firmly entrenched very quickly thereafter despite all the communist propaganda (some of the cartoons against America in the museum were pretty good). It seems the Czech people never really believed the propaganda and their love for America was restored quickly (as evidenced by the number of Americans in Prague and the American brands).
We had hoped to go the National Library (because it has a beautiful interior) but it is closed for renovation (like a lot of things across Europe). We decided to walk over the Charles Bridge again (and it seems every other tourist in Prague had the same idea). We wanted to go the place on the other side that were making Trdlo (they are places all over Prague making them but we liked the look of this place from last night). Trdlo is like a rolled donut and you can put things inside it (like ice cream, strawberries & cream or savory ones with sausage and fries). We had our’s with ice cream inside.
We then walked along the river (but on the other side of where our hotel is) which takes you past some of the palaces which are open to the public. One of them is the Senate building. We didn’t go into the senate (though I believe you can) but we did wander around the beautiful gardens outside. Both yesterday and today are actually public holidays in Prague. Yesterday was ‘The Day of Slavic Missionaries Cyril and Methodius‘ (they brought Christianity to the area in 863) and today is ‘Anniversary of the execution of John Huss’ who was a Reformer that was burnt at the stake on 6 July 1415. Huss was significantly influenced by reading John Wycliffe and spoke out against the corruption of the Catholic Church. Martin Luther was influenced by Huss as he read Huss’ sermons as was astonished that he had been burnt at the stake for heresy when all Luther could see was his clear defense and exposition of the Bible. He was burnt at the stake 102 years earlier than Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the door so in fact he was pre-reformer.
I hope you’re reading these blogs and being suitably impressed by my history knowledge I’m building up. While Prague isn’t my favourite city it hasn’t stopped me from learning about Czech history & politics. What was also impressive today was that O also learnt an important thing (or at least displayed her learning). While M & I were discussing the start of today’s cricket, she asked ‘Is it an important game’ and just from a look from me she immediately corrected herself and said ‘oh that’s right, every cricket game is important’ … finally something worth promoting her for on the blog. We had also finished walking around for the morning so that gave me some time to watch the cricket and relax in the hotel room. The photo shows the nature of a symbiotic relationship – H leaning her kindle against my iPad while I watch cricket!
Late afternoon we headed for the other side of the river and up the hill to the metronome in Letna Park. It replaced the statue of Stalin that was built there in 1955 only to be taken down (actually blasted with dynamite) in 1962 when the process of de-Stalinization was taking place across Europe. It stood empty for many years and then eventually in the 90s the metronome was erected in its place. The views of Prague were pretty good from the top though it did require climbing about 200 steps to get there.
As we had pretty much skipped lunch, we decided to have an early dinner and picked out a place right on the side of the river (mainly because we could feel a cool breeze off the water … it was 29 degrees here today). Nothing special in terms of food – more like pub food (burgers x 2, ribs x 2, prawn pasta x2). Stephen and I did try out another local beer (pilsner this time) which was good. We have had 4 different beers in 4 days between Austria and Prague and all of them have been good. Another walk across the Charles Bridge as we headed back to our hotel (this time was the emptiest it has been but it was still pretty busy) and no doubt an early night for most of us.
P, H, O, M, C & S