Castle, Cathedral, Toys, and Torture

We had quite an assortment of activities today. We spent a good part of our day at the Prague Castle. This is the largest castle and palace complex in the world. Within its walls is the incredible St. Vitus Cathedral. I truly was in awe when I saw this building, both inside and out. I’ve included some photos from these places in the Prague gallery.

The kids spent quite a bit of time in the Toy Museum. This collection of old and new toys features a large collection of Barbie dolls. I had no idea there were that many different Barbie dolls made!

The kids and I then went to the Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments. This place has ghoulish and detailed methods of torture including instruments to tear of flesh from the bone using red-hot steel hooks. Yup, gruesome stuff!

We ended our day with gelati, fries, and drinks including locally-made Pilsner beer. Certainly no torture there!

15th Century Cemetery, Communism, and a Dancing House

The kids and I went to visit the Old Jewish Cemetery and synagogue in the Jewish quarter of the city. The cemetery dates back to the 1400s. It is estimated that there are 12,000 tombstones although 100,000 people are buried there. Graves are up to 10 layers deep. A large reason for this is that the Jews had been segregated into the confines of a ghetto so finding additional burial sites was impossible. In the synagogue, names of Jews killed in the Holocaust are written on the walls. The synagogue also includes a display of Jewish children’s artwork from during WWII. During the war, the Jewish elders and parents of these children wanted to keep life as normal as possible for their children so set up schools at which these drawings were made. The drawings were saved by a teacher who buried them underground in a suitcase. Of the 8000 children under the age of 15 that were deported by the Nazis to their death camps, only 242 survived the war.

We met up with Mary-Anna and went to the Museum of Communism. This was another fascinating history lesson. As with most of the museums, the kids asked many, many questions. The graphic video footage of the crackdowns in the cold war era were sobering. We all left a little shell-shocked. These kinds of museums have led to many interesting and meaningful discussions.

On a lighter note, we walked to the Dancing House. This architectural marvel was designed by Frank Gehry. The house is said to be modelled after the dancing couple Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Emily-Ann had studied this architecture in her high school art classes so was eager to see it.

We ended our day up town by walking to the old town square where we saw the Old Town Hall and its astronomical clock. These were constructed in 1364 and about 1500 respectively.

Another picture I’ve included in the gallery is one of the escalators that leads to a subway station. These are quite steep and take about 70 seconds to ride from top to bottom. Aaron had great fun riding up and down these each time we took the subway.

Another good day!

Praha

Prague, or Praha as it’s more commonly known in Europe, is said to be one of the most beautiful and most romantic cities in all of Europe.  We arrived here this afternoon by train from Berlin.  We left our 2 bedroom apartment in Berlin for our hotel room that includes 5 single beds in the one room.

Following a short nap (after all, we had to get up at 6:45 this morning to catch the train!  Smile), we took the subway to the Old Town part of the city.  Here we walked the cobblestone streets to the river and then followed it to the famous Charles Bridge, built in the 1300s.  We, along with a few thousand other people, walked the length of the bridge and listened to remarkable buskers, especially the Prague Cello Quartet.  They were amazing!  We stayed until dark in order to see the beauty of the city lit up at night.  What a gorgeous place!  We certainly noticed a lot more diversity in the language spoken here.  Obviously this is a popular tourist destination for people throughout the world.

In the Czech Republic gallery to the right, I’ve included photos I took today.  The following are some of them.

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