Saturday, December 24, 2011

Adventures in Prague

A Panorama of the cityscape of Prague
So I have decided that the best way to catalog my experiences in Prague is to not do daily posts but to merge them all together into one longer post. I will be adding more to it as time goes by so this is technically not the final post. The pictures directly below are the pictures from our first day in Prague where we visited the Old Town Square which is basically the center of Prague's history.

The Powder Gate. The indicator where the old town begins. This was where wall around it was.

This was a plaque I saw on the street that translates into "Faithful forever." I feel it applies to my focus because it was right near the middle of the old town and shows the deep rooting in religion Praha has.

This is one of two pictures of the Oldest Astronomical clock in the world. This applies to the cruelty of the past in Praha.  This beautiful clock was made by a famous artist at the time, and as a reward the people who commissioned him burnt out his eyes so he could never make anything like it for anyone else ever again.

This is the underground of Prague. It speaks to the past of Prague and how it has had many revolutions  and has been used for many different functions

A Reflection in Prague
        While In Prague I had many experiences that made me reflect on my identity. One of these experiences was with a man who was staying at Sir Toby's. I believe it was the fourth night staying at Sir Toby's and I was hanging out in the lounge area and got to talking with a man named Micheal. He was Canadian and had never met a Jewish person before. What was profound about our interaction was that somewhere in our conversation e basically said that all of his perceptions of Jewish people were now going to be based off of me. It is profound because I became a representative of an entire people in a split second and from now on this mans thoughts about jewish people in general would be based off of me. I thought it was very powerful to be the representative of a people. 
A picture of Micheal

Another Reflection:
         I visited St. Charles bridge while in Prague and it was beautiful. While there a learned a little bit about it and gave me some insight to reflect on it. Crossing the Vltava river, it was built in 1357. It was the only means of crossing the river and connected the Old Town with the Prague Castle. As a result of it being the only place to cross, it made Prague an important trade route between eastern and western europe. As I walked across the bridge, looking at the beautiful baroque statues of saints and patron saints, I thought about all that must have gone on on this bridge and all of the history that must have happened here. Prague contains one of the worlds oldest Jewish communities and my relatives are from around this area. I could have been walking the same exact route as my ancestors had. With the deep Jewish foundation of this city, it is possible to see how religion allows people to work together and form cultures. These cultures then have the ability to self reflect and look at their own social justice systems. I went over the bridge only once but throughout my time in Prague, I saw it many times. It was always a reminder of the deep history of Prague and of how much had gone on in this city.

A beautiful view of the St. Charles Bridge

Another view of the bridge from another day

One of the statues on the bridge

A view from on the bridge

Me on the bridge

Another of me on the bridge

People rub this for good luck and fortune. That is why it is such a lighter color

The view of the castle from there was beautiful
Another one of the statues

Another saint

Yet Another Reflection: The Old Jewish Cemetery

        Within the Jewish Quarter of Prague, which I will be reflecting on later, resides the Old Jewish cemetery. It has been there for thousands of years and holds many influential people's final resting places. When I visited the cemetery, I was struck with a sense of littleness. The fact that my ancestors here have existed for so long compared to Jews in the United States, which is only 200 years Old, is awesome. The different types of gravestones from different eras displayed visually the timeline of Jewish people in Prague. It gave me a proud feeling that Jews have always been in Prague and will always be in Prague no matter what the opposition.

A panorama of the cemetery
A view of the cemetery
On a tombstone in the cemetery

The Tombstone of David Gans, a historically significant Jewish man. If you look closely you can see a goose at the very top of the tombstone. In hebrew goose is gans. Many of the tombstones have animals on them to signify family names.

This tombstone has a fish on it which denotes the name Fischel

A deer on the tombstone denotes the name Tsvi

All of these tombstones were beautifully engraved with pictures such as the grape vine on this one.

An old sandstone tombstone

One of the larger tombs which were reserved for the important Jewish people of the time

The top of the tomb of an important person. This lion head tomb belong to a very wealthy person and it shows in the detail of the tomb.

Another view of the top of the tomb
A beautiful walkway into the cemetery

Monday, December 19, 2011

Day 10 - Praha Here We Come!

         Today was totally consumed by travel to Prague. We left our hostel in Vienna and travelled on the subway to the train station. We then went on a train for four hours transferring in a place called Breclav in the Czech republic. For the majority of the rest of the trip, we are going to be in the Czech republic in Prague. When we arrived in Prague, we found our new hostel, Sir Toby’s, and were totally exhausted so we just passed out for the night. Unfortunately because it was just a travel day, I could not have much thoughtful insight or analysis of what I had seen that day. We did have dinner on a train car though which was very cool.

These next pictures are views from the train. Hopefully they do the beautiful views justice.

Finally got to Breclav and awaiting transfer

One of the signs inside the train station. Thought I should take a picture of the name.

The train station

Couldn't wait to get to Prague! or now that we are in the Czech republic,  Praha!

Finally Arriving at our hostel late at night. From what I've seen already, this hostel is amazing. I feel like I'm at home.

Day 9

         Today was our last day in Vienna and we decided to meet up with two people from our class, Carmen and Sydney, to visit the Sch├Ânbrunn palace, where many famous leaders lived or stayed while occupying, such as Napoleon. Although we were not allowed to take pictures inside of the palace, we did an audio-guided tour and learned about the history of the palace and the people who lived there. It was a all day long excursion and we explored the palace grounds afterwards where we were allowed to take pictures. What I took away from this visit was the amount of social disconnect there was in the history of Vienna. What I mean by this is how there were few very rich and powerful people who controlled everything and the rest were very poor and really had no say in what happened. From this, I believe that although Vienna’s structure for creating equality is not perfect, it has come a very long way from what it was in its history. This of course is not to say that what is happening now is a good or insufficient model for social justice. It is merely a look at the progress that has been made. This being our last day, when we got back to our hostel, we packed up and went to sleep to prepare for a long day of travel the next day.
The beginning of the garden/grounds of the Palace. As you can see, I am very happy about being here
Part of the labyrinth in the gardens. Not very hard this time of year considering you can see through it.
Turning the corner to see the back of the palace. Very beautiful

Panoramic from the back of the palace. This is a 360┬║ view
The grounds from the back of the Palace

A picture that shows the vastness of the grounds. Also just a cool picture 
A picture of Gabe, Carmen, and Sydney.
They were a great group to  go exploring with!

The fountain in the distance of most of the last photos

One of the many beautiful paths that branched out from the main center of the grounds
The group traveling up the hill to the monument in the distance

The next few photos are the beautiful views seen on the way up to the monument.
The fog definitely added to the beautiful atmosphere of the experience

A great view of the palace from the hill

Finally reached the monument with a pond in front of it
A panoramic of the monument

Another cool panoramic of the monument and a trail off to the side.  This one was on the way back down. 
On the monument
A cute couple taking in the beauty of the scenery 
A sign on the way back down. I decided to interpret it as "Sliding doen the hill is only acceptable if it is on a tiny river." Probably a "watch your step" one though 

An elderly couple walking around the grounds. I love seeing couples
 like this who are still totally in love after all those years

I ran off to explore a little more of the grounds while the rest of the group decided to wait at the palace and i found this beautiful atrium where wild pigeons have lived since the time when people lived in the palace.  

A view into the atrium. Not the best picture but you can somewhat see
 the birds out of focus in the top-center part of the picture

The palace when we were leaving. We spent a little bit of time in the Christmas market which is by the christmas tree in the picture and it ended up getting dark. The palace was even more beautiful at night.