Last week we again had the pleasure of hanging out with good friends in a beautiful, foreign country. Jay, Emily and Maddie Perry, our good friends from Chattanooga, flew into Prague last Monday and gave us the opportunity to show them around this town we’ve come to know fairly well. We took them through some of the sights we’d already seen ourselves, like Prague Castle, Old Town Square, the Royal Gardens and Letna Sady.
We also explored some new areas with them, like the Jewish Quarter. Touring the historic Jewish Ghetto of Prague is a sobering experience. At the Pinkas Synagogue the walls of the rooms list the names of the tens of thousands of Czech people falling victim to the Holocaust. One area displayed the artwork of children who lived in the Terezín Concentration Camp from 1942-1944. With the help of an art teacher in the camp, Mrs. Friedl Dicker, the children of Terezín expressed themselves through artwork while living in horrible conditions. Friedl and all but 120 of the thousands of children in Terezín camp were killed before the war ended. However, they live on in the thousands of works of art Friedl saved and hid in two large briefcases before she was transferred to Auschwitz. After leaving the gallery of children’s artwork, we entered the Jewish Cemetery and walked along the path snaking its way through the crammed rows of headstones. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. Headstones were stacked back to back like dominoes in much of the cemetery due to the lack of space for new graves. Overall, it was an educational and thought-provoking afternoon, and to be honest, afterwards I kind of needed a drink.
Speaking of, the next day we all took the train out to the town of Plzen, home of the original Pilsner beer. Brian, Jay, Emily and the older girls went on the tour of the brewery, and I took Ali and Liv to the Puppet Museum. While the others learned the science behind open vat fermentation, I exposed my youngest children to prime nightmare material. Hundreds of vacant, wood-carved eyes stared at us ominously while we walked through room after room of marionette history. While I was a bit unnerved by the experience, the girls loved it. The hands-on puppet playroom serving as the last stop on the tour had them entertained for over an hour. We all ended our day in Plzen together at an outdoor cafe and a sleepy train ride back to Prague.
Another day the guys and gals split up for the day. Brian and Jay went rock climbing near the town of Srbsko. After nearly running out of gas (the Carisches never learn), they reached the easy hike up to the rock wall. The climbing was challenging and the rock wasn’t the best quality, but they still had a fun day. With no guidebook and little idea what kind of routes they were climbing up, it was a bit of an adventure.
While they were climbing, us ladies took the 30-minute train ride out to Karlštejn Castle. Built by King Charles of Bohemia in the mid-1300s, the castle is a well-preserved example of Gothic architecture. After climbing the hill up to the castle and eating a picnic lunch, we decided to cough up the money to tour the castle’s interior. Our guide led us on a one-hour walk through massive rooms and gave us details on the lives of the royalty who once lived in them. The girls soaked up every minute of it and loved hearing the multitude of facts about the intricacies of medieval royal life. Yes, I’m being sarcastic. The tour was a little over their heads, especially Ali’s. When I asked her what her favorite part of the castle was she said “the bathroom.” I replied, “Oh, you mean how they had to use those old stone toilets without plumbing?” She looked at me blankly and said, “No Mom. I mean, when I went to the bathroom.”
We had a lot of laughs and made some new memories with the Perry family. Good food, good beer, lots of walking and a soccer game helped round out a great week together. We ended their visit with dinner at our apartment before they boarded an overnight train for Budapest. Exploring Prague was even more fun with good friends. The Perry family can attest to the fact that the Carisches will show our visitors a good time. Any other takers?