Czechin’ out

Today was our last day in the Czech Republic and I wanted to make the most of it. Anna thought that we were too ambitious but we still got to everything we wanted to do and more.

First we walked around the Jewish quarter to take another look at the synagogues. And then we moved on to the national museum of music. We of course too the tram there because we are pros at the train by now.

At the national museum of music we saw an exhibit about music in the Czech Republic during the time of the communist party. The communist party heavily regulated the media from the west that the Czech people could consume, but the Czech people were determined to know about western pop culture. First Czech bands started to copy western bands. They copied everything from their looks to their music videos. The Czech people found ways to bring in cassette tapes and records into their homes even though if they were found in posssion of these cassettes they could be fined and put into jail.

The music museum also had an exhibit of old instruments. This is where Erin geeked out. Dalia even got to play the harp!

Next we went to Wenceslas Square for lunch. We had Burger King for lunch. One of my goals for the trip was to see if fast food tasted the same in Europe as it does at home. The tea is that fast food tastes the same everywhere. Next we walked around the square and did a little shopping. We stopped in a book store so that Dalia could get her favorite book in Czech. From there we went to the Castle.

We decided to walk to the castle instead of taking the tram. This led us to finding a statue of former president Edvard Benes that we were not expecting to find.

At the castle we first walked through the castle grounds to the cathedral. We went into the cathedral and we saw stained glass that you could not really see from the outside. The stained glass was brightly colored due to the sunlight.

From there we went to the castle gardens. We walked through the trees and beautiful flowers until we came across an exhibit about the Berlin Wall. This exhibit even had a piece of the Berlin Wall on display.

Lastly we ended our day on a river cruise for dinner. We got to look at all the beautiful sights and reflect on our amazing trip.

P.S. thank you to my amazing shoes that made this trip possible! They are literally falling apart now so they will be returned to the environment tonight. Rest In Peace walking shoes.

Exploring Česky Krumlov

So today we traveled all the way from Brno to Česky Krumlov, a city located in south Bohemia, and I don’t think they could be any more different. From a hugely populated city to a small historic town with 500 townies and only 13,000 total residents. Česky Krumlov was wonderful. It is a beautiful town, nearly entirely made up of cobblestone and amazing views wherever you turn. We were guided through the town on a tour and boy did we learn a lot. There are many special aspects of Čhesky Krumlov, one being it’s infamous castle.

This castle is the second largest castle in all of the Czech Republic and only misses first place by one square meter. It was first constructed in the year 1240  by the Witigonen family, who was a part of the famous Rosenberg family, a noble family of Bohemia. They occupied the castle for upwards of three hundred years, until the seventeenth century. By this time, the entire family line had died out and the castle needed new inhabitants. It was then sold to the Eggenberg family who then made the castle famous for its baroque style architecture and look. Inside the quarters of the castle you will find the Česky Krumlov Baroque Theatre. It is one of only two fully preserved baroque theatres left in the entire world. When the line of Eggenbergs ended in the mid 1700’s, the castle was passed down to the Schwarzenbergs. And in 1947 was Čespy Krumlov was declared as part of the Czech provincial properties and along with it went the castle. Today it is considered one of the greatest tourist attractions in town.

The next biggest architectural historical landmark in Česky Krumlov is the Saint Vitus Churh.

This church was built at around the year 1400 by Hostislav of Bílsko. It was then renovated in the year 1500 during the Baroque period so the church had many gothic stylistic designs added to it, including high vaulted ceilings, pointy windows and much more. It is still used by the four percent of practicing Christians in Česky Krumlov and is available for viewing by the public.

One last thing that’s unique about Česky Krumlov is that they have a local town bear moat.

This bear moat has been used since the early 1700’s. The legend is that the powerful Rosenberg family was somehow related to the Italian family the Orsini’s. Orsa is supposed to mean bear in Italian. The rosenbergs later found out that they were never connected to the Orsini’s but they kept the bears there ever since. Till this day they still have one bear living at the castle and her name is Marie Terezie. Every year there is a bear festival so it’s safe to say that bears have become a big part of the Czech culture here.

Now after all that, if I could give one recommendation for anyone interested in going to this wonderful little town, I would say bring a good pair of walking shoes.

