15 December, 2004

13 December, 2004

Frankfurt International Airport

I´m at Frankfurt right now. I will be heading home in a little over an hour. As fun as this trip was, I am looking forward to being home.

I had my first real meal last night at Leipzig. Notwithstanding my schnitzel and goulash meals, I´ve had everything at street stalls. I ordered a wild boar steak with wild mushrooms and apple. The cream of tomato soup was very good. But it wasn´t creamy at all and that was fine by me. I had a .5 liter of Bavarian wheat beer and a glass of Beaujolais. The total bill came out to €24. It wasn´t cheap. But it wasn´t expensive either.

I wish I had more time to see Leipzig. The museum detailing Leipzig´s peaceful student uprising against the East German government and the local STASI office was a block from my hostel. Perhaps in the future. Now I can´t wait to be home.

12 December, 2004

Prague Day 2

It's my second morning in Prague and I am already leaving. I continue to have mixed feelings about this city. I had a great time and think the city is great to visit. Food and drinks are very affordable, the city beautiful, and the Czechs friendly. However, the town center is one large tourist trap. I guess it is no different than any other historically significant and physically attractive cities. But very few locals live in Prague's central districts. According to waiters I spoke to at a cafe yesterday, only expats can afford to live in districts in the historic core.

While the old town areas are very lively and full of tourists, the same thing cannot be said about some of the other neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are not dirty, dangerous, or rundown. They are rather clean actually. But areas where the Czechs live definitely show signs that the locals do not have much to spend. Very few shops or restaurants are present.

11 December, 2004

Prague Day 1

It was a nailbitingly cold day in Prague. The temperature outside is approximately 27 degrees F. While I am not cold (I guess my standard is when I am shivering), without my cold weather gears I am a little uncomfortable if I were to stand still for too long. For that reason I have been on my feet all day, constantly moving around Prague's old quarters. The only time I stopped is when I am inside, or if I stop to inquire about ticket prices for concerts.

Prague takes its music seriously. Aside from the Czech National Concert Hall, almost every other street corner saw churches and cathedrals advertising its own concerts. Many offerings involve Christmas music. While I am intrigued about the Prague National Marionette Company's performance of Don Giovanni tonight, I think I will instead visit the Church of sv Mikulas' Christmas concert (oddly enough for a Christmas concert, the prominent feature of this performance is Mozart's Requiem).

Prague is a beautiful town. In the city center, where almost all of the city's feature attractions are at, roccoco, art nouveau, gothic, and baroque architecture compete with each other. Even with the winter cold, tons of tourists are here. While the downside of the mad crush of visitors makes the atmosphere a little Disneyland-like, complete with t-shirt and trinket stores, Prague is definitely worth seeing.

Praguers are a friendly lot. They seem happy even in the cold and welcome travelers to their city. The Czechs seem to be able to go from Czech to German to English without any problems. I wish I have that sort of language ability. Along with my Austrian roommate at the hostel, we plan to visit a neighborhood pub tonight to sample Czech goulash and pilsen beer.

However, I question how the locals can afford their own city. The average Czech makes around 30-40 crowns per hour. Paying 29 crowns a beer is almost 1/8 of a Czech worker's daily wages. Noentheless, they love their beer here.

It seems like such a shame that I only have today and tomorrow morning in this city. I would like to return one day.

On December 12, 2004 I will leave the Czech Republic and make my way to Dresden. I will probably bunk down in Dresden or Leipzig for the night and return to Frankfurt with next morning's 6am train for my plane back to the States. If I stay in Dresden, I will visit the Semper Opera House and try to get tickets to an opera. It is a bargain at around €13 a ticket.


Charles Bridge


Cheerful man on the Charles Bridge playing music from his machine Posted by Hello

Malá Strana District


Back street of Malá Strana Posted by Hello

Charles Bridge


Looking at the Malá Strana District from the Charles Bridge Posted by Hello

Prague Castle


Another musician while I make my way down from the Prague Castle Posted by Hello

Charles Bridge


The Charles Bridge from the Left Bank Posted by Hello

Prague Castle


Prague city street sign Posted by Hello

Prague Castle


Inside of the Prague Castle Posted by Hello

Prague Castle


Presidential Guard at the Prague Castle. Like the guards at Buckignham Palace, he is not suppose to move, or express any emotions at all. But this one kept smiling whevener people pose for pictures next to him. Posted by Hello

Prague Castle


Musician with violinPosted by Hello

Malá Strana District


Posted by Hello

Malá Strana


The Church of sv Mikuláš Posted by Hello

Prague


Posted by Hello

Rita at my hostel in Prague


Posted by Hello

Church of sv Mikuláš in Prague Old Town Square


Posted by Hello

Prague Old Town


Posted by Hello

Prague Old Town Square


The Tyn Church on the far right, with the Astronomical Clock Tower to the left Posted by Hello

09 December, 2004

Second and Last Day in Berlin

What a short stay in Berlin! I´m leaving for Prague tomorrow.

It´s 9pm Berlin time and I am exhausted. I walked and tooked the subway around town all day. I constantly ate on the street, starting the day with a currywürst, then a döner kabob, and a crepe with Grand Manier, and finally a bratwürst sandwich. But I am still hungry now. As soon as I am done with this entry, I´m going to go eat.

I started the day at 10am. I walked east and cross the River Spree into Friedrichshain, an industrial district with lots of students and nightclubs. My purpose there was to see the Eastside Gallery, a portion of the old Berlin Wall that got turned into an open air art gallery. I guess people just come at will and paint their graffiti on the old wall.

Aside from the Eastside Gallery, there isn´t much in Friedrichshain during the day. I caught the S-Bahn train and made my way first to the Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market, and then to the Prenzlauerberg District. The Gendarmenmarkt was interesting. The square is flanked on both sides by two large churches (one dedicated to German Catholics, and the other to Protestant Frenchmen who escaped to Brandenburg-Prussia to avoid persecution by France´s Catholic majority). The Christmas Market was festive. But all the art work displayed were really pricy.

Prenzlauerberg is a funky neighborhood. There were lots of artsy cafes and galleries. However, it was getting close to 1pm at the time and I was hungry. So I walked a couple blocks, took a picture of dogs playing, and caught a tram back to a metro station to return to the hostel to eat and update this blog.

In the afternoon, I visited a street display called "Topography of Terror." It is an outdoor gallery documenting the former Gestapo headquarter. It also has a display about Hitler´s "People´s Court," a psuedo-judicial system Hitler used to root out domestic opposition. Initially, the "court" was in the habit of sentencing people to hard labor and prison time. By the end of the WWII, over 50% of individuals prosecuted by the court were sentenced to death. Execution usually took place on the same day.

For the rest of the day, I meandered through West Berlin and visited Potsdamer Platz and Ku´Damm, a popular tourist destination for very high-end brand name shopping. It was nothing exciting but I did see the wealthier side of Berlin this evening.

It is now 9;30pm. I´m tired, hungry, and need a shower. With a 7am train to Prague tomorrow, I think I´ll turn in early tonight.

KaDeWe


KaDeWe (Kaufhaus Des Western, a Berlin super department store) foodstands ignoring my hunger. Posted by Hello