On Friday morning I started out my day by going on a tour of Communist Prague at 10 30. The tour guide took us around to several buildings which were used by the Communist leaders while they were in power. He also talked about the street in which thousands of students protested, which led to the Velvet Revolution – the end of communism in the Czech Republic – called so because the transition happened smoothly with no casualties. Another stop was on the giant Wenesclaus Square which was a popular spot for public demonstration. One young man publicly set himself on fire in front of the National Gallery at one end of the square as a form of protest. After we had covered several areas in the historic center, we took a tram out towards the suburbs to one of the largest and best preserved nuclear bunkers. The outside of the bunker was covered with graffiti and looks super sketchy. Our guide had to open the steel door which was more than a foot thick and then we descended down about 4 flights of stairs into the bunker. Some areas of the bunker were left as they were – other areas now have an entirely new purpose. The bunker has a bar/ nightclub in one area. A climbing wall is in the center of the stair case. And there is a Nuclear Bunker Museum where they used to store gas masks. There we looked at pictures and learned more about life under communist rule in Prague. The bunker was a little creepy, but an interesting way to learn more about communism.
After the tour, I headed to the post office and I was walking back towards the old town center when it started to rain. I ducked into the tourist office in city hall for shelter and ate my picnic lunch there while watching people with umbrellas hurry by outside. After a while the rain let up quite a bit so I walked across the Charles Bridge and caught a tram up to the Prague Castle. The Prague Castle is high up on a hill overlooking the rest of the city. The weather was still really off and on so I decided to buy a student ticket to visit all of the indoor parts of the castle. With the pass, I got to see the St. Vitus Cathedral, the Golden Lane, the Old Royal Palace, The Story of Prague Castle exhibit, the Basilica of St. George, the Picture Gallery, the Rosenburg Palace, and the Powder Tower all for just 10 dollars. As you can imagine, seeing all of these things took a few hours. I really liked the Golden Lane – a reconstructed servants area, because it showed typical Medieval housing and had stories about some of its most famous residents. I also liked the St. Vitus Cathedral because of the beautiful stained glass there. I was a little disappointed by the rest of the castle though. Hardly anything authentic survives, so while learning about the history of the place was interesting, I would have preferred to do so in a much quieter and calmer atmosphere without tourists gawking and chatting loudly.
I walked back down the hill and crossed back over the river towards the town square. For dinner I had a delicious sandwich from Bohemia Bagels, then a piece of strawberries and cream cake from Bakehouse. Earlier in the day, I had signed up for a Beer Tour from the same tour company as the Communism Tour, because they give a 33% discount on your 2nd tour and I already had the student discount, it was really cheap. The tour started at 6 30. The tour guide took us around to 2 different microbreweries and one pub where we sampled different kinds of beer. He also told us a little about the history of beer in the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic has consistently ranked as the number 1 country for beer consumption in the past few years, above Germany and Ireland! Pilsner originated in Pilsen, in the Czech Republic and served as the original Pils, a light, smooth beer. I made new friends from Germany, Mexico, and the UK. After the tour ended, we decided to get some food and hang out for a bit. I had to leave after a while because the metro closes between 12 and 1 in Prague. I was exhausted after such a busy day!