While staying here, I have yet to find a street that isn’t made of cobblestone. In addition, the cobblestone can be quite uneven and steep at points so it’s hard to imagine living on them every single day of your life, but hey, people do it. I would highly recommend going to Česky Krumlov if you ever find yourself in the Czech Republic, you won’t regret it. The beauty of this historic town is something you don’t want to miss.

Eyes of the Camera

By Dalia Hamilton

In the fourteen days we’ve spent in the Czech Republic, I have taken 1,785 pictures.

Now, this is new for me. Usually, I’m the one on trips who a) doesn’t want to be in pictures, and b) would much rather just relish in experiencing things than be the one photographing them. But for this trip especially, I wanted to be able to remember every single second. Even more, I wanted to be able to flip through the “GOCzech” photo album on my phone and show my friends and family all the beautiful and amazing things I saw in the Czech Republic.

Today, I knew, would be a little bit different. We visited one of two remaining Baroque Theaters in the world, complete with forced perspective scenery and pole-and-chariot scene-change system, and the Český Krumlov Castle, both of which had a strict no-photos policy. Thus, I had to get my picture-taking in before and after the tours and then trust my memory and my notes to help me remember the theater and castle themselves.

Our day began bright and early as we gathered outside the Pension Gardena and waited to be led to the Castle where we would begin our tour. While we waited, Ed made a bet that our tour guide in the castle would make a joke comparing the bearskins in the castle to the live bear in the Castle Moat. (Spoiler Alert: He lost the bet. Because “light-hearted moments” are not the same as jokes, as much as Ed and Anna might wish.) This led to Lukáš getting a little sassy and making the first pun of the day, claiming that Ed’s bets were “unBEARable.”

From the hotel, we took a winding trek through the town, taking a route that ended up being shorter than the one we took on our city-wide tour, but contained quite a few more twists, turns, and cobblestoned hills. Finally, we arrived at the Castle and were blessed with the opportunity to see the Castle’s resident bear, Maria Theresa, as she waddled around her habitat.

“I saw her. Just BEARly.” —Steven Christopher McKnight

After watching Maria Theresa for a bit, we continued into the castle courtyard, where Anna took an ominous “pre-climb” group photo, leaving us to fear what the “post-climb” photo might look like. Luckily, we didn’t end up going as high up as Anna had thought, because the climb wasn’t bad, although a small group of us went all the way up to the gardens after the tours and took our own “post-climb photo.”

The GO Flag in the Castle Courtyard

As soon as we entered the Castle Theater, phones went away and I had to rely on my limited powers of description to record the beautiful sight before us. The stage was like an optical illusion, like you were looking through a portal into another world. I could swear the painted statues on each flat turned their heads to look at us as soon as we entered. The candles danced in their candelabras on each corner, making it feel like we’d really walked into an 18th century performance.

We watched a short video explaining the history of the Baroque theater and allowing us to see the famed pole-and-chariot scene changes in action. It was way cooler than I could have imagined, even after Anna raved about it in Western Theatre History. Our tour guide then showed us some of the sound effect machinery that have been replicated, including a large spinning drum that makes rain sounds, one that makes the sound of loud winds and creaking windows, and a wooden board with ridged wheels that, when rolled across the floor, makes the sound of thunder. He explained how, as cool as these sounds were up close, they were even more realistic backstage during a performance, when the audience couldn’t see what was making them. These sound effects, paired with flash bang lightning that covered the 10-12 second scene changes, terrified commoner audiences but also make the theatre experience an exciting and realistic one.

Our tour guide explained, to our surprise, that the theatre only held about 20 performances in the 100 years it was originally active, which is one of the reasons why it never burned down, despite being entirely lighted by candles. Now, however, the restored theater hosts two performances a year, in June and September, although the tickets are always sold out way in advance. From there, the tour guide took us below the stage to see the intricate pulley system that controlled the stage’s scene changes, known as a pole-and-chariot system. Rowen rightfully lost her mind at the sight of the system and the trap doors that the tour guide demonstrated for us. It was also a great surprise to us that the stage only went about 15 meters deep, relying on the forced perspective scenery, the lowered ceiling and raised floor at the back of the stage, and clever tricks (for example, a man on a horse at the front of the stage going into the wings and reappearing at the back played by a child on a pony) to make the stage look much deeper than it actually was.

