This summer I had the opportunity of a lifetime to vacation in Europe with family and friends. We visited many amazing sites, but overall, I was most enthralled by the beauty of the architecture. In the U. S., it is very rare to see this wide array of Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, Neo-Classical and Art Deco buildings that mark Europe’s ancient historical roots.
Our tour started in Prague. We had three and a half, wonderful days in that city. Discovering the secrets of Old Town filled up most of those days.
The first day, some of us spent time in the Jewish Quarter. The tour of the Jewish Museum and the Old Jewish Cemetery, from the 15th century was fascinating.
We made several trips to the Town Square. The square was alive with tourists, street performers and food vendors. The Gothic, Church of Our Lady was a remarkable site. We discovered many interesting side streets with buildings that were works of art.
Loved this excursion. The Prague Castle complex rests above the city with great views of Prague.
One of the dominant building within the complex is Saint Vitus Cathedral. The stunning Gothic exterior of St. Vitus is equaled by it’s stately interior.
A touring choir from the U. S. was singing the day we visited. Our group was blessed to hear the harmonies of their worship music echoing throughout the cathedral, as we took in it’s majesty.
Terezin – Theresienstadt Concentration Camp
Our trip to Terezin concentration camp was a very sobering experience. After Germany invaded and occupied Czechoslovakia, on June 10, 1940, the Gestapo took control of Terezín and set up a prison in the “Small Fortress.” At first, the prisoners were predominantly Czech, anti-Fascist resistance fighters, partisans and guerrilla fighters who were captured during the war.
Eventually, it was established by the SS as a concentration camp. The world was told, Terezin was a city built to protect the Jews. A propaganda film was made to show this myth. It was staged to show the Jews gardening and enjoying sports and entertainment. This ruse worked for a very long time.
Nearly two hundred thousand men, women and children passed through the gates of Terezin as a way station to the east and probable death. Of the vast majority of Czech Jews who were taken to the Theresienstadt Ghetto, 97,297 died among whom were 15,000 children.
Terezin could not compare to the horrors at Auschwitz-Birkenau or Treblinka but starvation and disease were rampant. At the height of World War II, this Ghetto/Concentration Camp held over 55,000 Jews. Thousands died of malnutrition and exposure. Their bodies were cremated at the small crematorium with its four gas ovens. People from other nationalities and religions were also imprisoned and died there. That is why the cemetery displays both the Jewish Star and the Christian Cross.
Not far from Prague City, there is the small town of Melník with a lovely Renaissance castle.
After 1989 it became the property of the noble Lobkowicz family and most of halls have been refurbished.
I admired ornate furniture and large collections of paintings but the picturesque view of the countryside from the chateau (or castle) was a highlight for me.
After the tour of the residence, there was a tasting of the local wines in the cellar. I wasn’t crazy about their wines but there was one white variety that my husband, Steve, and I liked.
During the bus ride on the way home, our guide entertained us with stories of the latest Czech government scandals and played us orchestral music by famous Czech composers like Janacek, and Dvorak. She was a delight and so was the music. The Czech people are very friendly, and for the most part, fluent in English.
Dinner on the first night of our Prague adventure was at a marvelous restaurant near the entrance of Old Town called the Imperial Café. The meals were moderately priced and five out of six dinners were great. The restaurant is a must see, for it’s elaborate Art Deco style interior.
The second night we dined at Coda in the Aria Hotel. The food and the rooftop views were spectacular. We had a few minutes before dinner so we decided to explore a few blocks in the Lesser Town (Mala Strada) area.
During our walk, we came across this John Lennon Wall. Most of the wall was graffiti but still pretty cool.
Our last dinner in Prague was also a winner. Kampa Park restaurant was first class in taste and ambiance. Ask for a river front table. We dinned on the Vltava river next to the Saint Charles bridge.
As the evening progressed, the skies quickly darkened and nature added a little excitement with a thunder storm! (For us, who live in Southern California, it was a rare treat!)
After the storm, seemingly out of nowhere dozens of white swans appeared and paraded across the river. It was God’s grand finale to our stay in Prague.
Part two of our European adventure picks up in Germany.
With gratitude, Linda Eichberg
“What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me”? – Psalm 116:12
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