Today we discover Prague. A guided tour and stump speech began our day. A local guide enhanced the sights of the two oldest portions of the city for us with her knowledge of the area, tales of her life here, and a sense for living in Prague as well as the Czech Republic.
A local professor of Physics met our group along the way, imparting a greater degree of knowledge about the history of the area through his personal experiences since 1968. He literally stepped on a stump to deliver his engaging talk.
I am always reminded in Europe that “history” is a much longer word than “American History” compels one to think it is. Castles and kings are just the beginning of the tale; time is mentioned in terms of the centuries (definitely plural) when events took place.
Yet today we were able to realize how much the twentieth century meant to the Czechs, as we heard these “highlights:”
- Post-WWI, Czech and Slovak peoples unite their countries in hopes of a stronger single entity in future conflicts
- 1938: Foreign powers cede parts of Czechoslovakia to Germany (see “Munich Agreement”)
- 1939: Hitler takes the remainder (see “Green Plan”)
- 1945: End of WWII brings independence again
- 1948: Communist party rule supported by Soviets
- 1968: Soviet invasion
- 1989: “Velvet Revolution” anti-communist demonstrations regained Czechoslovakia free government
- 1993: Slovakia amicably splits from Czechoslovakia, creating the Czech Republic
Hearing the story from someone living since 1968, through the later aspects of this turmoil, made it far more meaningful that reading the same things in a book or on the internet.
Our tour concluded at noon, and we set our sights on Prague Castle, atop the hills north of the city center. Okay, okay … honesty compels me to admit that a detour was needed to swing by the hotel and collect the spare battery for Doug’s camera. He will carry it with him the remainder of the trip … sigh!
Prague Castle is a complex of buildings that outwardly looks little like the castles of storybooks or travel brochures. Inside the complex is a marvelous cathedral, a smaller church, an actual palace, living quarters for regal plus servant personages, an incredible display of knights’ armor, as well as other remnants of the era of kings and princes. Modern additions to the complex include museums, chocolate shops (free sample!), and a historical exhibit showing the evolution of the facility.
Day 3 contained so much meaningful and visual history. We enjoyed the time with our trip companions, returned to the hotel in the late afternoon, and were treated this evening to a Welcome Dinner at a restaurant in the aptly named Old Town section of Prague.