Prague, Czech Republic
December 24-29, 2003


After four days in Hungary, we boarded a train that took us to Prague, Czech Republic. The train ride lasted about half a day, but it was dark when we arrived in Prague. The ride itself was relaxing, and we passed through Slovakia along the way. The train stopped so that the Slovak border agents could check our passports. They weren't necessarily stamping them, but we (and a few others) asked for a stamp, and they gave us one.

We stayed in a hotel near downtown, and spent the next day walking around the downtown area with all its older buildings and a grand cathedral from about the 12th Century. This was Christmas Eve. We decided to attend the Christmas service at midnight, a chance to hear a Christmas Mass in Latin in Europe. We arrived early and got a seat. The building is not heated and the inside temperature was about 30 degrees F. We stayed for about 30 minutes, then left, walking back about a mile to hour hotel at 1 a.m. The temperatures outside were bitterly cold. The weather report stated that the overnight low had been about -25 Celsius, or roughly -10 F. I believe this is the coldest I have ever experienced, and I had inch-long moustachicles when we arrived back at our hotel.

Beth and I, Christmas Day, 2003. This is my favorite photo of Beth.

Bird's Eye views of Old-town Prague.

An official building in Prague.

The Cathedral.

We spent Christmas Day on an official tour, one of many that run from the downtown area. The tour guide was Czech, and most in the tour were from Russia, there being about a dozen of us. The Russians treated the guide poorly, ignoring him, talking over him. He spoke English, which begs the question why so many Russians were in our group (they try to match the guide with the language of "most" of the people in any given group). We talked with him and he was friendly.

We got the quick bus tour around downtown, including a tour of the biggest (in the world?) stadium, seating up to 250,000 people, big enough to hold six soccer fields. It was an ugly, concrete monstrosity, like the old Seattle Kingdome, but without the dome and much bigger. It was used partly for big speeches by the old-time Communist leaders when they needed all those people in the stands to make it look good.

Official Czech Guys (Military, we think)

This guy was Czeching out my wife!

Old Buildings.

We spent most of the remaining three days walking around in no particular direction. We went through other old historic buildings, and it was clear a lot of people here were tourists like us, even a few English speakers. The weather was cold but warmed ever-so-slightly at the end. We got near the Vltava River, walked through old medieval-era structures where the doors reach to about 6 feet, making me feel like Kareem Abdul-Surgent for a little while, a walk in and around Petrin Hill and its tower, which can be ridden to the top, and a ride out to the World War II-era concentration camp at Terezin. That was a very sobering experience, contemplating what they had to endure.

We left very early the 29th and flew all the way home with stops in Paris and Atlanta, the journey covering about 24 hours.

The Cathedral.

Along the River Vltava.

In the olden days, everyone was short.

Tower atop Petrin Hill

Graveyard at Terezin Holocaust Camp.

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