Thursday, September 08, 2011

Oregon Arts Orchestra - Prague July 14

We were supposed to be outside loading the bus at 6am, followed by a 6:30 breakfast and then 7am departure for Prague. Kip and I pushed the limits, of course, and showed up to drop our luggage at 6:20. Martin the bus driver wasn't pleased, having already built a puzzle of luggage under the bus and closed up the compartments. Oh well. Someone else came right after us and got the same dirty look.
Off we went to Prague. More sleeping on the bus, of course.
And trying to take pictures of scenery through the bus windows. More joking and goofing off from the back of the bus, also. We had a lot of fun back there.
As we pulled into the city of Prague, we stopped at a corner and two men waiting there jumped onto the bus. It was pretty unusual. It turned out they were our tour guides for Prague. Otto and Charlie. Charlie was hilarious. Otto wasn't bad, just not quite as funny. Charlie would say things like, "the roads we want to drive on are closed so we are going to drive all around until we can find a way to where we want to go." Or, "there are some men marching. I don't know why they are marching but they are marching." He gave us a great description of Czech food, dumplings in particular, and we were all sad when there were no dumplings available at dinner that first night.
After picking up our guides, we headed out of the city to tour a former prison called Terezin.
There had been over a thousand Jews imprisoned there. Hundreds died there, the rest ended up sent to other prison camps. The town near the fortress was used to house thousands more Jews in a sort of limbo state before being shipped to places like Auschwitz.
We toured the fortress prison first. It was sad seeing the way the prisoners were treated. As we got back on the bus I said that I felt like I should hug a Jew. Guy said he felt like being hugged. I was glad we could be there for each other.
Next we went to a building that had been a home for Jewish boys ages 10-15. We watched a movie in super-comfortable seats and most of us fell fast asleep. I woke up coughing about half way through and stayed awake for the rest. It was very sad to see the children, so young and full of life, and to know that they had had everything taken from them, their homes, their belongings, even their families. And that for the majority of them in the film, their lives would be taken from them, too. After the film we walked around the building a little. The wall of the rooms on the main floor were covered with lists of names of the people who had come through there and where they had died. One of our clarinet players found several relatives' names. There were also pictures the kids had drawn there. They looked so much like what my kids would draw, it really got to me. And then I read a poem a boy there had written about how the roses had buds on them and when they bloomed he would already be gone and I just lost it. This isn't what a 10-year-old kid should have as his reality, the knowledge that his life was going to be taken from him. It was a tough tour for me.

When our time was up there I got myself under control and climbed back onto the bus. We weren't as crazy in the back as usual. We probably fell asleep again, though. We found our hotel and got our instructions for the night. Most of the orchestra was going to a PROMS concert at Smetana hall. Most of the back of the bus was skipping it.
Those of us in the deviant group got to relax in our rooms for a bit. Kip checked out the height of the shower. Then, we got to eat dinner at the hotel at 7pm then head over to the metro station to ride the train into the center of the city.
To get to the train, we rode down a super long escalator. It made me dizzy.
When we got downtown, Guy, Mihail, Kip and I split from the main group of Deviants, and headed to the Astronomical Clock which Guy remembered from his previous visit to Prague (I think he's been pretty much everywhere).
We found a cafe on the square near the clock and ordered drinks. The host of the restaurant didn't seem to like us. He stood at the entrance to the outdoor seating and gave us dirty looks periodically. But it wasn't like the restaurant was full. He just didn't seem to like us. Then one of the drinks got spilled all over the table and splashed onto my pants. We asked him for napkins since our server was nowhere to be seen. We motioned to the spilled drink dripping off the table. He grunted and went into the main part of the restaurant. We waited. And waited. He didn't seem to be coming back, so I pulled the cloth off the empty table next to ours and used it to dry my legs and chair, then clean the table. We had a good laugh about that. He never did come back. Eventually our waitress reappeared and we got our check and left.
We wandered from there all around downtown Prague. It was much colder here than it had been in Vienna. A storm had come in that morning and rained on us as we drove north. At this point it was sprinkling and chilly. We tried to find the main bridge that Guy remembered (the Charles Bridge) but overshot it and ended up outside Dvorak hall, where we would perform the following evening. It was a beautiful building. Down the street from there we found a pizza place and slipped in for something warm to drink. We got hot chocolate, and Guy got something fun to spike his with. The chocolate was so thick it was chunky. It was absolutely delicious. And they had wi-fi which was nice. We thought we'd go back after the concert he next night, but ended up not doing it.

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