Friday, June 07, 2019

Today, I took the students to the most beautiful café in the world.

Today, I took the students to the most beautiful café in the world.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The train ride today was far better than yesterday.  Not only was the weather just cooler in general, but there was no commotion in getting on the train or in getting our seats.  We had lovely views of the “Saxon Switzerland” as the train climbed up the Elbe towards the Czech border. 

Arrival in Prague was relatively smooth and I was able to get our metro passes without too much difficulty.  The weather was warming up, but it was still much cooler than it had been in Berlin last week. 

Our first stop was to get Czech koruna, which went mostly ok.  Then we got lunch and ate it in the lovely Franciscan Gardens in Nove Mesto.  With food in our stomachs and money in our wallets, we were ready to see the city.

We briefly walked through Old Town Square past the Astronomical Clock.  I promised them multiple times that we would come back to see it in action.  Our goal was the Jewish Museum, which is split among several synagogues.  The Spanish Synagogue is closed for renovations until 2021, but the rest were open, including the Alt-Neu Shul. 

After all that walking, I thought the students deserved a really nice rest break, so I took them to Kavárna Obecní dům, the most beautiful café in the world. A stunning Art Nouveau masterpiece, it nearly moved one student to tears. They all ordered cakes or ice cream and sat enjoying the ambiance and live music (there was a pianist and saxophone player who performed a rather eclectic mix of Ennio Morricone (the main theme from Once Upon a Time in the West) and others. 

After we were fully rested, we headed back outside to see the Charles Bridge and explore a little of the Mala Strana side.  Along the way, we saw a huge group of Bulgarians drinking and singing (the same song, over and over).  I only figured out just now that they were Bulgarians as they were waiving an enormous white, green, and red flag, which the Google tells me is the Bulgarian flag. 

“Here we have the mating call of the drunk human male,” I told the students.  “Notice the prominent display of plumage in the hopes of attracting a female.” 

What I love about Mala Strana is how much quieter and peaceful it is from the mad cap nature of the Stare Mesto.  There are green parks, little canals, and quiet lanes.  We saw a park filled with people picnicking or lying out on the grass and one student asked how it was different from an American park, as she felt there were clear differences.  Besides the length of the grass, you just rarely seen Americans lying out or picnicking in the same way (except perhaps in Central Park, New York). 

I arranged for dinner at a good vegetarian restaurant nearby.  One of the students wanted a Shabbat meal, but it was just too difficult to buy it in advance, nor could I tell online when the meal would even be served.  I asked her if she would be ok with the vegetarian place and she said yes.  I paid for any student who wanted to come.

I asked the students how they felt about the differences and similarities between Prague and Berlin.  Several said they preferred the diversity of Berlin and felt that the huge amount of tourists and tourist traps in Prague made it feel less safe.  One student said that while she felt comfortable walking around Berlin alone at night, she didn’t think she would feel the same way about Prague.

Tomorrow, we head to Terezin (aka Theresienstadt).

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