We reluctantly left the theater less than an hour later, grabbing last looks at the beautiful stage that we could only take pictures of with our minds before we moved on to the Castle itself, starting with the Castle Chapel.

Our tour guide reminded me of a mixture between Eli from Degrassi, JD from Heathers, and the guy from the Matrix (see below).

He began our tour by explaining that we were sitting in the part of the chapel where the servants would sit, while the nobles sat above in the balconies where it would be warmer during the winter. We saw a statue of St. George killing a dragon at the back of the chapel and the tour guide explained that St. George’s great deed symbolizes justice prevailing over evil. The guide then led us on an intricate and comprehensive tour of the castle, complete with detailed history, dramatic legends, and even a ghost story. (But again, no bear jokes. Sorry, Ed.)

Both of these tours today were interesting experiences for me because, unlike most of the other things we saw and experienced in the last two weeks, I couldn’t take pictures, requiring me to pay even more attention than normal and try to keep everything I saw in my mind and in my notebook because I couldn’t capture it on my phone. Reflecting back on it now, I still wish I could’ve taken pictures so that I could carry the experience with me in a more concrete way, but I also kind of liked the opportunity to just experience something again without trying to do so through the eyes of a camera. Plus, this makes me much more likely to come back with my friends and family someday.

(Although, of course, as soon as we left the castle, I started taking pictures again.)

Dramatic Titanic Pose with the GO Flag
Attempt at an Album Cover
Dinner Time Selfie at Lazebna, the ex-Barber Shop
Beautiful view of Český Krumlov

Day in Brno

  The day began with a tour of Brno.

Brno became what is known as a Royal Town in 1243. This meant it now had privileges that it hadn’t before, meaning open Markets where people could buy and sell more easily.

The spire decoration here is the entrance to what once was the town hall. This was done by a man called Pilgrim, who according to legend made the middle spire not straight because he felt cheated out of money, leaving a note before leaving town that said that it was as crooked as the council.

This was the town hall entrance up until the 30’s but is now a tourist center. The buildings around it are now for lectures and concerts

I found it interesting that the tour started at the info center for tourist. It really shows how much history Europe has. Even in the smallest town like Litomysl things are old, and historic. Things are different now but nobodies trying to tear down the past unless its recent.

What can be found in the Corridor?

This is a crocodile, (real according to legend) whose name is Dragon. The Legend goes that the Turks, during a meeting brought the crocodile as a gift and has become something of Brno’s official mascot.

There is also a large wooden wheel that also has a legend attached to it. it is about a wheel maker who bet 12 of his neighbors after getting drunk that he could fell a tree out in the woods and before the city gates opened he’d roll it into the square. Each neighbor bet 1 silver. As the legend goes, he was successful in the bet. Now there is an annual race where three or so people run with wheels from the outskirts of the town to the square.

Dahlia noted that it was very cool that we are in a place old enough to have actual Legends. It seems like everything has some sort of legend attached to it.

The building to the left is of the first to be built in the new architectural style and was owned by a wealthy Jewish family.

The building to the right is of the oldest still operational hotel in Brno.

This memorial is depicting the man who helped reform the brewing industry. He invented a way to purify beer and is commemorated on the Local Town Brewery.

This statue changes every year, it is a place where young artists can create their art. Last years was a flock of birds, this year its a group of sharks.

They have a Facebook page:

We learned about two brothers, one a famous music composer, the other an actor, both were Jewish. during Nazi occupation, the actor managed to escape to the US but the rest of his family did not, and they suffered and perished in Auschwitz. The actor eventually became a film director, and died in Vienna, Austria, his ashes only making their way to the town’s Jewish cemetery in 1990.

Brno is proud of its history in the 30 Years War. There is a public park that holds a memorial commemorating the victory during the napoleon war and honoring those that died. The army here defeated the Swedish army that wanted to take Vienna.

This is what became a theme throughout the tour. The 30 Years War had a huge impact on the city it seems. Most places have something to commemorate it or attach itself back to that war.

The city skyline is roughly 1111 meters high. This could have something to do with the mayor of 6 years ago whose birthday was on November 11th. He often opened things on the 11th day of several different months. He often had a laugh about it.

There are twin balcony where we went next. The one on the left is called Adolf Hitler Balcony because Hitler made a speech from there. The one on the right is Queen Elisabeth Balcony as she walked through it on her visit just after her coronation.

