Inspired by...Prague

Before I get into Prague, let’s talk about the fun journey I had (yes, that was sarcasm).  I left Muenchen at 5:00 and was thrilled with my top deck, plush seat on the train…until I was told that there was construction on the tracks somewhere in Germany, so I would have to get off at the next stop and take a coach bus to the next stop after that where I would board my train to Prague.  That was quite the trek in itself, and then the train from that station was late.  I had a whole compartment to myself until about 9:30 when a nice French woman joined me.  Then, at the stop just before Prague’s main station, we just stopped.  I waited…and waited…and waited…until I was told that the train was having problems so I would have to take the metro into the city centre.  We were already delayed so at that point, it was about 11:30 pm and I was exhausted.  I figured out the metro and finally arrived in the city centre and tried to find my hostel using my map but everything looks different in the dark…and none of the Polizei speak English.  Finally, though, I arrived at Hostel MOJO (love the name!) and got checked in and ready for bed.

I didn’t have Rick Steves’ book for Prague so I was on my own for a walking tour, but I think I did a pretty good job on my own.  I started the day in Wenceslas Square and then the Old Town Square where they have a famous astronomical clock.  I knew I was in the right place because wow was it crowded with tourists!  My mom had been to Prague a few years ago and she loved the clock…even with its rather dark backstory.  The city officials commissioned the clock I think around the 13th century, but because they were so proud of their clock, they blinded the artist who created the clock so he couldn’t make one for someone else.  Charming, right?  Despite that, the clock is beautiful and is fun to watch when it chimes.  At the top of the hour, the 12 apostles parade past the window, while below, the four anxieties of 13th century Prague are animated (Vanity, Greed, Death, and Pagan Invasion) and then the hour is rung after a rooster crows.

 I was in quite a good mood after that, and then I headed to the Charles Bridge which was incredible!  Check (Czech!) out the views from bridge:

Once I was on the other side, I got a coffee and took advantage of some free wifi before I continued on my tour of the city.  From there, I headed to the John Lennon Wall which I had been wanting to see for quite a while.  After Lennon died, fans and students began spray-painting this smallish wall near a church tucked away from the centre.  They included Beatles’ lyrics, political slogans, and a picture of the legend himself, and it’s a rite of passage to see it when you visit Prague:

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After I saw the wall, I went to Petrin Hill which is a park that, at the top, overlooks the city and the Prague Castle.  I first headed to the Memorial to the Victims of Communism which I thought was really well-done.  The memorial looks like a man deteriorating as you move along it, which is supposed to show the effects of communism.  Very powerful, right?

 Then I began a very long trek up the hill so I could see the view from the top.  It was a fun walk since the paths are all windy and lead into each other and it was a beautiful day, so I didn’t mind the huge uphill.  Check out the view!

I spent quite a bit of time in Petrin Hill, but after I left, I went back across the river (different bridge, this time) to the old Jewish Quarter where I saw a synagogue and a memorial to Franz Kafka.  There was a bakeshop that I had heard great things about, so I refreshed with a cup of tea and a piece of white chocolate raspberry cake before I  continued on my way.  I had also heard about an “expat” English-language bookshop somewhat on my way back to the hostel, and I was dying for some English, so I headed there and had some quiet time with books.  I was exhausted by that point, so I went back to the hostel and relaxed for the rest of the evening!

Inspired to be,

Katherine 

Inspired by...Munich! (Muenchen)

My train to Munich left at 8 am so it wasn’t as early of a wakeup as a few days before.  It was also a much shorter trip.  By the way, Munich is called “Muenchen” in German which is just so much more fun to say :)

I was meeting my friend from high school (the one studying in Florence) for this part of the trip and it was nice to have a familiar face after solo travelling for the past few days.  We were starving but nothing was quite open for lunch yet so we took a walk along the river a little ways north of the city centre.  We came back and had lunch at a lovely healthy cafe near the city centre and started a walking tour of the city from my book.  Like my first day in Salzburg, it rained and poured during the tour, but we didn’t mind too much.  What’s interesting about Munich is that it was completely devastated by the bombing campaigns during the war, but they chose to rebuild exactly the way it was, unlike Berlin which started from scratch and modernised.  My favourite was easily the New Town Hall in Marienplatz which also has a famous glockenspiel.  This one has more movement than the one in Salzburg since it reenacts a wedding scene between a duke and duchess from the 16th century, so it’s fun to watch.  From there, we moved on to St. Peter’s church and climbed 306 steps up to the top which was completely worth the hamstring workout because check out these views!

After climbing up all those steps, we went to the Viktualienmarket where we got a German specialty: giant pretzels!  Nothing makes you feel German like a giant soft pretzel, right? :)  The rest of the walking tour was mostly churches and a huge synagogue, which were gorgeous, and a very strange monument to Michael Jackson.  When Michael Jackson would visit Munich, he would stay at Hotel Bayerischer Hof, and after he died in 2009, some of his fanatics started putting pictures of him and candles below a statue of the composer Orlando di Lasso.  They still maintain it, actually, but Hannah and I thought it was a little weird...

We finished off the day by going to the Hofbrauhaus which is one of the most famous beer halls in Germany.  It seats about 5,000 people and you have to seat yourself, so on a Saturday night before Easter, this was a little tricky.  We eventually found seats and ordered a German classic: Hofbrau beer served a litre-size mug.  WOW, right?  Hannah somehow managed to finish hers and another pretzel, but I couldn’t quite finish my mug — I was already feeling lightheaded haha.  

The next day, we took a day trip out to Bavaria so we could see Neuschwanstein Castle!  This is the castle that inspired the Disney one, as well as the castle from the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie (we were both in the musical our junior year so it was a must).  It was a long trip — about 2.5 hours by train — but it was absolutely breathtaking and it was snowing!  Once we got to the site of the castle, we had to walk uphill through the snowy woods for a bit, but it felt quite festive.  We didn’t go inside because we had seen quite a few castles and didn’t feel like paying 12 euro to get in, but we had just as much fun taking pictures on the outside.  We finished off the day with apple strudel and coffee at a nice cafe near the train.

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Hannah left the following morning, so I took a shorter day trip out to see the Dachau concentration camp.  It was a short ride on the S-Bahn and then a 15 minute bus ride.  I didn’t take any pictures since I just couldn’t a) out of respect and b) a picture wouldn’t capture it anyway.  Not only can you walk around the grounds of the camp, but there’s also a very powerful museum that talks about the history of the Third Reich and the people held in the camps.  Dachau was one of the first camps of the Nazi regime and this is what makes it interesting because it served as a model for all of the other camps.  It was mostly a camp for political prisoners, Gypsies/Roma, communists, and a small number of Jews, which I hadn’t known.  There’s memorials from the Jewish, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox faith traditions on the grounds, as well, and it was both peaceful and eerie.  Pretty heavy stuff for my last day, but I’m glad I went.

It was Easter Monday which is actually a big day and not just a Catholic school thing like I had thought, so almost nothing in Munich was open.  I walked around some more and saw the churches again before I headed back to the hostel to get ready to leave.  I had an evening train to Prague and I wanted to be ready!

Inspired to be,

Katherine