Prague History Holiday Easter 2010
Sun. March 28th Stansted
A more leisurely than usual departure at 1100 with everyone on time and the only ones who have left pocket money behind, living close enough to go back for it, although two others have the wrong currency! Perhaps choosing the busiest airport day of the year wasn’t too clever – despite being well over two hours ahead of flight time it is quite a scramble to get everyone through, and there’s no airport shopping time. But flight (with luggage) all goes smoothly and we are soon appreciating a well appointed and situated Best Western hotel in central Prague. The food’s also a cut above Athens in 2008. Less successful are the camp beds, to the suspension of one of which within minutes Owain Fletcher-Williams has soon given an overexacting test.
We have time for a pleasant evening stroll to the city square.
Mon. March 29th Prague Jewish Quarter, Boat Trip
Not quite the traditionally superb history holiday weather but pleasant most of the day. Beth Barker and her dad, having set off from UK before the crack of dawn, make it to the hotel by ten. After a short introductory talk on Bohemian history, our tour guide, Peter takes us around and into four synagogues in Josefov, or the Jewish quarter. Only one is still used today, but not surprising after the Holocaust removed 77,000 Jews, each of whose inscribed names we can read – they had to be redone after the 2002 floods.
After lunch in the Market Square, we visit the birthplace of the novelist, Franz Kafka where Madame Grimal expertly sketches out his biography (including complex love life), with short extracts.
Then a breezy but enjoyable boat trip on the Vltava, and still time for swimming.
Tues. March 30th Prague Castle and Cathedral
The second history talk features the two defenestrations (throwing from windows) of Prague, separated by as many centuries. The tour begins with an exciting trip on a commuter packed tram up to the Castle (the one which inspired/intimidated Kafka) and we visit much of the building complex, as well as St Vitus Cathedral, well worth the 20 minute queue. Having expected a party of Cambridge undergraduate our guide uses terms such as ‘Gothic’, ‘Renaissance’ and ‘Baroque’ very freely. A question such as ‘Why is this building where it is?’ hardly matches this level, and confuses the guide.
The afternoon features a visit to a local funfair, very extensive if a little expensive, and in the evening there is bowling with 8RH dominant, Beth Barker, Will Woods and the
tutor getting three of the top four scores.
Wed. March 31st Museum of Communism, Wenceslas Square, Charles IV Bridge
Aptly enough, a bleak, damp day provides the backdrop to our communism day. The talk covers the Nazi and Iron Curtain eras. Then we walk to the Museum of Communism, where the reception is characteristically icy and the displays cold but informative about the 40 years of Czech History where up to a fifth of the population acted as spies and the rest had to pretend to be enjoying life. Archive film of the mass uprising against communism (the Velvet Revolution) of 1989 provides the ideal preparation for our visit to Wenceslas Square where it’s still raining. We walk the length of what is really a long thin rectangle, noting where the student Jan Palach burned himself in protest against the Soviet repression of the Prague spring of 1968, just in front of the statue to King Wenceslas, and behind that the National Museum.
Then there is a walk over the Charles IV Bridge, from where Mr Brown points and explains some of the tour guide’s architectural terms before lunch in the square, where we at last see the famous astronomical clock in action.
As it brightens up, we head off for a (fairly) nearby park (where a statue of Stalin was demolished to make way for a giant metronome) for a frisbee game, energetically run by Mr Burden, which leads to an injury for Will Woods; there was one last night when Max McKiernan decided to measure the corner angle of a table with his head; and we have had a few tummy upsets among the girls, ably dealt with by Mrs Etheridge.
In the evening it’s time to pack, ahead of tomorrow’s first light start, and there is a quiz taking place in a crowded hotel lobby, winner is Will Woods (obviously not too much the worse for wear), runner up Ian Stephenson (making up for two recent attempts to trash the hotel) his tall torso bedecked by foliage, and best junior Jonathan Long.
Thurs. April Ist Flight Home
The coach company don’t help by claiming they can’t get a coach up the street (which they managed perfectly easily when they dropped us off!) and then asking us to bring our luggage into the middle of a busy street.
But fine thereafter, check in and security are very rapid and the flight on time so back by lunchtime, a feat not previously achieved on a History Holiday.