In the previous installment of our honeymoon travelogue, Cori and Ryan see Darth Vader.
We decided not to go in, but spent a few hours wandering around the amazing gardens. After spending three days in a crowded city, it was nice to have some fresh air and peaceful surroundings.
We walked from one end of the grounds to the other (which was much further than expected!), just enjoying the beautiful day.
We then hopped in the car and headed to Wittenberg, Germany. The church where I was baptized is Lutheran, so my “heritage” (as much heritage as one can have after becoming a Christian at 17) is Lutheran. Which made the doors on the church in Wittenberg a Big Lutheran Deal for me — they are where he nailed his 95 Theses telling the Catholic church “Hey now, wait a minute. I think you’re off base…”
The church wasn’t what we were expecting. I forgot that it was originally a Catholic church, so it was a lot fancier than the simple wood church I’d conjured in my mind. The doors are also on the side of the church, not the front. The Theses are cast in bronze on the doors and were difficult to read up close because of the construction (our photos were taken through a fence).
Oh yes, and it was all under construction. Much of Wittenberg, not just the church. A big Lutherversary is coming up in 2017 — 500 years since the Reformation. BIG LUTHERAN PARTY Y’ALL. I can’t help but think Luther would hate it.
We walked around Wittenberg for a while (it was really a quaint little place), trying to find a place to eat on the crowded streets. This was the only place on our entire trip where we encountered someone who didn’t speak English. Which was fine — we just looked at the menu and picked something that sounded sort of familiar. I ended up with something like beef jerky on polenta. It was tasty.
We also came across these “stumbling blocks” (or “stolpersteine”) which are little memorials for people who were taken from their homes and killed (and a few that survived) by the Nazis. One historian said about them: “It is not what is written [on the stolpersteine] which intrigues, because the inscription is insufficient to conjure a person. It is the emptiness, void, lack of information, the maw of the forgotten, which gives the monuments their power and lifts them from the banality of a statistic.” That’s exactly how it felt to look at them.
After Wittenberg we were off to Prague! The drive was a little dicey — lots of detours and hoping that our Czech (ha) was good enough to figure out which freeway we needed to be on (surprisingly, we figured it out). Our hotel (another Marriott, thank you lovely parents) was at the airport, but it was an easy train/bus ride into the center of town. I apologize in advance for all the rooftop photos that follow. Prague was the prettiest city from above!
On our first day, we spent some time in the big Prague square, which has an Astronomical Clock. With the large crowds that gathered every hour, we were expecting something incredibly impressive, but it was an understated affair when the clock chimed. Still, the fact that it’s working after 600 years is pretty darn amazing.
We also climbed to the top of the clock tower to take in the views of the square and the rest of Prague. The staircase and elevator were particularly cool:
Once at the top, it didn’t matter which direction we looked, it was all breathtaking and gorgeous. Other than one small bomb, Prague made it through WWII without any direct damage. It’s gorgeous and old and feels like it’s been there forever. We both loved it.
Because we’d enjoyed our bike tour in Berlin so much, we decided to sign up for a bike tour of Prague.
The two tours couldn’t have been more different, but we loved them both. Our tiny group included our tour guide Vladimir, a fun-loving couple from Ireland, Jen and Ger, and a guy from Saudi Arabia whose name I just can’t remember (sorry, friend!). The tour was cool because it was like Vladimir was just showing us his favorite parts of his city. It was a very relaxed ride and we all had a great time. Here a few of the things we saw on our tour:
Closer views of Prague Castle, which we were going to visit the next day:
The John Lennon Wall, which is filled with messages of hope and peace (and QR codes):
The “Fred and Ginger” building, one of the few modern buildings in all of Prague:
And the Theater of the Estates, where Mozart once played:
That afternoon, the five of us from the bike tour went out to eat at a little restaurant near the bike tour. I had my one and only $1.50 Prague Pilsner — pretty good, though it’s way more beer than I can usually put away.
Ger and Ryan hit it off, talking Subarus and rally racing. Jen and I talked travels. Our Saudi Arabian friend was in town for a soccer match, so we talked about his travels. We had a great time getting to know them all.We said goodbye to our new friends and spent some more time watching the musicians in the square, enjoying the beautiful evening.
Ryan and I walked back to our train station over the Charles Bridge, one of the most famous landmarks in Prague. Buskers and beggars, artists and musicians, it’s quite an experience. We also went to the top of the Old Town Bridge Tower to see the bridge from above (we just love seeing a city from above!):
Our walk across the Charles Bridge also afforded incredible views of Prague Castle at night.
The next morning, we started our day in the Jewish section of town, recommended by Vladimir the day before. We have very few photos from the sites we visited (no photos allowed in most places), but if you’re ever in Prague, we both highly recommend it, especially the Pinkas Synagogue.
On the walls of this synagogue are written the names of the Jewish victims of the holocaust just from Moravia and Bohemia (what is now the Czech Republic). The number of names is crushing. Room after room of names on the walls, one after the other, floor to ceiling. It’s unfathomable and brought me to tears. I just kept begging forgiveness for humankind for allowing this to happen. Broke my heart and I think it was one of the most moving places I’ve ever been.
We also visited the Old Jewish Cemetery, which was just a sight to behold. It’s said that upwards of 100,000 people are buried in this tiny cemetery, with 12,000 gravestones visible. It was incredible and staggering.
We then walked up to Prague Castle, which is more of a compound than a castle. We visited the toy museum, which was fun and a nice relief after such heavy morning. It had a whole display of toy robots, which made me happy (I love robots):
The cathedral in Prague Castle was incredible. Mostly Gothic (the Gocthicky-est of Gothic), but the top was built later so it’s oddly plain sandstone. You can see the part built later in this photo in the upper left:
The front of the cathedral is no less impressive (couldn’t even get it one photo!):
We spent the few extra dollars to walk through the cathedral and we’re glad we did. Anyone can enter the front part, but once you get past the crowds you can walk through the rest of the cathedral in relative peace and quiet. The stained glass here was absolutely the most amazing I’d ever seen. Some was very old, quite a bit was new. None of our photos do it justice, but you can get an idea here.
Ryan wanted to climb the tower at the cathedral, but my knees were finally done. After all the days on the motorcycle, our big hike, and then walking and biking around Legoland, Berlin, and Prague, I had a serious case of Old People Creaky Knees. So I decided to wait below. Ryan took a photo of me waaaaay down below:
We made it an early night and headed back to our hotel, knowing we wanted to get an early start to Austria the next day!
In the next installment of our honeymoon travelogue, Cori and Ryan careen down a mountain and around a racetrack.