There is a fountain in the center of the building that has 12 statues of common seasonal things that one would do. This survived both Nazi and communist occupation.

Here is where we met the mayor of Brno. This wasn’t planned it was just a happy accident. Our guide seemed thrilled, as it was his second time meeting her, they both agreed that it was good for people to learn about the Czech Republic outside of Prague. A way to get more than just the touristy aspects of the country and into other places that have contributed to history. While Prague has its revolutions, Brno has its wars and Roma. She seemed very busy though, so no pictures with us were taken.

This walk also had us come across Freedom Square. Holding the oldest building, now a center for people who want to babysit around the world and gain new, better language skills. The newest is a shopping mall called Omega and in front of it is a spinning bullet looking statue that tells the time.

This commemorates the 30 Years War. It spits out a little glass ball with a crest of Brno on it as a free souvenir for the lucky one that catches it. Its released at 11:00 o’clock sharp.

Then we went to the church of St. James Patron of Pilgrims. Its a place where people come to have mass for the St. James Pilgrimage. Within it, has a grave of a famed hero of the 30 years war. Its old organ is still up and running, polished and looking grand, black, and brand new.

Last on this walk, we went to a map which showed how the city looked during the medieval period. As you can see below. The miniature has an incomplete roof, next to the actual finished building.


This I feel was a good way to start the day. It allowed us to transition into the next activity nicely.

Imagine: You’ve walked the immaculate streets of Brno. Its been raining a bit and will for the rest of the day. Things are bright, in terms of buildings. Everything looks like it has history but not in the grungy way. Things look well put together, taken care of and restored. Even the graffiti looks new or taken care of, giving the city an aesthetic you’ve seen in Prague.

Then you get on a bus, make a large loop around the city, and suddenly you begin to see buildings that are rougher around the edges. Graffiti looks old and like how you’d imagine it would look to signal a bad neighborhood. There’s a large wire that sticks out from the side of building where the walls been worn away. You see cracks in the city. Cracks that these people have to hide in.

You learn, you take pictures, you gain. But you never see any children like you were suppose to. You walk around their streets. You haven’t given much thought since you’re a Pennsylvanian and our roads are notoriously bad. But you realize that puddles in roads and sidewalks aren’t normal. They’re a sign of decay, unkempt, thrown away. Its small but its there. The memory of how when you walked the streets of Brno you didn’t have to go out of your way to avoid a huge puddle. Cobblestones are uneven everywhere, but entire sidewalks don’t have hills and valleys like these do here. You’re used to avoiding puddles, you don’t live in a well kept up place anyway. But this is worst than back home. How easily you forget, and you are reminded in this foreign country that puddles in sidewalks means poverty.

History: Romani Peoples came mostly from Central and North India. They came in a large group and worked as blacksmiths. They eventually separated into groups going to different countries. Their work as blacksmiths seems to have been their main job, everything from making bells, to swords.

The stereotype that they are criminals comes from the earliest accounts of Romani people, usually in conflict. This was only ever what was talked about because they usually kept low and quiet.

They were persecuted harshly during Nazi occupation. They were in competition to the Aryan race because Aryan actually comes from India. A 10th of the population came back afterwards.

They by no means thrived during Communism, but because everyone worked they at least had something. This is in contention with how the rest of the Czech people see the regime.

Because of this, there is still a lot of discrimination. Children going to ‘special schools’ because of behavioral problems but mostly for segregation.

A organization came up that now tries to help those children from 1st to 9th grade try and live a better life.

The club center has a wall full of children’s aspirations when they become adults. We  learn how when they leave their community, if they even do, they’ll be turned away.

The center helps with children and adults. They help the kids learn as much as they can so they can get into high school. They take extra classes of Czech as they only speak their Roma language. Getting into a high school is hard when you can’t speak the language, especially one that’s difficult even for the people who speak it regularly.

They help adults find jobs, both in the Roma community and in the greater area of Czech civilization.

Fun fact: Here the Romani people are Christian because its easier to believe God will help them faster than the Politicians.

They try to teach the children to not fall into stereotypes, staying away from drugs, alcohol, gambling, petty crimes. its to varied success. They try to help them eat better, to not be taken advantage of and to be able to live the best life out in the real world.

