The Olympic Stadium, The Victory Column, The Reichstag and all the Canadians!!

The day was beautiful. The sun was warm. We headed out to take in some of the sights of Berlin and enjoy the day. The first stop was The Olympic Stadium, built in 1934 in order to host the Olympic Games of 1936. It was built on a grand scale to impress the world with the Nazi regime and the well being of Germany. The full scale sporting complex with a track field that could be used for mass rallies holding up to 500,000 people, also included a swimming and gymnastics center. 1936 was the year that African-American sprinter Jesse Owens’ historic four-medal Olympic victory shook Hitler’s theory of the superiority of the Aryan race. The updated and modern stadium now hosts FIFA World Cup Soccer events as well as large scale concerts seating up to 75,000 people. 

After taking the audio tour of the Stadium, we headed back into the city and got off the train at the Tiergarten Station. We walked through the park towards the Victory Column. There were people cycling, walking, jogging, playing with their dogs and just enjoying the warmth and sunshine. Victory Column was built in 1873 to celebrate the Prussian victories over Austria and France. Though the column sustained some damage during World War II (you can see bullet holes along the base) it was one of the few icons that survived the final assault by the Allies on Berlin in 1945.

We continued through the park to the Reichstag which is the current seat of Parliament in Germany. The building was opened in 1894 and and used as the government house until 1933 when, after a fire (some say set by the Nazis themselves) forced them to convene in the Opera House across the street. During the war, the building was heavily damaged and left to ruin. It was not until the period of reunification in the 1990’s that the building was reconstructed and parliament again sat there for the first time in 1999. It is a beautiful building and a definite must see when visiting Berlin.

We headed for home but as it was still such a beautiful day, we stopped for a drink at a cute little corner bar with tables set up on the street. Enjoying the last of the sunshine, we ended up meeting with a couple of people from Toronto who were in Berlin on conference. As it is always great meeting people from Canada, we had a great chat, exchanged some travel stories and finally left them alone to finish their drinks. Later in the evening, we met a couple of guys from Saskatoon and Vancouver who were tending bar at the little restaurant down the street from us. What a great way to finish off a perfectly perfect  day!!

Olympic Stadium.  Of the Olympic stadiums we have seen on our trip this was the oldest and by far the most impressive.


The Column of Victory.img_4144

Monument to the Soviet soldiers who died liberating the city in 1945


The Reichstag (German Federal Parliament)


On our way back to our Airbnb we came across a football (soccer) game and stopped to watch for a while.  Obviously these guys were not professional players and members of some local club team,  but their skill level was quite high from my perspective and I really enjoyed watching them.  Much like so many Canadians who grow up playing hockey and continue long after their NHL dreams have died, so it is, I suppose, for a lot of average Germans.




Checkpoint Charlie and All Things Berlin

Today we took the UBahn (fancy name for subway) down to Checkpoint Charlie. This was the best-known border crossing between East and West Berlin during the Cold War, probably because it could only be used by the Allied forces or foreigners. At the height of the Berlin Crisis in 1961 U.S. and Soviet tanks faced each other here. There is a wonderful open air museum along the street chronicling the advent of World War II, the Allied Invasion, the division of Berlin into four quarters, the building of the wall in 1961 following the Berlin Crisis, subsequent riots and peace talks with the eventual result of the wall coming down in 1989.

Though the wall is no longer there, there is a brick trail that has been built into the street that follows the path of the wall. We followed this path from Checkpoint Charlie to the Topography of Terror Museum. This museum is located in the former SS and Gestapo headquarters area and documents the events that took place from 1933 to 1945. It, of course shows the rise of the Nazis, the resulting Holocaust and eventual downfall. Though we have seen much of this information before, we usually always pick up some new fact that we were previously unaware of.

From the Topography of Terror, we followed the wall path past the Memorial for Murdered Jews and on towards the Brandenburg Gate. Apparently there was a “Save the Earth” rally taking place around this area as there were thousands of people on the streets carrying placards. We pushed our way through the crowds until we walked through the famous Gate. This beautiful archway was built in 1791 in the design of the gateway of the Acropolis in Athens. In 1946, with the post-war division of Germany and Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate was in the Soviet sector. When the Berlin Wall went up in 1961, the Gate stood in an exclusion zone in an arc of the Wall, inaccessible for locals and visitors alike. In 1989, when the wall came down, over 100,000 people surged to this gate and the reunification process began to take place.

