Over the first weekend, the whole class spent time in Prague learning through our separate courses. We flew to Prague on a Friday morning, settled in, and immediately got to work. Since I'm a Renaissance and Baroque art history class, I spent the entire weekend with my peers and our two professors. We spent an entire day at Prague Castle, which was beautiful. St. Vitus Cathedral has been in production since the 14th Century, and there are still pieces that are unfinished. The relic of St. Vitus is a tongue. They took it out...oh...maybe a century ago, and it still hasn't decayed. It's just blackened. I'm not sure how much of this relic kind of stuff I believe, but it's part of the history, tradition, and faith, and I have learned to respect it. It's kind of fascinating. Anyway, since this cathedral is still not finished, it has pieces of the Romanesque and the Gothic misplaced throughout it's architecture. So it's a good example to show students. Professor Dückers had us guessing about its architectural origins for a good half an hour. Also at Prague Castle there is a large art gallery which one of the kings, Rudolph II put together - apparently one of the admirable things he did while he reigned. He loved to gather art from all over Europe. Overall, the castle is the largest ancient castle in the world, and it provides a brilliant view of the entire city below the hill and across the river. It was very cold atop the hill though, even colder inside the cathedral.
While I was in Prague, I visited quite a number of churches with my art history class. We also visited the Baroque-style St. Nicholas Church in Mala Strana, founded by the Jesuits. The paintings continuing all throughout the vaulted ceilings was a sight to see. You can't tell where the architecture of the Church ends and the painting begins. I also went on a tour of the Jewish quarter in Prague, where we went into about five different synagogues within a three block radius. The Spanish Synagogue was absolutely gorgeous, I couldn't help but take pictures even if I wasn't supposed to.
On Monday morning, we got up early to take a bus to Terezín Memorial, a concentration camp an hour outside of Prague. I can't describe how much sorrow there was walking around the fortress and the ghetto. One of the main purposes of Terezín was to provide propaganda to both Nazi supporters and those who questioned the political campaigns of Hitler. Where they were cramming 5,000 people into a ghetto built for 1,000 - they made video reels to show how happy the Jewish people were there, so the international public was fooled. The video showed how they could play sports, laugh, have their own life in peace, create their own system of government. Within the small fortress, where the assassin of Franz Ferdinand was originally imprisoned, hundreds of prisoners were locked inside with thyphoid and left to die. During a "beautification" process, the Nazis installed fake sinks into a room (when I say fake, I mean they had no pipes to supply water to the faucets), so that visitors from Denmark and Switzerland would approve of the hygenic conditions...this went on for five years without any disruption. Disgustingly enough, Terezín was, in comparison, a momentary relief for the Jews before being shipped off to Auschwitz or other death camps. I also had the "privilege" to go inside the crematorium. I don't think I smiled once while I was at the Memorial. It was all too unbelievable, no matter how many survivor narratives or history books I read.
Aside from all of the learning I did in Prague, I also had a lot of fun afterhours. They use the Czech crown there, which is about 22 krones to the dollar, 27 to the euro. I ate the most amazing hot dogs from a street vendor. The serve hot, sweet wine on the street, to warm up those walking around the city. My friends and I went to a five-story dance club, where each floor had a different them: salsa, oldies, top-40, techno, etc. That was a lot of fun until one of my friends sliced open her finger on one of the metal-grate sidings and she had to get stitches at the hospital. She gets the stitches out this weekend, she's fine. But she got blood everywhere, it was really quite amazing how much blood came out of her pinky finger. There's some splattered on my jeans that are washing right now - let's hope it comes out a bit.
Prague was beautiful. The Charles Bridge over the Vltava river, with all of its Gothic sculptures and street vendors and artists. Music in the streets. It was cold, but it only rained on us once. What a beautiful city - I've heard the tourists flood the city in the summer. I feel blessed to have seen it without the crowds.
A memorial in Wenceslas Square for Jan Palach, a young person who burned himself in protest against Communism in the 60's.
The Old Town Square
A memorial to Jan Hus, the Bohemian protestant (although it was not yet called Protestantism) leader way before the likes of Calvin or Luther.
The Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square. It has mechanical sculptures of the apostles and other figurines which move at the top of ever hour. It is so complex it can tell you the day of the year, where we are in the astrological calendar, and many other things, if you know how to read its complexity. The designer of the clock was blinded by the king at the time, so he could not ever create such a beautiful, knowledgable clock.
There are monuments to Kafka all over the town, as seen from another scuplture below.
Neat sculpture outside of one of the concert halls.
One view of Prague Castle.
The entrance to the Charles Bridge.
A view from Prague Castle.
The entrance and outer walls of the castle.
The rose window of St. Vitus Cathedral.
The entrance of the cathedral.
The byzantine and romanesque side of the the cathedral. That's Professor Rob Dückers in the foreground.
Some stained glass. Dückers had to point out which sections were modern and which were older.
Inside the Spanish Synagogue. It was so ornate.
The ceiling of the synagogue.
Entrance to the Old Jewish Cemetary.
Inside the Prague Central train station.
The Czech language was the most removed language I'd ever been around, in comparison to Latin and Romance languages. There were no words that resembled cognates, unless the words were in fact in English...Slavic languages are very bizarre. I don't know how people go about learning it as a second-language.
So that was Prague. I'll try to update about Italy in the next few evenings. I'm going to have my Tarot Cards read by one of the writing professors now.