The best way for them to get out into the community is to push into a positive stereotype: Music. They have a music studio where they record their songs. They write, compose, play the instruments, and so on.

Its called Amaro Records. They have a YouTube Channel. Their most recent piece was a Silent Night reworking.

Their songs, their message is their way of being out there, the woman behind me and the song painted on the wall, are reminders of that.


Clowning Around in Brno

It is here where I say hello.

Today on May 27, 2019 Anno Domini, our journey through the Czech Republic took us through Litomysl before landing us in the city of Brno. It is important to note that neither of these places happen to be Prague. I was surprised, too, to learn that the nation of the Czech Republic is more than its capital, and while I did not realize it, so much of the new world I’ve been exploring is so small. We drove through forests and across fields of yellow flowers, wandered into diners and gas stations, and gained new insights into Czech life and culture.

Most strikingly, I’ve noticed, is how widespread the effects of the events we’ve spent the whole week learning about actually were. Prague only offers one small snapshot, of tanks rolling through the streets and brave revolutionaries standing up to multiple regimes. But outside Ground Zero, the wars were also raging. We toured a castle that the Nazis had taken over during their occupation of Czechoslovakia. We met people who endured the communist regime. And though these insights were brief, they were still insights nonetheless. What stuck out to me personally was how widespread the reverence was for Czech president Vaclav Havel. Even two hours from Prague, there was still so much love for a man I only know in the frame of Prague.

That brings me to my next point. Art. In Brno, we went straight to what was referred to as a “clowning workshop,” and as a straight-faced and indifferent man, that terrified me. Being told to dress in “movement clothes” felt a little problematic, as I only own jeans, and am never prepared to move. However, it turned out that the behaviors I normally associate with clowns (honk-honk, y’all) were not the ones taught in this workshop. Rather, it was more of a workshop for finding connection with scene partners in various ways. In short, it was an improv workshop, and boy do I love improv.

I’m noticing in the Czech Republic’s contemporary art scene a strong sense of stream-of-consciousness collaborative theatre, and as a playwright, that both terrifies and fascinates me. As president of Susquehanna’s improv club, I am no stranger to generating stories out of thin air. But in the United States, it’s a hobby, some way for students to let loose and have fun. Here, it’s a practice. Our mentor Filip Teller honed it as an art.

So is this where art is going? Improv? Stream of conscious? The raw viscera of content creation? On one end, this is great. We get to know the artists intimately. They become human. On the other end, this is frightening. I as a playwright live on the draft, on the idea that through the intellectual refinement of one artist, I can churn our a potent piece of art. But the Czech contemporary art scene throws that out the window. Filip Teller needs no script, only a concept. The avant-garde artists of a couple days ago explored difficult concepts through abstract collaboration. In face of all this, what’s one theatre-man screaming at a piece of paper and hoping a dramatic manuscript spawns from it going to do? What mark is that going to leave?

And then I remember Vaclav Havel.

I have read his plays, and I love them. But surprisingly, they’re not staged often. They’re good scripts, but they don’t speak as potently to contemporary times as avant-garde theatre or as improvised farce. And yet Vaclav Havel is adored. Why? Because he fought for what was right. He created art and subverted a Communist regime and even if we don’t recreate that art, that doesn’t make his contribution invalid. Likewise, so long as I support what I feel is write, so long as my art has purpose, what does it matter?

What a world I’m in, where clowning around in Brno could have such a magnificent purpose. Just goes to show, maybe my world was just too small. I’m glad it’s gotten a little larger.

This is Steven Christopher McKnight, a playwright of unknown origin and bright destination, signing off. Na shledanou!


Nothing says “Welcome to Litomysl” quite like an uncomfortably long bus ride, a Czech gas station hot dog, and a tour of the symbol of wealth and opulence of 18th century nobility. All jokes aside, Litomysl is a lovely little town and it provides a beautiful contrast from the hustle and bustle of Prague. Litomysl is a small country town built around a 18th century castle, and our time here  began with a tour of the castle and the renaissance theatre within. The tour was brief, but we got to see the still intact rooms of the castle, which were decorated beautifully with intricately painted wood and no actual marble or stone. Jokes aside again, the wood was painted beautifully, and if the tour guide hadn’t told us we would have had no idea that the whole thing was wood at all. The theatre itself was a treat, especially for us theatre students, and offered a perfect in person example of forced perspective and court theatre.

