Finishing up my Eastern European tour, I had 4 days to spend over Easter weekend in Prague. This may have not have been the best time to visit, as I was later told that it is the busiest weekend of the year in Prague. Therefore I paid and arm and a leg to stay in a shit hostel on Saturday night. The price was roughly 5x more than an average night’s price, but I had no other choice.
As per usual I took advantage of the free Sandeman’s tour on that Saturday, and it was mayhem. Typically most tour groups I’ve been in have ~25-30 people in them. They try to cap it at 40 per tour guide, but this one in particular must have had 80 people because of the holiday weekend. The guide, Colin, did a very good job in projecting his voice, so the number of people didn’t become an issue, and in return, I’m sure he did a number on his voice, but also made a pretty penny for it.
The following day, Easter Sunday, was chock full of activities. In the morning I toured the Jewish Quarter, visiting the oldest active synagogue in Europe, as well as the Old Jewish cemetery, and a moving exhibition at Pinkas synagogue. The synagogue itself isn’t active from what I understand, but what makes it unique, is that the walls are hand painted with everyone’s name who perished in the Holocaust, from Bohemia and Moravia. It’s tough to explain, but this example should help paint a picture. Each city was painted along the walls with a large font, and then it would go in alphabetical order by last name, followed by the first names of all of those with the same last name. I did not find any Beinstein’s or any version thereof, but I believe most of my lineage perished from Poland.
The other moving portion of this synagogue is an exhibit provided by an art teacher at the time, in the ghetto of Terezin. It was a way for the kids to keep their minds off the things that were happening, and used as a method of therapy for them. This teacher caught wind that she was bound for Auschwitz in a few days, so she packed up as many drawings/paintings as possible put them in two suitcases and sent them off. They were eventually found, and those drawings and paintings can be found today on exhibit. The emotions expressed in much of the art center around hope and despair. It’s well worth 45 minutes of your time to visit this exhibition if you’re ever in Prague. Finally, I made my way through the only Jewish cemetery in Prague. Since it was the only place you could be buried as a Jew in Prague, the only way they could fit more bodies was to add more dirt. In a relatively small area there is said to be anywhere from 10-20,000 bodies buried in this cemetery and roughly 12,000 gravestones, as they have found skeletons stacked 10-12 people high.
This portion of the day would be enough by most standards, but I decided to fill my day to the brim with another free walking tour, this time of the Prague Castle.
This tour guide was a chilled out guy from California, who had certainly had his fair share of ‘fun times’ in his earlier years. One of the first stops on the tour? A monastery that brews it’s own beer, quite good at that. The castle, along with the church on the grounds is the #1 tourist attraction in Prague, and for good reason. It’s quite cool to see this medieval portion of the city, still in tact, and operating. In fact the President of Czech Republic resides in a portion of the castle.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about beer in Prague as well. Many people automatically associate beer with Germany, and while they produce the most beer in the world, and certainly love to drink it, those of the Czech Republic can be proud to say they consume the most beer in the world. On average, every person in Czech Republic consumes 2 pints a day! Beer is also in many places cheaper than water, so when in Prague, do as the Czech’s do and throw down some suds.
Overall, I liked Prague, it may have fallen short of my expectations, but then again I had quite high expectations for the city. It felt quite touristic, and that was definitely exacerbated because of the Easter weekend, so it’s worth another visit. It’s probably best to make your trip there before they adopt the Euro as well, that’s roughly 3-5 years away I think.