This week, I had my first run-in with the law. On my way to a meeting for a potential positive impact event, I accidentally bought the wrong ticket for the metro and got stopped by stern-looking officers before entering the platform. “Fine 800 korunas,” they tell me with a heavy accent. I wasted about thirty minutes pleading with them, showing them the instructions on the ticket machine, pondering leaving my ID with them and just walking, imagining that they are regular people about to pocket my money, and finally caving in after being physically blocked from exiting by the stockier, meaner one who kept claiming that I “don’t respect information.” What does that even mean?! Sketchy as it felt handing over my cash (the equivalent of about $35), I did it, bitterly leaving the metro station with fellow Remote, Max, and taking an Uber to our meeting to literally help the local people. Where’s karma when you need her?
Aside from this negative experience, I fell even deeper in love with Prague and the Czech Republic this week. It quickly became a place I could see myself living, and I enjoyed getting to know it even better.
- The Jewish Museum, where Max and I tour the collection of synagogues that still stand because Hitler intended to turn the Jewish Quarter into a “museum of an extinct people.” The most striking synagogues are the Pinkhas Synagogue, which was converted into a Holocaust memorial featuring handwritten names of 80,000 Czech Jews that were killed and children’s drawings depicting their time at Terezin concentration camp, and the Spanish Synagogue, which has beautiful Moorish characteristics and a collection of synagogue silver. The oldest synagogue in Europe, Old New Synagogue, dates back to the 13th Century and reminds me, again, how similar religious temples are to one another in symbolism (altars) and architecture (this one, Gothic, like many churches). And finally, the Old Jewish Cemetery, with its crooked tombstones from an estimated 12 layers of coffins buried in the earth, serves as a reminder that this was a ghetto for centuries.
- Terezin Concentration Camp, which a group of us traveled about an hour to visit. Terezin was a fortress in the time of the Autro-Hungarian empire, and so ideally situated to be a transitional camp, designed to collect Jews from all over Europe into a ghetto while unknowingly awaiting transport to extermination camps like Auschwitz. While Terezin wasn’t an extermination camp itself, many people died here from disease and poor conditions at the ghetto. We saw the old prison, designed to house political prisoners, including pitch-black solitary confinement cells, and the museum, featuring letters, drawings, documents and artifacts depicting Jewish life during WWII. As expected, it was a heavy trip, complete with reflection on how the world could have allowed this to happen, the realization that it still happens in today’s world, and worst of all, that feeling of not really know how I would act if I were in that kind of extreme situation.
- Don Giovanni Opera at the Estate Opera House, the only remaining opera house where Mozart himself conducted. The opera’s plot (basically, Don Juan) was just ok, but the music and the voices were stunning. Fellow Remote Diane and I experienced it from the orchestra and then a box, feeling very extravagant and special.
The Lost Weekend
One of the few weekends of no plans and staying local, The Lost Weekend turned out to be one of the most memorable. It was Pride week in Prague, so our group had a champagne brunch at one of our apartments, complete with flash tattoos, squealing, and dancing to Beyoncé, and headed to the parade. The parade was really about a block of LGBT and supporter paraders, culminating in a big party in Letna Park. A few of us went to the Letna beer garden, overlooking Prague, and continued drinking our way through the day (a theme for the weekend, hence Lost). We had our own mini-pub crawl after, stopping at a great wine bar in our neighborhood and ending at a dodgy dive bar.
The next day, we went back across the river and basically did it again, this time at a winery by the castle and a beautiful dinner by the water. IS THIS REAL LIFE?! (Answer: Yes. Gloriously, yes.)
It was a relaxing and exhausting weekend all at once, filled with great conversations and a lot of laughter. What more can you ask for?