Prague is a relaxing city. Perfect for a honeymoon. Not very adventurous, but definitely relaxing. For some reason, Sujan and I both thought that this city would be a little more exotic and a lot less Western. Maybe we need to head to Budapest for that? I don't know.
We've spent most of our time wandering around the city. And of course, the architecture does not disappoint. But it is very strange to be in the same city for such a long time. I don't think I've been in the same city on a vacation for a week straight since the days of family vacations to the Outer Banks or Ocean City or Orlando.
We went to Terezin, an hour outside of the city, an old fortress used as a Nazi concentration camp and holding area before sending people to Auschwitz. It was also used in a Nazi propaganda film during the war depicting a model Jewish enclave where Jews were kept safe during the war. We saw footage of this film. The film featured happy children putting on a play, well fed and well dressed Jews enjoying a soccer match of Jewish athletes. Quite sinister and bizarre. The children were housed in a separate space and were encouraged by an inmate art teacher to draw pictures of their experiences and dreams. These somehow survived the war. Also, some kids started a secret magazine which also survived the war. Most of the people at Terezin were not as lucky, once they were sent to Auschwitz. At one point, we wandered alone through an underground passageway for what seemed like forever. It was dark and our footsteps echoed on the stone walkway. It was quite eerie, especially because this was the walk that the condemned prisoners took on the way to being executed in another part of the camp. We ate some lunch in the concentration camp restaurant ( bacon pizza anyone?) that was definitely not kosher.
We crossed the Charles Bridge (Can someone tell me why this bridge is so famous? Is it because it is so old?) late in the evening (quiet) and in the middle of a weekend afternoon (packed). We visited Prague Castle near midnight but did not visit during hours when we could actually go in. After a few visits to Europe, I've decided I've had enough of concentration camps and castles.
We spent a lot of time in cafes in and above Old Town Square which made me sad that our country doesn't have anything like these great European squares. We were amused by the woman who solemnly walked around with a bright orange sign that read, "Texas Hold Em." Was she promoting a casino or just hanging out? We climbed up towers.
We visited a town called Karlovy Vary which was unbelievably beautiful- water, hills, great architecture, rooftop pools, Russian mobsters... Our tour guide was like a cross between Gilligan and a mild mannered war criminal. Goofy but somehow quite creepy. On the way back, we were treated to him continuing his long running monologue about arcane Czech information over the bus microphone which mixed quite well with the inane conversations going on next to us between two Australian women, a twentysomething American couple, and a middle-aged American couple and their goofy 18 year old son. At one point, the 18 year old uttered this truism clearly trying to impress the male half of the young couple- "Yeah, I've been told that when I start college I should study hard, but party harder!" The women from down under kept yapping about the brilliant Broadway shows they'd seen while in New York and the differences between American, English, and Australian phrases. Example- one of the women taught preschool in England and was going on about how one time she asked the kids to take off their pants and they started to take off their underwear, but she only wanted them to take off their pants. What? Why was she having them take off their pants anyway?
We decided to sleep in on the day that a grenade was thrown at a casino and outside cafe that we passed everyday. It turned out that the grenade had rolled under a car thus preventing more damage. Mobster related. We stopped by an hour later, it looked like there were some bullet holes on a window and a chunk missing from the sidewalk. But there were no police around, just a few camera crews and curious onlookers. The cafe was about to reopen as well. Czechs are a laidback sort, I guess.
We went to go see Kill Bill, Vol. 1 which cemented my opinion that Vol. 2 is better. We were both getting tired and wanted to see a movie. I also felt like Sujan needed to see the film since she had so brilliantly portrayed the best character in it last Halloween. However, it was highly annoying when the Japanese dialogue was only subtitled in Czech so we had no friggin idea what was being said at certain points.
We went to the Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments and that shit was fucked up. Sujan couldn't really handle it too well. I can not believe some of the shit they used to do to people. My favorite- the saw used to cut a person in half. The person was held upside down while two people sawed him/her in half. The reason to keep the person upside down? The better to keep him/her conscious for as long as possible and to start the sawing at the anus. Nice. I noticed that a lot of these torture instruments were created by Germans. What the fuck is wrong with those people? So many of these torture devices had a twisted sexual element to them. And so did a lot WWII, right down to the SS uniforms and Mengele experiments. Later in the day, we went to the Sexual Machines museum which made a lot of sense to visit on the same day. And of course, a lot of the really kinky S and M stuff was from Germany.