We walked east along the Unter den Linden towards the centre of Berlin. This area had been almost completely destroyed during the war and once it became part of the Soviet sector, it fell to complete ruin. Since 1990, this area has become the symbol of a reunited Berlin and buildings are being rebuilt and restored. We crossed over Museum Island (literally, this small island oasis is home to four museums) and into Alexanderplatz, the centre of Berlin. Our main concern here was to find the subway back to our apartment so we did not spend much time in the square. This, and surrounding sites, are on our list for another day.

The station here is huge – with trams, Ubahns and Sbahns all coming through. It is interesting to note that during the Cold War, trains would run through this station from one station in the West to another station in the West but would not stop here as it was in the East. As a result, many of these “ghost” stations fell to ruin and needed major repair once the wall came down.

We have so many thoughts and feelings about this period in history that we are having trouble expressing them. We discuss it between ourselves, we watch documentaries and discuss it again. Still, it is hard to come to grips with the horror and sadness of these complicated events. Why didn’t someone stop Hitler? How did the Allies get mixed up with the Soviets? How is it that propaganda and “false news” can change the face of the world? How can world leaders make such bad decisions? Is history repeating itself? These are all questions that back home we wouldn’t have bothered with, but here, they  become so much more relevant.

Today, we are off to the Olympic Stadium and even though there was much politics surrounding the 1936 Olympics, we plan to just enjoy the sport of it all. Wish us luck!!

Checkpoint Charlie.


Image result for checkpoint charlie

Today we sampled Currywurst.  The invention of currywurst is attributed to Herta Heuwer in Berlin in 1949, after she obtained ketchup (or possibly Worcestershire sauce) and curry powder from British soldiers in Germany. She mixed these ingredients with other spices and poured it over grilled pork sausage.  Little did she know her concoction would spiral into becoming a part of the iconic fabric of Germany’s capital; there’s even a currywurst museum.  I don’t believe the currywurst we had was pork sausage, but rather weiners.  Oh, also you can see that Col had some Kuchen also.  It’s a Wileman thing to have dessert with every meal.


The picture below is of a section of the former Berlin wall that has been moved to a spot near Checkpoint Charlie.


A section of the Berlin wall still standing and a picture of the how they have permanently marked where the wall had existed before it was torn down.


Image result for The trail of the Berlin wall

The Memorial for murdered Jews.


Brandenburg Gate


Bebelplatz:  The public square where the infamous book burning ceremony took place on May 10, 1933.


Image result for the platz in berlin where the book burning took place


Our First Day In Berlin

We arrived at our BNB about 8 PM yesterday. If you remember, we had eaten in the middle of Poland so didn’t need to get supper. However, we thought that we should get a few groceries so that we would have some breakfast for the morning. As it turns out, our BNB is in former East Berlin and as we walked to the store one of the first things we noticed was the Ampelmann – the crosswalk symbol which is unique to East Berlin. In fact, you will always know when you are in former East Berlin by this crosswalk symbol!

Image result for ampelmann berlin

This morning we spent some time doing laundry and planning the next leg of our journey. We headed out for lunch and then wandered off to Mauerpark, just a few hundred meters from our apartment. The name translates to “Wall Park”, referring to its status as a former part of the Berlin Wall and its Death Strip. There is still an 800 meter remnant of the wall running through the middle of this park that is heavily covered in graffiti. In fact, there was a group of school kids spray painting there when we walked along it. Seeing the wall started us thinking about the lives that Berliners led for for over forty years – separated from family and friends. How strange (and sad) it must have been to not be able to spend Christmases and Easters and other holidays with your family because of The Wall. Another one of those things that we cannot even begin to imagine or understand.

Over the next few days we plan on visiting many other sites within Berlin that pertain to the wall and these separations. I am sure that our heart will break everytime. However, Berlin is also a city of rejuvenation and hope and I know that we will see this as well. Such an interesting city. Can’t wait to take it all in!!



