Sunday, May 22, 2011

Czech it out!

Hello friends! This should be a fun post - lots to share! I'm in the midst of a backpacking trip through eastern europe and finally have a chance to update the blog.  So far the hostels have been fab, not even close to a quentin tarantino horror film (knock on wood).  The 3 days I spent in Prague were absolutely wonderful.  Prague is a gorgeous city, cobblestone streets everywhere, beautiful buildings, and lots to learn about communist history which I'll get into later...

My first hour in the city I had a very strange and funny encounter.  When I finally found my hostel the gate seemed to be locked and no one answered the buzzer.  So I did what probably anyone would do and walked down some stairs into the next door bar to ask if I was at the right place.  The bartender was super nice and even called the hostel for me with the number I gave him.  Only when he was on the phone did my eyes adjust to the darkness inside and I had a look around the place...oh my!  There were leather harnesses and dildos all over the place, along with about 30 types of lube and other strange looking sex toys at the front counter, and plenty of pictures of naked men (customers I assume) covering the interior...I also noticed that the kind gentleman who was helping me happened to be wearing only briefs (no pants).  Well, he helped me out and someone came from the hostel to let me in.  Later I looked up the club online and read that it's Prague's biggest gay bar / nightclub open 24/7 , complete with an underground "dungeon" and you don't have to pay the 20 euro entrance fee if you come in naked!  Welcome to Prague!

I followed my visit to the gay bar with some sight-seeing once I got all settled in.  Here's some pics of the city center and Vltava river:

 Charles Bridge - famous because it has 2 towers on each end and was built in medieval times.


Prague has a communist history, so one of the first things I did was check out the communism museum in city center.  It was actually pretty interesting - especially all the propaganda that's displayed which used to portray Americans as the "evil capitalists."  At one point there was a gigantic statue of Stalin in city center 30 meters high - almost as tall as the giant statue of Jesus in Brazil.  Soon after they put up the Stalin statue his crimes were revealed to the world, but the czechs took a while to actually take the statue down since so much work had gone into it.  So after Stalin was deemed a war criminal there was still a gigantic statue of him eerily overlooking the city for a few years.  Finally they blew it up and replaced it with a giant michael jackson statue to promote his big prague tour.   Now MJ's not there either - i think it's just a church site or something now.  Anyway, some smaller statues were on display in the museum:

 don't see this every day

 yo what's up dogg

interesting sign on the time punch-in clock - i guess to encourage people to come into work on time? 

everyone had gas masks for protection just in case of nuclear war - this ones for a toddler. 

more anti-american propaganda 

a personal favorite is the communist version of candyland.

It was really relaxing just strolling around all the winding alleyways and getting lost all day.  Beers were really cheap there too - the equivalent of about 1 euro.  And lots of gelato stands everywhere which was definitely my downfall!  Here's some more pics of city center:

The famous "astrological clock."  The largest of its kind anywhere in the world.  It tracks the passing of time according to the movements of the planets and stars.  There were always hundreds of tourists standing around this clock and gawking...kind of annoying because it was impossible to get through the crowd!  

 This is Old Town Square.  Along with Wenceslas Square this was where a lot of student protests took place back in the 60's thru 80's to protest the communist dictatorship.  In Wenceslas Square one student actually set himself on fire and burned himself to death as a protest against the communist regime.  Sadly there were at least 13 other students who did the same.

 Another view of the square.  Nearby is the old Jewish quarter, where all the Jews were forced to live during WWII.  It's actually the only Jewish quarter in Europe which was not destroyed during the war.  Hitler demanded that this one be preserved because he had planned to turn it into a museum of the "extinct race" - almost as something to be boastful about...really strange.  

 Another pic of the castle and bridge.  Prague castle is the largest castle in the world. 

 cool buildings.  all the buildings are so intricate and beautiful - i could walk around for hours and never get bored here.

My bike tour one afternoon got cancelled because I was the only one who showed up, so I randomly walked past this spa and found something else to try out...

Beer Spa!!  Yes - I bathed in a wooden barrel of hops (great for skin) and had an endless supply of beer to help myself to during the bath.  It was a very relaxing afternoon, and I followed the beer bath with a nice foot massage since my dogs were killing me!

The next day I went on a panoramic bike tour of the city - it ended up just being the guide and another guy from Russia, so we pretty much had a private tour all to ourselves!  I took this picture from the top of one of the parks we rode through.

 Cathedral that was part of the castle complex - at the top of Petrin park.

Welcoming entrance to the castle.  I totally want those statues outside my house someday!!

Random sculpture.  It's actually a moving statue with the two men peeing back and forth, and the pool they're peeing into is in the shape of the czech republic.  There's actually a phone number you can send a text message to and the statue will pee your message out for you!  Romantic engagement story perhaps??   

 Back at the tour office at the end of the bike tour I noticed this - a 7 passenger bike with a table for beers! Totally crazy.  The next day I saw a group of guys riding this bike and it was pretty funny because they kept riding into things and really couldn't ride it straight...not sure if it was the bike or the beers...

 Ad for vodafone in one of the bathrooms - not really sure how this is an ad for a mobile phone company - if anyone can read czech perhaps you can enlighten me!

 My last day in Prague I was taking a stroll through the nearby park and encountered another slightly creepy statue of gigantic faceless babies.  

 penguin parade along the river

 another view of Charles Bridge

 walking on charles bridge.  There's always TONS of people walking across this bridge, more than any other bridge, with lots of artists doing drawings, selling stuff, singing, etc..  

 stag party - gotta love their shirts

 all the horses had viking horn hats

and yet another creepy statue.  apparently it's sigmund freud hanging from a rooftop.  don't worry  - not a real person! :)

The highlight of my trip was definitely the communism & nuclear bunker tour.  We got to actually go down inside a bunker that could hold up to 5,000 people just in case there had been a nuclear attack.  There's something like 300 or so of these bunkers throughout the city.  The tour really gives you a sense of the paranoia over nuclear warfare that was prevalent at the time.

 stairway down to the bunker

my fellow comrades

the bunker is actually now an underground bar / nightclub where they have raves and bands.  it's a pretty huge underground area.  Although i think i'd be to freaked out to party down there - all i could think of is  how would people get out if there was a fire?  there's only one way in and out - and that's the winding stairway above about 50 feet up.

 various gas masks

 baby ventilation container (you have to pump it with clean air every minute or so - otherwise you have no more baby).  Also a child radiation protection suit.

 nice family photo.  Definitely not paranoid...

 Map of the good communists (red/pink), evil capitalists (green), and almost evil nations - green stripes.  This was especially funny because the tour consisted of our czech guide, 6 canadians, 2 mexicans, and myself. So the guide kept making awkward jokes about how we were all evil capitalists, and the mexicans were "so-so"


And finally, the best part!  Yes, that's original czech communist army attire, along with genuine gas mask and AK-47!!  The skirt really completes the outfit in my opinion.  I'm bringing sexy back! :)

posing with our guide

After the tour I went out with the Canadians to the propaganda bar nearby.  It was a night filled with Canadian and American jokes, plenty of "ey?'s" and a nice dinner.  I called it a night around 11 or so since I had to wake up early the next day to catch a 6am train to Vienna.  Prague's definitely a fun city, and I hope to get back there again someday to explore more of the nightlife.  Well, I'm starving at the moment so my work here is done and now time to eat! (and drink my free "welcome" drink at the vienna hostel!) :)  My roommate here's from Melbourne, and coincidentally she's going on the same all-day bike tour with me tomorrow, so at least someone else will be getting up early with me tomorrow!

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