Re-discovering Prague

After traveling nearly every weekend, I lost touch with that surreal feeling of seeing the Charles Bridge shimmer in the dark night and the smell of the grills at the markets in Old Town Square. The last thing I want is to leave and realize that I didn’t really know Prague, so I set out a mission to re-discover my amazing city.

Isn't this city beautiful?? That's the Prague Castle, as seen from Petrin Hill.

Halloween was scary for all but mostly for the local Czechs on the metro who had to witness many Americans running through the metro in bizarre outfits. I pulled together an outfit to dress as Sandra Dee from Grease, and other students were everything from boys dressed as Britney Spears to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Needless to say, we got some questionable stares and a few laughs. Oh, times have really changed since I would come home with a pillowcase full of candy ready to spoil my stomach and my teeth.

I idealized the thought of having an incredible apartment, with a kitchen of my own living independently in a big city with the world at my feet. I can hardly say this is “reality” in a negative sense but when I’m down to the last roll of toilet paper and my milk has gone sour I feel worlds away from the comfort of my parents and remind myself I am only twenty. I can only laugh at myself for thinking I am ready to be a “grown up”.

The expression “it’s a small world” has proven to be true many times even across the globe.  My “small world” experience came when a friend of mine expressed he had a close connection to a family here. Petra lived in my hometown and moved back to Prague to live with her family. September flew by and then October passed behind me and Petra and I still had not got together. Eventually we got in touch and her family graciously invited me over to have dinner with them. She made a delicious home cooked meal and we talked about our friends and family, it gave me a sense of family and a real connection to Prague. We have continued to talk weekly. I like to consider them as my host family in Prague.

Last Friday we had an ISA excursion to Terezin, a small town in the Czech Republic. Terezin was a former military fortress during World War I and was a Jewish ghetto during World War II. The air was bitter and cold as we walked through the former prison camp. I could not shake the feeling of abandonment and suffering that was present. What struck me most was that prisoners who were sentenced to execution had to walk past the soldiers’ outdoor swimming pool and their movie theater to their morbid death. We then continued to tour the museum of Terezin where we saw poems and pictures drawn by children suffering in the ghetto. Most of these children were transported to Auschwitz to their death. The poems weighed heavy on my heart and mind; it is hard to imagine a place so cruel and cold. As emotional as these historical tragedies are, I am grateful to learn so much about World War II and so thankful for the blessings in my life.

A poem from a child of Terezin
Images that lined the walls at Terezin

Charles University has provided me with many opportunities for exploring Prague that I have not yet experienced. For my History of Czech Film class we toured Barrandov Studios, which is often referred to as “Hollywood of the East”.  Films such as The Chronicles of Narnia, Casino Royale, The Bourne Identity, and many Czech films have been produced at Barrandov Studios. We were able to see the props, costumes, and studios used in filming. They were even building a set to film a commercial and a movie. I never realized how much work is put into making films but it was fascinating to see the production.

"Hollywood of the East" - The Barrandov Studio

Living in Prague has given me a broader outlook of the world and the people that we share it with. The most breathtaking view was overlooking Prague from the castle at night. The endless lights and red rooftops glittered in the darkness and nothing felt more perfect. Europe is full of adventures and beauty, but Prague holds my heart. November has flashed by and it saddens me to think that in less than a month the Prague Castle will not be a few metro stops away and my friends will be leading separate lives back in the USA. Everyday I look around and take in the beauty and history of this city and tuck memories of this beautiful place. Each time I step out of my apartment into the European streets it feels as if I am discovering Prague for the very first time.

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