After the castle, the group split for dinner and adventures, and my group found itself at a lovely little bar with an underground section, and despite Litomysl not being nearly the tourist town that Prague is, the experience was warm and inviting. We ended up sitting at a table in a adorable bar surrounded by friends (and a comfortable distance away from our professors, who had just happened to find the same place) knocking back Pivos in the shade of the setting sun. While an uneventful day by comparison to some (I’m lookin’ at you, Cirqueon), that didn’t stop us from making the best of it.

Na Zdravi,


Snapshots of Art

Today was a day filled with many forms of art.

A few of us went on a morning excursion to see the works of David Cerny around Prague. When we would find a sculpture of his we would stop to take a photo. Sometimes we would even take a picture with the statue, pointing to it, asking the question is that new photo art itself? Where does the art live, on our phones? Or in Prague, as a pleasent surprise to be enjoyed in the moment?

Cell phones. All over the Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, Jewish Quarter and Memorials here in Prage. 50 years ago sure, some photos would be taken on vacation, but not nearly as many as our selfie-stick, image crazed generation take today. When I first saw the strangely placed embryo my first instinct wasn’t to snap a picture, but look. It’s not everyday you see something so out of the ordinary, it’s not every day you’re in Prague.

However yes, I then snapped a photo.

I kinda knew what I was doing, taking a photo so I could remember it. However the question is, did I take it to remember the moment for me, to show my friends, my family? Or to check it off the list to say that I’ve been there, and I’ve seen it, to brag? Photographs can be all that’s left of memories once a trip has ended, and maybe even become a work of art themselves…

We all then had another experience with photographs in the evening. After a very informative workshop at Alfred ve Dvore where we learned about the history of the company and what kind of performance art that can happen there. We did an excercise where we  made a ‘band’ using our bodies and making sounds. We also did an exercise where we wrote down all of the things we love. Some wrote paragraphs, some wrote lists. Some wrote poems, some wrote disco lyrics. We learned that being ourselves is the best thing you can do, telling your truth and your story is a powerful form of art.

Finally, we had a special screening of a work of art, a film. Made of a random Czech man’s home movies, following him from boyhood to old age. We all had a different experience watching footage from this person’s life. At the end of it as we were reflecting upon what we had just watched someone made a comment that this was once someone’s home movies, and now was taken and turned into a performance piece. A film  where people who did not know this man or his family made opinions, guesses on what their life was like.

This comment made me realize that the photos and videos I took today maybe will become art again later on. We eventually all become figures of the past. However from watching the film, I saw that this man in a dark time in history had a beautiful life. Art was all around us today, the sculptures, the buildings of Prague, and at the theater space too. We took photos, we put our phones down too, and enjoyed the moment. We lived. Who knows maybe our tourist snapshots will be turned into art one day.

“Calling on in Transit”

By Nick Cardillo

I’m not really sure that you can call me an R.E.M. fan – I listen to the greatest hits for sure (“Shiny Happy People”, “Losing my Religion”, “Man on the Moon” etc.) from time to time, but I’m not a dedicated fan by any means. That hasn’t stopped me from finding their music interesting, especially when listening to the song “Radio Free Europe.” Listen to it once and it will sound incomprehensible. Listen to it again in a vain attempt to decipher its meaning, and listen to it a third time to simply find yourself nodding along to the music without even knowing why.

There is a simple reason that “Radio Free Europe” sounds as garbled as it does – lead singer Michael Stipe hadn’t finished all the lyrics by the time of recording – but, since I woke up with the song stuck in my head knowing full well we were visiting the real Radio Free Europe today, I decided to look into what those indecipherable lyrics were trying to say. The song is a cautionary measure against the power of the station, spreading more propaganda than it was messages and broadcasting more lies than hope from the United States. I wondered if my image of the institution could be colored by this revelation.

In short, it was not.

Today, handling all facets of multimedia, Radio Free Europe is an international news organisation, and touring their facilities – stealing glimpses of reporters translating stories from Arabic into English and cutting together news videos – was fascinating to me. I was in awe of the power of this free press who no doubt had given so much hope to citizens of oppressed countries for generations. Striking photographs of these people and locations lined the walls of the building and I so wanted to hear the stories that went along with these still images capturing only a second of something that I knew was much greater.