We took a ride in a 1928 car around the city with a 20 year old version of Terry Crummitt. He was an amazing tour guide of Prague. I was particularly interested in learning about the 1989 revolution that he remembers as a 5 year old when his dad came home bloodied and battered by police.
We ate some of the best Italian food we've ever had.
We had a great time- until we reached London trying to connect for a flight. Sujan has a recap on her blog. It was a hellish experience- so hellish that Sujan mixed up some details in her timing, but she can be forgiven, it was an awful experience.
There are eight grievous mistakes that British Airways made.
1. Putting us on the airplane at 4 pm when the air conditioning wasn't working and they had no real idea when they were going to be able to get us off the ground. It was damn hot on that plane. After 90 minutes, they let us go back to the airport.
2. Awful communciation throughout- they told us just to listen to the intercom but you could barely hear it. They didn't tell us we could get vouchers for food. They shouldn't have announced at 8:30 that we were going to leave at 9:15 on a flight with no food service and then make another announcement at 8:35 that the flight was cancelled after all.
3. They shouldn't have taken us to a hotel in downtown London. Why not a hotel closer to the hotel? Our bus didn't leave the airport until after midnight with many people not on it who still weren't through passport control or who hadn't heard the announcements.
4. They should have hired a bus driver who knew what hotel he was supposed to take us to. When we arrived at the wrong hotel, the entire busload of people got off the bus only to be told by the confused hotel workers that we were at the wrong place. Back on the bus!
5. They should have made sure that the myriad of hotels they were sending us to had enough rooms for everyone. We were lucky enough to get the last room in our hotel, but many folks were forced to sleep on the floor of the hotel.
6. They shouldn't have made us arrive at the airport at 7:45 am for a 1 pm flight when we didn't even arrive to the hotel until 1 am.
7. They should have made sure our flight was ready to go at 1 pm. When they weren't ready, they made the announcement that our flight wasn't ready yesterday because it had been struck by lightning the day before which wasn't true. It seemed like a ploy to get out of giving us a free flight or something. The letter we had received the night before that we had to give the hotel stated that we were getting a room because our flight had been cancelled because of mechanical failure. Then when people became upset, the five workers convened and called in the troops. Two British Airways security guys and two cops brandishing automatic weapons showed up to put us in our place. Which was ludicrous because they were showing up for the announcement that we were about to board the plane. We finally left at 2 pm.
8. They shouldn't have left our luggage in London! That was the nice little cherry on top. Unbelievable.
However, I was able to put things in perspective when I saw 15-20 Sudanese? refugees waiting at JFK for direction of where to go next. They seemed exhaused, perplexed, and frightened. I only was feeling the first two of those.
We had to wait for two hours for our bags to not show up before they let us go to the desk and fill in a claim. Half of people on the flight were missing their bags. Some people had one bag missing but had received their other bag which makes BA seem even more incompetent.
Our lovely helper Edwina was very nice. She badmouthed the arrogant London crew and let us know that no one in the States likes their colleagues over there. She even called a few hours later to let us know about our bags. However, as I write this, we still have received only one of our two bags. All told, it took 33 hours to get from Heathrow to 3rd St.
Upon arriving home, we found a package mailed from the Post Office of our wedding license, etc. Heh? These were the same documents that I had paid 14 bucks to send to my uncle express before leaving for Prague so he could get it and send it back to the City Clerk (another 14 bucks) within the five days that we were supposed to. Yeah, I know- I'm an idiot for not remembering to do it the weekend of the wedding. It turns out that Rosie at the post office had mailed my uncle his return envelope, but absolutely nothing else! Lovely. When she found the stuff she was supposed to have included in the package to my uncle on the 26th, she mailed it back to me on the 29th.
Anyway, it is nice to be at home even though the Mets are no longer on cable here because of the Time Warner- Cablevision dispute and that the Mets traded away their future while I was gone for an average pitcher and a terrible one and that Bob Murphy (Mets radio announcer 1962-2003) had just died and that Bush continues to scare the shit out of people in order to get their votes. Sigh.
I'll be putting the Prague photos on my fotolog within the next few days so keep posted.
2 days ago