When we decided for sure that we were going to London, we knew that we would definitely spend a weekend in Prague, since it’s where I served my mission. And then, a month or two before we were leaving for London there was a web conference from the Czech/Slovak mission president. In this web conference, he mentioned an upcoming reunion of members for the 25th anniversary of the rededication of the Czech Republic for the preaching of the gospel.
This reunion would be taking place on the 24th and 25th of July, which just happened to be the exact weekend we were planning on going to Prague! Lucky us. So we booked our flights and our AirBNB and we were ready to go.
Unfortunately, the weekend got off to a less-than-stellar start when our EasyJet flight was delayed for 3 hours. Yeah. I know. We woke up at 5 in the morning and got to the airport on time, only to have to wait there for three hours. But we made it eventually!
Once we got settled in the flat, we decided to have an early dinner at my favorite restaurant in Prague: the piano restaurant. Fun fact: its real name is Restaurace Na Rozhraní, but for some reason, the missionaries always called it the piano restaurant. Probably because there’s a piano there.
After our delicious dinner—I had svíčková (see left), Daniel had kuřecí řízek (chicken schnitzel)—we made our way over to explore Prague Castle and Old Town. Funnily enough, we followed almost the exact same path as the short tour the APs would take the newly arrived missionaries on, since Prague Castle is only a 15-minute walk from the church building/mission home.
Anyway, we walked from Prague Castle down through Malostranská, over Charles Bridge (where we both rubbed the dog that means we’ll return to Prague—couldn’t miss that) and into old town to Staroměstská namestí, where the famous astronomical clock of Prague is. Basically, this is the best way to see some of the best sights in Prague in a few hours, and you get to truly see the city, since you’re not having to deal with the disconnect that comes when you take the metro.
After a long evening of walking around on cobblestones that definitely didn’t do our feet—or our shoes—any favors, we returned to the flat to get a good night’s rest before our early train to Kutná Hora the next morning.
So, Kutná Hora. It’s a town about an hour and a half from Prague, known best for the Kostnice and the Church of Saint Barbara. Since the train station is closest to the Kostnice (bone church), we stopped there first. Fun fact: it’s one of twelve UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Czech Republic.
Okay, so here’s the gist about the bone church. In the 1200s, the king of Bohemia brought back dirt from Golgotha and sprinkled it in the cemetery around the church. Word got around, and suddenly everyone wanted to be buried in this cemetery. Then, in the 1400s, they started to build a Gothic church in the middle of the cemetery, but they needed a place to put all of the bodies. So they planned a lower level of the church to be used as an ossuary, where they could put all of the bones. Then, in 1870, a man named František Rint (his signature in bones is pictured on the top right) was hired by the Schwarzenberg family (their family crest is the middle picture) to arrange all of the bones the way they are now. Kind of macabre, but very Baroque-esque.
After the bone church, we thought it would be a good idea to walk all the way through the city down to the Church of Saint Barbara. Fun fact: not a good idea. The church is on the complete opposite side of the town from the bone church. Once we actually got to the center of town, it was really cool, but most of the hour-long walk was just highway.
After catching a ride on the tourist shuttle that no city employees seemed to know about, we made our way back to Prague. There, we decided to go on a river cruise to be able to chill and sit for a while after walking all day. So after shopping around to different companies by Charles Bridge, we were off. And the cruise, suprisingly, was probably one of the highlights of the weekend, probably because it was so relaxing, and it was a really easy way to see a lot of the city. We got some beautiful views, just as the sun was setting on my favorite city in the world.
The next morning, we caught a train to Zadni Treban for the anniversary fireside. A couple of members that were baptized during communism bore beautiful testimonies and told about their time in the church. There was a presentation of the history of the church in the Czech Republic, complete with pictures. After that, we split for lunch and mingled. I have to admit, I was a little worried that the members wouldn’t recognize me, but I was, luckily, proved wrong. There were lots of members from Prague there, where I served my last four months, as well as a few members from all of the other areas I served in. It was wonderful to see them again and know that they’re still doing well.
After the fireside, Daniel and I continued on to Karlstejn to see the castle (another real-life Hogwarts; Prague is the coolest, you guys). Fun fact: the hill next to the one that the castle sits on is Knezi Hora, where Czechoslovakia was dedicated and where the Czech Republic was then rededicated after both world wars. The plaque that’s pictured used to be there permanently, but because of past vandalism, the plaque only gets taken up there when the missionaries or members go for a conference.
Okay, I have a funny story from when we were at Karlstejn. So, at Christmastime, these sweets called trdelniky are sold all over. However, in popular tourist destinations, like the old town square, and Karlstejn, trdelniky are sold year round to capitalize on the whole tourism thing. So, anyway, on our way down from the castle, we decided to get one so Daniel could try it. (Pro tip: if you’re ever in Prague, try them. They’re sort of like churros, but bigger and better.)
No sooner did we buy it than a literal swarm of bees started attacking us, apparently in hopes of eating the trdelnik. (Okay, maybe it was just, like, 2 bees. But still.) Well, as you can imagine, chaos ensued. Daniel almost threw the trdelnik to me, freaking out (he is not a fan of bees), and then I started freaking out and tried to pass the trdelnik back to Daniel. But of course, he wouldn’t take it since it seemed like the bee now came as a package deal. Daniel actually considered throwing the trdelnik on the ground so we didn’t have to deal with the bee. Eventually we realized that we were right by a trash can where all the bees had been congregating, so we kept moving. Finally, the bee stopped following us. Also, as a bonus, during this mental breakdown about the trdelnik and the bee, there were definitely several tourists, including a particularly shocked-looking Asian woman and child, that were probably wondered what was wrong with us, since all they could see were two Americans tossing a giant churro in between them and screaming and flailing. Oh, the adventures.
After surviving the Great Bee Attack of 2015, we made it back to Prague, took a nap, went back to the piano restaurant (I told you it was my favorite), and then headed to Petrin, Prague’s version of the Eiffel Tower and the best lookout onto the city. At the base of the hill, there’s a statue that stands as a memorial to the victims of communism. At the front of the statue is a full man, but as the steps go back, more and more of the man is taken away.
In front of the statue, there is also a bronze line that has the estimated numbers of the people affected by communism:
- 205,486 arrested
- 170,938 forced into exile
- 4,500 died in prison
- 327 shot trying to escape
- 248 executed
I love this statue; it’s such a poignant memorial of what communism did to the people in the countries affected. It took away pieces of them, bit by bit.
On our last day in Prague, we attended church, where I got to see even more members that I hadn’t seen the day before at the fireside, and then headed to another of my favorite Prague stops, the Church of St. Cyril and Methodius. The church is historically significant because it’s where the paratroopers who assassinated Reinhard Heydrich (one of Hitler’s right-hand men) had their last stand. And actually, I just learned that they’re making this whole story into a movie, titled Anthropoid (which was the name of the mission). So definitely check that out when it comes out. Anyway, it’s a really cool story that not many people outside of the Czech Republic know about, even though it can be seen as an event that was instrumental to the end of the war, because after Heydrich died, Hitler was furious and ordered the complete destruction of two towns outside of Prague, Lidice and Lezaky. Because of the brutal attacks on these towns, the United Kingdom and then France declared the Munich Agreement to be invalid.
After the museum we walked along the river and into Old Town. We enjoyed some paninis and dessert in a little cafe and then took one last look at the Square (and got some gelato) before heading off to the airport. We later enjoyed the perfect welcome back to London, with pouring rain. Apparently it rained here all weekend. Definitely picked a good time to go to Prague.