Our first full day in Prague was filled with giddy snowball fights and somber reflection on WWII deaths and the 1968 Communist crackdown during Prague Spring.
Our tour guide Renata met us at the hotel promptly at 9 a.m. and we walked across the Charles Bridge up to Prague Castle. We stopped along the way to admire both the bridge and the powdery snowfall.
The castle is really a compound of homes and offices in mixed architectural styles. The president lives on the grounds, as does the Catholic Archbishop of the Czech Republic. Below are three views of the castle from early morning to early evening today, Monday, Jan. 14.
The snow began in earnest as we trudged up the cobblestone street that wends it way up to the castle. When we reached the top, the first thing we did was torture a poor castle guard by posing all around him for another group shot.
Among the buildings on the castle grounds is St. Vitus Church, begun by King Charles in the 1400s and completed in 1929, some 600 years later. A lot happened to delay construction in the intervening centuries.
LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW
The students and their professors had a ball in a beautiful and, for a time, heavy snowfall. As we broke for lunch, one small group of students stood quietly smiling at the profs before unleashing a flurry of snowballs at us. We retaliated in kind.
A CHANGE OF MOOD
Things became decidedly more serious as we walked through the Jewish Quarter of Prague. We entered a synagogue built in the 16th century that had been transformed into a memorial for Czech and Moravian Jews who died, mostly in the camps, during WWII. Their names, 80,000 of them, were inscribed on the walls. A cemetery out back held the graves of thousands of Jews stacked on top of one another beneath a mishmash of headstones. The last person to be buried there was laid to rest some 200 years ago. Because of Jewish persecution, no more burial land could be acquired and bodies were simply stacked one upon another over the years.
After a tough afternoon of absorbing some of Prague’s sadder history, students scattered to shop the markets and do some sightseeing before the sun, which actually came out today, went down. A handful of us headed back to the Charles Bridge and climbed the winding staircase in the Gothic tower at the base of the bridge. Here are some shots from above the city.
ONE LAST INSIDE JOKE
Only those associated with Elon University can appreciate this last shot. Dr. Earl Danieley has been a part of Elon University for some 60 years as a student, teacher, and he even served as president. Now in his 80s, he still teaches chemistry as an adjunct every semester. When we spotted this Prague store, we had to post a photo in honor of our beloved Dr. D.