Learning Polish History

We spent the last two days in Poland learning about history, mainly of life during the war and the horrors that took place in and around Krakow. On Monday we visited the Oskar Schindler Museum. Though Schindler was a playboy, and a somewhat crooked businessman, he also saved over 1000 Jews from certain death in the labour camps. He received many government contracts during the war and employed Jews in his enamel and munitions factories. It does seem ironic that many of these Jews were saved by working for a company that supplied the very army that was destroying them. Though Schindler basically set up work camps at these factories, he ensured that his employees received ample food and lodging as well as proper medical treatment. This was definitely not happening at the other camps around Poland and Germany. The original enamel plant has now been turned into the museum. Only one room is dedicated to Schindler, his actual business office. The rest of the museum is a history of life between 1938 and 1945: the formation of the Polish army; the invasion of the Nazis and how quickly Poland was taken over by the SS; how Hitler was so determined to destroy Poland that he cleared out entire Polish settlements (usually sending them to labour camps) and then invited German families to reside there; the removal of teachers and clerics from schools and churches and also placing them into labour camps; insisting that schools were only to be taught in German; as well as many other actions that continually instilled fear within the general public. And through all of this, the Polish people persevered by setting up Resistance movements, underground schools and their own communication networks. It was a very informative exhibit and if you ever get the chance to research this history, I am sure that you will find it very interesting.

Tuesday we went to Auschwitz. Auschwitz actually consists of three camps – Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau and Auschwitz III-Monowitz. I was only aware of the second camp after reading the Tattooist of Auschwitz (a true story and a VERY good read) and was not aware of the third camp there until yesterday. The photos of train tracks that are widely circulated are actually taken at Birkenau which is much larger than the original camp. This became the main camp for exterminations in 1943 and 1944 with a total of 8 crematoriums. Walking through these camps and seeing the pictures of a handful of the 1.1 million Jews, Poles, Soviets, political prisoners and any others that died at the hands of the Nazis, I again have to ask why?  I mean, the killing was horrific but the starvation, the beatings, the dehumanization, is beyond comprehension. I also do not see the point of transporting all these people from one location to another only to kill them anyway. What was the point? I suppose that we will never know the thoughts of a madman but I sincerely hope that we will never have to witness this type of atrocity again.

Today we are travelling to Berlin. We changed trains in the middle of Poland – at a very small station where no one spoke English. We did manage to order a beer and a hamburger as well as catch our connecting train.  WOW!! Aren’t we amazing?!?!


His office….


Auschwitz and Birkenau…

Image result for auschwitz

Image result for birkenau


Krakow, Poland

We arrived in Krakow Saturday around 5:30 PM. While at the train station, we booked our reservations to Berlin and then booked a bus for our trip to Auschwitz on Tuesday. After a bit of circling the station, we finally found our way out and headed to our Air BNB.  After dropping our bags, we went in search of some supper. We came across a Polish restaurant and had a wonderful meal of perogies. I think that these were the best perogies ever!!

Sunday dawned sunny and bright so we headed out to church. Richard found a nice, little church with an English mass about five minutes from our apartment. The church was small but very old and ornate. It was quite full and we spoke afterwards with a woman who is originally from Chicago but has been teaching in the International School here for 26 years. Along our journey, we have met quite a few international teachers from both Canada, the States, England and Australia. It seems like a wonderful way to see the world….

After church we had a bit of lunch and headed out towards the Old Square. There were lots of people on the streets and in fact, it appeared that there was a run of some sort taking place. Though I have tried to figure out what it is, I have not had any luck. It was not the marathon as that takes place in April. Regardless, there were lots of runners, young and old,  and I got tired just watching them!!

We wandered around the area, looking at the shops, watching the street performers and I chuckled to see Richard get super excited when he saw the booths of beer, hot wine, perogies and cabbage rolls. Of course, I was almost as excited to see the booths of chocolate!! Of course, later in the day we headed back there for supper and we were not disappointed.

Our first full day in Krakow was a lot of fun and we look forward to the next couple of days. Tomorrow we head to the Schindler Museum and Tuesday of course is Auschwitz. Definitely, more somber days ahead.

The Perogie dinner we had upon arrival.  As Col said, may have been the best perogies ever.


The little Church where we attended Mass Sunday morning.


A sunny walk through the neighbourhood.


The food court.  I think the pictures say it all….


