Friday, 5 June 2009

Czech us out - we're going to Prague!

Day 11.
Berlin -> Prague

Urgh. Morning again? Neither of us wanted to get out of bed... they were so comfortable and we were like bears in our little warm caves – how appropriate an analogy for Berlin given their bear obsession. When we did get up we were very excited to be going to Prague because it is BEAUTIFUL. One of those places that doesn’t get much credit but it is amazing. It’s a beautiful city and another one that I have been to before but love.
As you’ve probably worked out today was a train day. This meant watching the rest of “Sound of Music” which I really enjoyed! I was very much looking forward to our tour. We then felt the need to listen to some pop hits and cranked it up on Miranda’s headphones and grooved about in our seats. We’re cool.
We arrived in Prague and had to change money because Prague doesn’t want to be like everyone else on the Euro – no! They need korunas. Or whatever.

We managed to get to our hostel – private room again not too shabby – and everything today went surprisingly smooth. No unexpected obstacles arose so we were in very high spirits. The best part of our hostel was that it was just about a block from the main centre of the town where the Astrological clock is! Good to see that thing again. It doesn’t move around and do a whole lot of stuff like the one in Munich does (which I will see later in the trip) which none of the other tourists realised. The only thing that happens on the hour is that the little skeleton rings a bell and the twelve apostles go past the little windows so you watch the tourists faces and they’re all like “is that it?” Ha ha... tourists! Anyway the clock itself is amazing just by what it does – it keeps Babylonian time, the solstice, the sun and the moon’s whereabouts, the zodiac as well as the time. They’re could be more – it’s an amazing clock. The four figures above the clock represent the four perils of the time in the 15th century. These include – a Turk (this is what it is... people in this time were afraid of people from the Middle East so I’m sorry if that seems offensive), Death, Greed (which was actually the figure of the Devil aligned with a Jewish person but, again, this was offensive so they changed it to be just the figure of Greed – why didn’t they change the Turk one?) and Vanity. This clock was broken for 100 years at one point. Do you want to know the story? Apparently, the man who made the clock was rumoured to be making a bigger and better clock for a different city. This really annoyed the major and politicians of Prague so they decided to send some guys dressed in black to break into the clockmaker’s home and gouge out his eyes. Yep. Whether or not the clockmaker was going to make another clock is anybody’s guess – bit rough if you ask me. But the clockmaker got his own back when he went to visit his Astrological clock. He went inside the mechanics rooms and (because he remembered it all) took one of the little cogs out and disappeared. This caused the clock to stop working and for a hundred years no one could understand the complicated mechanics to get it working again – thus the clockmaker’s revenge! Pretty cool huh?

After seeing the clock again we went to the old Jewish Cemetery which had the most confusing payment system. “Why do we need to pay to see a cemetery?” – we cried. So we paid. We also paid to go into the lame museum and all this other gumph before we could get to the cemetery and there you weren’t allowed to take photos without paying more money. We may or may not have had permission. So appreciate the lengths we go to for you people! This cemetery is so full there were few spots of grass poking through because of all the tombstones and it is estimated that there are twelve layers of bodies in the ground – whoa. There were a couple of tombstones that people had left coins and little bits of paper (which I assume were prayers). I assume these were the tombs of someone important. It was still a pretty cool cemetery though.

We bought some ice-cream from this guy who tried to rip me off. He was a real jerk. Miranda got her ice-cream and was like “mm very good” and the guy muttered under his breath “yeah f****** very good”! What a jerk! Then he didn’t give me the right change and tried to make out that I’d paid for both our ice-creams when Miranda had already paid! Bah! Don't think we're stupid Buddy - cos we ain't! From then on he became known to us as Gelato Bastard. He was right on a main street so we would have to walk past him several times so every time we did we would mutter bad things under our breath until we got past him. Silly man.

Then we walked over Charles Bridge which was under construction! Damn Olympics! They’re responsible for everything. It was still lovely seeing all the statues and little vendors. We had a nutella crepe was old time sake and had a squiz through the souvenir shops. They have a huge glass trade here in Prague and my goodness every store is covered with glass and Miranda and I joke that we just want to go in and smash everything.

Because we finished early for the day we decided to take a ghost tour. We didn’t want to take the later one so we started at 7 and it isn’t exactly spooky when it’s daylight but oh well. The tour guide was wearing a top hat and cloak. In the end it was only Miranda, me and the tour guide because no one else showed up. I felt kind of bad for the guy but oh well – we got full attention. Turns out the tour guide was from Surrey – which is where we live in England! He told us that there were catacombs underneath the grounds of Prague! Man they need to get those safe and get some tourists down there because that would be amazing. We tried finding the catacombs in Paris but no one seemed to think they existed which made me think I was nuts because I’ve been in them!

He led us to this church which was St Jacobs and contained a severed arm. No, you read correctly, a severed arm is hanging from the wall of this church. The story goes that in the church a long time ago was a statue of Mary covered in gold. One night a thief snuck in and began chipping off the gold when suddenly the Mary statue grabbed his arm. Naturally, he began to freak out and scream for help and woke up all the priests. They couldn’t get his arm out and called the executioner who chopped off his arm. The Mary statue then went back to normal and the thief’s arm is hung in the church as a reminder to people not to steal. We go in that church tomorrow!

He told us another story. We got to this square where, it’s said, the ghost of a woman in a wedding dress wanders about. The story goes that there was a beautiful woman who lived in a house around that spot many years ago who every man wanted but she wanted any of them. Until one day a very handsome Turkish man came along and they fell in love. At this point I interrupted and said that it was Aladdin. As we gathered from the clock – the people of Prague were pretty against the Turks – so they’re love had to be hidden away. So Aladdin (the tour guide called him Aladdin from this point) said he had to go back to his homeland and would return in three months time and would she wait for him? She said yes and time went by. Two years went by and he still hadn’t returned so she decided to marry some other guy. On the wedding day of her and this other dude Aladdin returns and is outraged that she is with someone else. They meet in the cellar of her house – which was their usual meeting spot – and he tells her that he got caught up by robbers and so on and that he can’t believe she didn’t wait for him, pulls out his sword and stabs her! He then hides the body and flees. Eventually, her body is found and that’s why her ghost is seen in a wedding dress! I was more outraged to the fact that Aladdin would never do that so we confirmed that it must have been his evil twin Baladdin. Damn Baladdin.

Next story! There is this one building in the main square of the city that juts out and breaks the line of the square. There was a man who was very rich and wanted a grand house that would make a statement so he commissioned so men to build this house out of line with square. So the builders build away knowing they will make loads of money when the house is done but every day the foundations and bricks they laid the previous day are cracked and broken. So they go to the pub. When they’re in the pub they hear an old man mumbling and saying that they mustn’t break the unity of the square or else Satan will come out and get the lot of them. The builders don’t know what to do and ask the old man’s advice. He tells them that they need to seal the ground with the blood of an innocent child to prevent Satan from getting through. Thinking nothing of it the builders go out to an orphanage, adopt a little girl, and kill her on the foundations of this house – burying her there. They then build the house. To this day people no longer live in the house because they heard the sound of a crying little girl. Some say that it was actually Satan disguised as the old man so they would kill an innocent child. Pretty spooky.

The tour came to an end and it was very pleasant. We started going out separate ways when we realised we hadn’t paid him so we rushed back and he said “oh thank goodness you came back! It’s people like you that keep my faith in humanity” Too true. What good citizens we are.

After that we went back to the hostel for some more free internet – and crazy Czech keyboards where the letters all in different places. We got confronted with some more pushy Americans, had a lovely shower and hit the hay!

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