I was very soon able to hear from someone who had called Radio Free Europe an inspiration: Monika Pajerova, a student activist during the Velvet Revolution of 1989, who became one of the leading figures in the opposition. Ms. Pajerova could not have been more of an inspiration, speaking of her experiences on the front lines of protests clashing with the official police as she and other students and citizens of Prague advocated for a free government. Despite its frequency being jammed in the Czech Republic, Monika listened to Radio Free Europe and called the woman whose voice came through crackled and indecipherable in her own right as her hero.

Ms. Pajerova was excited to speak to us about American politics, too, and their impact on the global scale and, as we left, she assured us that will be our generation that makes the change we wish to see in society.

If Radio Free Europe was able to in any way foster someone as influential and inspirational as Monika Pajerova, then I’m gonna have to disagree with R.E.M.

Remembering Those Who are Lost In Josefov

One of the most interesting places that everyone should take their time seeing in Prague, is Josefov, the old Jewish quarter in the North of the Old Town. While we were there we spent our time immersing ourselves in the Jewish culture, architecture and history. I have to say, when we went on the tour around the area, it was one of the more emotionally draining days that we have had thus far on the trip (along with the day trip to Ledice).

It was heartbreaking to see that not many of the buildings are still standing; I believe only three of the Synagogues are left. Walking around in more recent years, you would have never known that near the old town square was where the Jews used to live. Now in place of all the old buildings that have fallen are luxury brand stores, fancy apartments and hotels lining the streets.

Beginning our walk along some of the streets in the Jewish quarter, our guide pointed out gold cobblestones mixed in with the regular millions of other cobblestones that make up the streets of Prague. She stated that those golden cobblestones are markers that sat directly outside of where the Jewish families houses would be located when they still lived there. Specifically, Jewish families who were kicked out or deported.  It’s one of those things where your too busy looking up and admiring the amazing architecture around you, that you forget to sometimes look down. You would be surprised to see maybe even more important things that you would have normally not payed attention too.

During our time at the Jewish quarters we visited the Maisel synagogue, Pinkas synagogue and the Spanish Synagogue (pictured below) as well as the old Jewish cemetery. The Spanish Synagogue was the most impressive historical Jewish monument that I saw that day. The inside was beautiful and more unique than any other synagogue that we went to that day.

The Pinkas Synagogue was especially tough when your going through and looking at almost 80,000 different names that are plastered all over the walls to remember those from Bohemia and Moravia that they have lost. It really does something to a person. If reading the names on the walls doesn’t move you, the children’s drawings upstairs most definitely will. The exhibition of artwork from the children date back to work that the kids made when they were kept at Terezin ghetto during the second world war before they were gassed and killed in Auschwitz. Being Jewish myself, I had an extremely hard time taking everything in while walking through the memorials.

What was even more devastating than the Synagogues was walking through the Old Jewish Cemetery. The landscape is very jagged and misshapen. This happens because there are so many bodies with so little room that there are many layers of bodies underneath and piled on top of each other. The cemetery was founded in the early part of the 15th century and lasted until 1786 which makes it one of the oldest still existing cemeteries in the world. Moreover, a staggering 100,000 people are buried there to this day.

The history and roots here in the Czech Republic, mainly Prague are utterly amazing. I keep learning new things each day and am seeing myself gain even more knowledge wherever we go. Even though this was a tough day for some of us, it’s important to learn about the people who lived here not too many years ago.

Communism and More Communism

Today we left the dormitory to catch the tram to make it to our lecture about the Prague Spring and the period of normalization that followed it. During this lecture we learned about how young Czech men and woman protested communist rule in the late 1960’s but the Soviet Union came into Prague to suppress the changes that were occurring. Following the suppression the government made it their mission to create pride for their country and normalize communism and this period lasted for another 20 years.

In the afternoon we went to the Communist museum where we were led around by a tour guide. The museum covers communism in Czechoslovakia from the 1940’s to the 1980’s. It covered  everything from art, education, daily life, the army, censorship and the oppression of the people living under the communist state. At the very end of the tour we watched a short movie with reel of different protests that led to the downfall of communist rule in Czechoslovakia. It was another fun and educational day here in the Czech Republic.