It’s no big deal to have a booth that is selling chocolate, but when the chocolate is in the shape of tools, well that is something different.


We went back to the food court later that day for supper and they had some local entertainment on stage.  It was nice to see the older people really enjoying the music.

Agriculture in the Czech Republic

One of the things that we have noted in both Budapest and Prague is the lack of grocery stores with fresh produce. I mean, there is usually some fruits and vegetables but most does not look particularly fresh or abundant. At the Museum of Communism, it mentioned that before the Soviets took over in 1948, Czechoslovakia’s agriculture sector was made up of small to midsize privately owned farms. Collectivization began in the early 1950’s and continued throughout the 80’s. Small farms all but disappeared as the state “collected” them in order to establish large, state run farms.  Mostly women and old men were left to work them as the industrial sector in the city became more attractive for men to make a living. As a result, agriculture continued to decline. After the change of government in 1989, confusion followed. There were few farmers left that had any knowledge of how to run a modern farm. Much of the available arable land was taken back by forest.  There have been some gains made within agriculture in the last 20 years but it continues to be slow growth. Most land is dedicated to barley, wheat, oats and hops – mostly to feed the Czech breweries. The Czech Republic is the second largest producer of beer in Europe following Germany. However, fun fact, Czech people consume more beer per capita than any other country in the world. Richard can attest to the fact that they do have good beer!!

So, as we travel across the Czech Republic on our way into Poland, I have noticed that there are small and large fields along the tracks that are in various stages of crop – some are still black, others starting to become green and are in the process of being sprayed. Equipment looks similar to back home – fairly large but perhaps not brand new.

I remember that when Buhler was first bought by the Russians in 2008, my boss at the time made a trip to Russia to view the factory and surrounding area. He commented that the fields were huge but the machinery was not. That makes sense to me now as the state had created all of these large farms but in the end did not have the equipment or manpower to run them. As globalization and new technology continues to develop, I am sure that these countries will again be able to produce up to their potential.


The Jewish Quarter and The Prague Boat

Well, as the title suggests, we finally made it to the Jewish Quarter. However, not before we made a bit of a detour down to the river. It was such a beautiful day that we couldn’t resist getting on the water and cruising down the river. The hour long cruise took us along much of the same ground that we covered on land but with a different perspective from the water. The commentary also filled in some of the blanks as to what some of the buildings were called. We saw the large metronome at Letna Park which was the original location of the large Stalin statue of granite. This statue was unveiled in 1955 but was demolished in 1962 after the atrocities of Stalin were revealed to the world. We floated past a number of government buildings and the ancient hydro electric plant that produces enough power for all the street lights of of Prague. It was a nice, relaxing start to the afternoon.

The Jewish Quarter is very interesting. Our ticket included four synagogues, the Old Jewish Cemetery and the Celebration Hall.  Each synagogue contains Jewish artifacts, books and teachings from different eras of Jewish life. The Jews have inhabited the Czech Republic (formerly Bohemia and Moravia) for over 1000 years. Throughout the centuries the Christian  churches and ruling dynasties have harassed and persecuted this population. From 1918 until 1938, the 350,000 Czech Jews were finally able to enjoy unprecedented freedom, equality and safety.  This social position was short lived however, with the advent of the Nazis, the Holocaust and Communism. There are currently only about 4000 Jews living in Czech Republic.

The Celebration Hall contains information and artifacts on the Jewish Burial Society. It was interesting to find that these societies still exist throughout Europe and the United States. Their main function is to ensure that the bodies of deceased Jews are prepared for burial according to Jewish tradition and are protected from desecration, willful or not, until burial. Two of the main requirements are the showing of proper respect for a corpse, and the ritual cleansing of the body and subsequent dressing for burial. The Hall contained a number of paintings depicting burial rituals in the 17th century as well as silver basins for cleansing and purification. silver cleaning tools (combs and nail files), and linen burial garments.

The Old Jewish Cemetery is one of the largest of its kind in Europe and one of the most important Jewish historical monuments in Prague. It served its purpose from the first half of 15th century until 1786. It is home to approximately 12,000 tombstones but many more burials have taken place there. As there was no other area allocated to the Jews to bury their dead during this time, graves were layered on top of each other.  As a result, the entire graveyard is many feet higher than street level.

