For four months, I studied abroad in London, England. These notes are select entries from my experiences in the United Kingdom and Western Europe from that time.
Monday, November 23 –
Barry, Martine and I all woke up around 7 a.m. and had some breakfast. Then we grabbed our gear and lunch – of course, cheese, bread and wine – for the trip to Prague.
We left Berlin at about 9 a.m. in the Opel and arrived in Dresden at about 11 a.m. There we toured the beautiful city known as the “Florence of the North.” Almost every bit of was bombed to rubble by the U.S. Air Force during World War Two and painstakingly restored. Being a student of history, I remembered the controversy that persists until this day regarding the leveling of the city and firebombing the entire center of the city. I have to say it was a tragedy that was probably not necessary, so I am glad to see the city has recovered. Everything from the cobblestone streets to churches and the Opera House were restorations of their former glory. They certainly looked to be centuries old themselves.
While there, we ate lunch – I had schnitzel, kurtoffeln and pilsner – before we hit the road again at 12:30 for Prague on German autobahn A13. We went through Czech Customs near the town of Petrovice. There was a large queue of lorries backed up for miles to enter into the Czech Republic and the other way into the EU. One thing that really surprised me along Czech highway 8 were all of the prostitutes lining the road for miles once we crossed the border. The countryside was very beautiful, though.
We arrived in Praha around 16:30 p.m. We found a hotel after visiting the main train station’s visitor information center. We had some trouble communicating because we don’t speak Czech and not many people seemed to speak English or French, but thankfully Martin speaks German which they understood somewhat. After checking in, we unpacked our stuff before heading out for a stroll.
This city is absolutely one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Everything is old but extremely well preserved, from the ancient churches, fascinating art, bridges to old Communist buildings. We walked past Hlavní nádraží (main train station) near the historic Wenceslas Square, where the Czech people bravely declared their independence from the Soviet Union in 1989 during the Velvet Revolution.
Then we walked towards the Staré Město, or Old Quarter, to see the Staroměstské náměstí, Old Town Square, which is world reknown. We saw the astronomical clock that dates back to 1410, the oldest continually operating such clock in the world. Barry and I walked over to have our photos made at the Jan Hus statue where the church reformer was burned at the stake. We then walked towards the Vltava river and arrived at the stunning Karlův most, Charles bridge, which dates back to the early 1300s. This might be the most beautiful medieval wonder I have seen in Europe with its dark ornate statues mesmerizing tourists out for a late night stroll under the soft lights as fog rolled in.
On the other side we walked to a square in the Mala Strana (Lesser Town) and peered up at Prague Castle perched commandingly above. We had supper in the Mala Strana where I had a Czech pilsner, steak and fries. One of the waitresses was one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen (almost Italian looking), and in fact, the city was full of beautiful women.
We crossed back over the bridge and walked past the National Theater as electric trams zoomed by in every direction. The city just blew me away, and I don’t think I have ever toured such a beautiful place. Much of the preservation is due to the fact that Prague was largely spared damage during World War II while much of Western Europe and Germany were destroyed. We walked back to the hotel and went to bed around midnight. What a perfect first day in the Czech Republic!