The following morning, after a large and rather varied breakfast we headed back to Prague to meet our guide Eva. She was fantastic, as we discussed where she planned to take us I asked the location of a few spots I hoped to take our group to visit. She pointed out to me the new security checkpoints before entering the castle, something they didn’t have 2 years ago. The police presence throughout our trip has been evident, but subtle. With the G-20 nearby, Berlin probably had the most security but police have been evident in every stop. It has been reassuring to see them. Like England, there are 2 guards in ceremonial dress at the entrance to the castle as you come to the end of the bridge that spans where the old moat used to be. They can’t move or flinch, the light blue color of their uniforms an interesting touch.
The courtyard we waited for tickets to enter was spacious, with the Czech President’s office overlooking a fountain in the middle. As we passed through a turnstile into the castle you can see the massive structure that is St. Virus. It was nice this time through, my second time haven taken students 2 years ago, to go more slowly and digest more. Our travelers have been amazing in behavior, showing appropriate conduct in all situations so far. They have been quiet and interested when it has been warranted and free spirited when acceptable. Mac and I could not be prouder of them, more on that in a bit. The cathedral is amazing and took about 600 years to complete, so while Gothic you can see other medieval and slightly renaissance influences. The range of legends and history caught the students a little of guard, but all enjoyed the tour.
As we headed toward the Golden Lane we passed the small Baroque church built in the castle for one of the Emperor’s wives. The Golden Lane was originally set up for artisans who worked with and sold gold and jewelry. It then became housing for the foreign imperial troops before finally seeing peasants move in as soldiers were moved to bigger quarters. Today it is a row of tiny houses with shops and exhibitions of living conditions in them. After passing the huts students could enter the dungeons and see some of the ways prisoners were dealt with. Eva had wisely given the students 40 minutes to wander the Golden Lane, dungeon and castle parapets before moving on.
As we departed the castle there is a terrace with the best view of the city. Students took about an 20 minutes to take pictures before we headed on to the Lennon Wall. While in the castle some students had grabbed various snacks, water, ice cream or coffee. Unfortunately one of the students got something that didn’t agree with them. They got sick and had a slight allergic reaction. So after visiting the wall and slowly transiting the Charles River bridge, I took them back to the hotel. The Lennon wall is quite cool. Originally started with graffiti following the death of John Lennon it quickly transformed to a location anti-government sentiment against communism could be expressed anonymously. The government painted over it but the graffiti came back. Even when the monastery whose wall it is, tried to paint over it the uproar and graffiti return has led to it being left alone. Now it is constantly covered by graffiti and newer artists just paint over the old. It is quite colorful and students love it.
I returned to the hotel with our ill traveler. A little benedryl and some sleep set them right and they were ready to go. Mac stayed behind with the students, Mr. MacIver is the other teacher traveling with us some might know him from Track and some may have seen him at one of my early parent meetings. He explained everything to our travelers who all expressed concern for our ill friend. Mac reassured them and gave them their parameters for the afternoon. Meeting times were defined and it was made clear appropriate behavior and timeliness would define how the trip would proceed. Not only were they stellar in their timeliness and deportment, but the time on their own really allowed them to experience various aspects of the city and as a result I really think they came to love it, which is really a big part of what trips like this are all about.
Jamie Wittner working with several friends has put together a post which I will post shortly describing their adventures. Krakow followed a night’s rest with a stop at Auschwitz along the way.