Though most of the Jewish Quarter was demolished before World War I due to overcrowding, lack of sewage and water systems, the buildings constructed within this area since then have been well preserved.  Walking along the pretty streets you can almost forget the horrors of what happened here not that many years ago.

From the Jewish Quarter we headed back to Old Town to enjoy one last Prague Hotdog before heading back to the apartment. We are off to Krakow tomorrow for a couple of days.  Looking forward to trying some Polish cuisine!!

Since it was such a beautiful sunny day we had our lunch in front of the statue of John Hus, a church reformer (depending on which side of the fence your were standing) from the fifteenth century.  He was born and became a priest in Bohemia which is now part of the Czech Republic.  He was granted safe passage from the Holy Roman Emperor to defend his writings at the Council of Constance in Germany where he was imprisoned and burned at the stake.  Consequently his death set off a bit of a war and John Hus became a national hero.



The River Cruise.


The Pinkasova Synagoga.  Here we found wall after wall of names of Jewish families, 80,000 in total, who perished under the Nazis.


Some pictures from inside the Spanish Synagogue.  Col and I very much enjoyed touring the Synagogues.  Such a rich and long history riddled with so much pain and suffering.


The Old Jewish Graveyard.


An organ is not something you will see in many Synagogues, but during the Enlightenment period some were added.

The Haskalah, or Jewish Enlightenment, was an intellectual movement in Europe that lasted from approximately the 1770s to the 1880s. The Haskalah was inspired by the European Enlightenment but had a Jewish character. Literally, Haskalah comes from the Hebrew word sekhel, meaning “reason” or intellect” and the movement was based on rationality. It encouraged Jews to study secular subjects, to learn both the European and Hebrew languages, and to enter fields such as agriculture, crafts, the arts and science. The maskilim (followers of the Haskalah) tried to assimilate into European society in dress, language, manners and loyalty to the ruling power. The Haskalah eventually influenced the creation of both the Reform and Zionist movements.


We would like to conclude this post with another slide show which seems to be becoming a bit of a tradition.  This one is in honor of the 80,000 Jewish lives that were lost in former Czechoslovakia and the John Lennon wall of peace.

The First Day of Spring

After our plus ten and 1/2 miles of walking yesterday, we thought that we would stick fairly close to home today. It was a beautiful day – sunny with a temperature of 14C – so we couldn’t resist going for a walk. From our living room window, we can see a large horse statue at the top of a hill. Today was the day to climb it so up we went. The climb was not particularly difficult, the horse was spectacular and the views were amazing!! We sat there for a while watching people come and go – students, families, joggers and dog walkers. We hiked down the other side of the hill, and because alcohol in public is legal in Europe, picked up a bottle of wine and a large bottle of beer and found a park bench to continue to enjoy the afternoon and watch the world go by. We sat until the sun went down and headed back to the apartment. Looking forward to some warm days ahead. We hope that things are starting to warm up in Canada as well.

Statue of Jan Žižka

The monument was unveiled in 1950 on the anniversary of the battle on Vítkov (1420), in which the Hussites under the leadership of Jan Žižka defeated the Crusaders’ troops in this place. The bronze monument has admirable size: it is 22 m high including the pedestal and the total weight is 16.5 t. It is one of the biggest equestrian statues in the world.


I don’t have any pictures of us drinking wine and beer in the park.  Col felt too much like a wino to have them taken.  A Kodak moment lost to antiquity.

Prague – Day Three

We started our day at the train station booking our reservations for the next legs of our journey. From there we headed back to Old Town with the intent of exploring The Jewish Quarter. However, once we got there we got caught up in watching the Astronomical Clock again (still can’t tell the time) and having some lunch. For whatever reason, we headed away from The Jewish Quarter and ended up crossing the Charles Bridge. This historical bridge was built under Charles IV in the early 15th century. It served as the only bridge across the River Vltava until 1841 so was the most important route through Old Town to the Prague Castle. This beautiful old bridge is lined with statues – mostly of religious nature – and most of which are copies of the originals. We wandered along this bridge enjoying the different buskers, artists and vendors, each hawking their wares. Before reaching the end of the bridge, we followed a number of people down a set of steps, down the street and around the corner to the Lennon Wall. After his murder on the 8th of December 1980, John Lennon became a pacifist hero for many young Czechs. An image of Lennon was painted on a wall in this secluded square opposite the French embassy, along with political graffiti and occasionally Beatles lyrics. Though it has been whitewashed many times, graffiti is always replaced, originally by Prague youth determined to undermine communism, and after 1989 by tourists, determined to continue the tradition. The wall is no longer whitewashed and stands as a testament to free speech and pacifism.

Because we were now on the other side of the river, we decided that we might as well continue walking up to the Prague Castle. The climb was easy enough and at the top, we took in the magnificent views of the city and decided that we would by tickets for the castle and the grounds. The complex dates back to the 9th century and is the official office of the President of the Czech Republic. In the past, the castle has been the seat of power for kings of Bohemia and Holy Roman emperors. The most significant structure within the complex is St. Vitus Cathedral. Though construction on the cathedral began in 1344, it was not completed until almost 600 years later in 1929. The church is large and of course beautiful, featuring not one but two pipe organs and the Chapel of St. Wenceslas, which contains relics of the said saint.

The castle complex also contains the Basilica of St. George, much smaller and less ornate than St. Vitus. It is the oldest surviving church building within Prague Castle, founded by Vratislaus I of Bohemia in 920. The basilica was substantially enlarged in 973 with the addition of the Benedictine St. George’s Abbey.

Also within the complex is the Old Royal Palace which houses a copy of the crown jewels, the Vladislav Hall (which is still used for inaugurations), the Observation Tower and the Rider Stairs – my favorite, as these stairs were built so that the knights could ride their horses into the castle.

The final tour on our ticket took us along the Golden Lane. Though originally it looked like a street full of vendors, it actually contained a few old buildings that housed medieval armour, a torture chamber and other tidbits relating to war, espionage and defense.

The Lane exited us at the outside wall of the Castle so we decided that it must mean it was time to head back home. We had been on our feet for about five hours so we were ready to head back down the hill. Though our plan was to either take a tram home or at least stop for a drink on the way back, we actually ended up walking all the way home with no drink stop. Our host had pointed out a couple of local watering holes on our first night in Prague so after a quick bathroom stop at the apartment, we headed across the street for a much needed drink. A cozy little bar, fairly busy with an after work crowd and even a dog.

Speaking of dogs, since we have been in Europe, we have seen many dogs. Some large, some small, most on leash, some with muzzles but shops, bars and restaurants seem to have no problem allowing them all in. This is always uplifting after a particularly long day and I try to pet as many as I can.

We have two more days in Prague so with any luck, we will make it back to the Jewish Quarter to experience yet another aspect of Czech life and history.

The old square by the Astronomical Clock.  Again, so much for slow tourist season.

The Charles Bridge.



Lennon Wall…..  Imagine.




The torture chamber, Prague Castle and some views from the top.


Image result for St. Vitus Cathedral


Incredible artwork.


A Couple of Days in Prague

As has become the norm for us, when we arrive in a new city, we take the first day to do a general walkabout to see what sites we would like to spend more time at for the rest of the week. So yesterday we headed down to Old Town. Prague is a city with lots of history so for a couple of buffs like us (history, not body), there is a cornucopia of things to explore. There is medieval history (John Hus), World War I, World War II, Communism, Freedom and Liberation.

The walk to Old Town took us about 20 minutes and we passed by small shops, large shops, restaurants, cafes, and office buildings, all with their own character and vibe. Some of the buildings are very old. Some look restored and others look like they are pretty new. There are many construction projects on the go so it appears that the city is definitely flourishing. To enter Old Town we passed through the Gothic style Powder Tower. This gateway was built in 1475 and marks the beginning of the “Royal Route”.  Kings and Queens would enter through the gate on their way through the historical town to Prague Castle. In the 17th century it became known as the Powder Tower as the military began to store gunpowder inside the tower.

Once inside the gate, we noticed a number of historical vintage cabrio cars that were offering tours of the city. Richard and I both agreed that it was step up from the poor horses that were pulling the carriages in Salzburg and Vienna. We were now in the tourist area and a few weaves and bobs through the crowd brought us to the main square, aptly named Old Town Square. Established in the 12th century, it has been witness to many historical events. In addition to the Old Town Hall and the Church of Our Lady before Týn, the square is dominated by the Baroque Church of St Nicholas, the Rococo Kinský Palace, the Gothic House at the Stone Bell and the monument to Jan Hus. In the pavement of the square are memorial stones marking the execution of 27 Czech lords in 1621 after an uprising against the Hapsburg Empire. And of course a square would not be complete without a number of cafes, pubs, magicians, dancing panda and polar bears and a whole bunch of tourists.

From the square we wandered into the Jewish District and checked out opening times for the museums and cemeteries. According to articles that I have read, Hitler decided that he would spare the buildings in this district and have them preserved for historical purposes. His reasoning was that once the Jews were completely annihilated, this area would serve as a museum of a lost people. Whether this is true or not, I do not know, but when we go back for a closer look in the museums, perhaps this story will appear.

We stopped our touring for a late lunch/early supper and decided that we had seen enough for the first day. Not only had we had a great first full day exploring the city, earlier in the day we had booked the next couple of legs of our journey (Krakow and Berlin) as well as some camping spots in Manitoba for when we return. All in all, a great day.

Today we headed to the Museum of Communism. This well laid out and informative museum explores the rise of communism in the Czech Republic after World War II through to its demise in 1989.  As I read and reflected through the many wallboards and exhibits, I realized that as I became a teenager and an adult in Canada, there was a whole generation – my generation – of peoples that did not have the freedom of speech, the freedom to listen to their own music, watch their own movies, live their own dreams or explore the world outside the confines of their borders. How spoiled we are!! How lucky!! I again give thanks to live in the best country in the world.

Humbled, we left the Museum of Communism and because we were not far from the Old Town Square, headed back there to have a drink and watch the clock strike three. The Prague Astronomical Clock, or Prague Orloj, is a medieval astronomical clock located  on the Old Town Hall. The clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still operating. On the hour, a crowd of tourists gather around to watch the twelve apostles poke their heads through the openings in the clock to herald in the new hour.  Though I have looked at it two days in a row now, I still do not have a clue how to tell time with it. Regardless, it is pretty neat.

Once the clock dinged 15 times, we finished our drinks and headed to the hotdog stand that we had seen yesterday. The dogs did not disappoint and because I did not drop anything on my jacket in the way of ketchup or mustard, I thought that I might be able to handle a giant ice cream which is served in a cinnamon pastry shell. I wasn’t quite so lucky with that and ended up with melted ice cream on my face, hands, pants, and shoes. Worse than a three year old…..

I got myself cleaned up and we headed over to Wenceslas Square (Wenceslas Square is named for King Wenceslas which most of you would recognize from the Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas). This large rectangle of several blocks is now a corridor of shops and office buildings but is historically where many public gatherings, demonstrations, speeches, riots and parades have taken place. The National Museum and the Bohemian Museum stand at the far end of the “square”, and we hope to have some time in the next couple of days to stop at one or both of them to soak up some knowledge. We continued our journey up the hill to the “Second Ugliest Building In the World”. Obviously this is subjective and it is actually a communications tower and not really even a building, but we did see it and took some pictures. You can be the judge.

As we had made somewhat of a circuitous route, we headed around and down the hill to come out just a street above our apartment. Another great day in another beautiful city. We are so very fortunate!!

The Powder Tower.


The old tour cars which take the place of horse drawn carriages.  I like this idea.  Horses are not meant to walk up and down paved streets.


The second ugliest building in the world according to a Prague tourist site.  Obviously they have not seen the Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg. 


The Sex Machine Museum.  They wouldn’t let me in as they thought I would be too much of a distraction for the tourists.


The Astronomical Clock……


The Polar Bear and the Panda in the Old Square.


The Museum of Communism.  Being a hockey fan it was interesting that Jaromir Jagr’s picture and name were mentioned twice in the museum. 


I just thought this was an interesting advertisement.


The hotdog and the ice cream.  Both of which were great.


I stepped out for a bit to get some groceries and ended up in a Prague bar right across from our Airbnb apartment.  To my pleasant surprise they had one large screen TV and one smaller one.  Both had hockey games playing and it felt like home.  I also had a nice conversation with the bartender about some of the teams in the NHL.   Unfortunately the Prague team has been eliminated from the playoffs so we will not be able to attend a game.