Friday, April 26, 2013

When the Parents Come to Visit

At the beginning of this month (the after that week where I went to five different countries), I had some wonderful visitors! My parents came over to spend my mom's spring break with me!

While my friends and roommates have had visitors that I have helped show around, this was the first time that I had guests! 

We were a little concerned, because my mother had discovered her passport was expiring the week after she got back, and technically, in the Czech Republic, your passport is supposed to be valid for three months beyond your stay. And I had heard a couple horror stories about people being not allowed to board their flights in Germany (where my parents were flying through) to  Prague because of soon-to-be-expiring passports. Being the calm and collected daughter I am, I assured my mother that everything would be fine and there would be no problems, as she was leaving before it expired...all the while I was inwardly panicking!

So, when their plane landed at 9:00 and they didn't appear, and started to get concerned. And then I waited...and all the passengers on the flight went their separate ways...and I still waited....and waited...and about two hours went by and they finally appeared. Thankfully, the problem was that their original flight had been delayed, causing them to miss their connection, not anything to do with the passports.

After a taxi ride to my flat and allowing them to rest a bit, we set out to see my Prague! Thankfully, Easter Monday is a holiday here, so I was off of school anyway!
My Parents Enjoying the View of Prague Castle from the Charles Bridge

One of the first places I took my parents was to one of my favorite restaurants in Prague, The Louvre Cafe. (Einstein used to hang out there!) After our late lunch, we walked down the Vltava to the Charles Bridge. This was on my father's "Must See" list. After walking across the bridge (and insisting the rub the statue that guarantees the visitor will return to Prague), we caught Tram 22 up to the castle. We walked through the castle, so they could see the beautiful view of MY city. :) I was so happy to be able to share my home with my parents!

The next day, my parents were so tired, I took pity on them and let them sleep and I went back to work. Wednesday, however, I took off to spend with them. We had yet to venture to Old Town Square, so that was our first stop. My father really wanted to see the statue of Jan Hus. Then, we grabbed some lunch and headed to the Jewish Quarter. I had never been there. It's closed on Saturdays, and typically Sunday is my "lay-around-at-home" day, so it was nice to be able to see a place I had heard so much about.

In many cities in Nazi-Occupied Europe, the Synagogues were destroyed and Jewish cemeteries were desecrated. In fact, after the Jewish Ghetto was opened to the outside world, much of Prague's Jewish Quarter had already been destroyed. It wouldn't have been surprising if Hitler had finished the job. Instead, the six synagogues and the cemetery that remained were preserved to be a museum about an "extinct" people group. (Never mind that he was the one trying to make them extinct.) Today, these remainders of the Jewish Quarter are a museum about the Jewish Community of Prague--but thankfully, not about an extinct people group. In fact, at least one of the synagogues still holds services on Saturdays.

Our first stop in the Jewish Quarter was Pinkas Synagogue.This synagogue is a memorial to the 80,000 Jewish victims of the Holocaust from Moravia and Bohemia. The names of all the victims are etched onto the wall. Standing there reading name after name after name was emotionally exhausting. All those lives cut short due to one evil mad man. It was horrifying. Pinkas Synagogue also has art work from Terezin, a concentration camp that was here in the Czech Republic. There was an artist there who held art classes for the children in the camp. The artist was later sent to a death camp, but left behind a suitcase filled with thousands of pictures the children had painted. (Also, Terezin was used by the Nazi's in a propagation film to show the Red Cross that "the Jews were being well treated and liked it there". This is the propaganda film that the one in "The Boy with the Striped Pajamas" was based on.) After this solemn time, we left the synagogue for our next stop--the Jewish Cemetery.

The Jewish Cemetery
For centuries, the Jewish Quarter was surrounded by walls, shutting the ghetto off from the outside world. The Jews were only allowed to bury their dead in certain areas. This meant when they ran out of space in the cemetery, they removed the tombstones, added a new layer of dirt, replaced the tombstones, and buried more bodies. I read someone that some experts think there may be as many as 100,000 people buried in this small space.

After visiting the cemetery, we went to the Jewish ceremonial hall and learned all about Jewish Burial customs. Then, we traveled to another synagogue to learn about Jewish daily life. Our final Jewish Quarter stop was the Spanish Synagogue (after taking a slight detour past some of my favorite stores--the ones I can't afford to walk into but drool over anyway-- Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Burberry, Hugo get the picture). The Spanish Synagogue has to be the prettiest and most ornate synagogue in Prague. I think it is definitely my favorite.

Our next stop was my favorite gelato place, Cream and Dream. It was the first time my mom had ever tasted gelato. I'm glad I could be the one to introduce her to the yumminess! After that we wandered to Bethlehem Chapel (the final place on my dad's "Must-See" list). I had walked past the chapel before, but never had gone inside. After learning about all the different reformers-- Hus, Luther, Wycliffe, Tyndale, etc.--it was neat to be able to see where one of them actually lived and preached. My preacher father definitely enjoys that, as well.

On Thursday, I got to show my parents off at school. My mom used her English teacher abilities to do my read aloud (from "The Tale of Despereaux") and my dad used his electrical expertise to teach the introductory lesson for my electricity unit. He did this for me while I was living in Guatemala, and my kids there loved it, so I was excited for him to do it again. It helps that he actually knows what he's talking about. My knowledge of electricity typically extends to:

Light is not working.
Step 1: Check the fuse box. (Easy for short people to reach than the light bulb!) 
Step 2: If that is not the problem, then change the light bulb.
Step 3: If that doesn't work, call dad.

So, I'm very glad someone who actually knew what they were talking about had the chance to teach them a little. Electricity is certainly NOT my area of expertise!

My dad had my kiddos act out the parts of an electric circuit.
  Something I have appreciated about living in Europe is the amount of history available at our fingertips--especially when it comes to field trips! Fourth and fifth grade had just finished studying WWI before my parents' visit, so on Friday we went on our WWI field trip. Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian-Hungarian throne, was assassinated in 1914. This sparked the war. Franz Ferdinand was married to a Czech lady and lived not to far from Prague at Konopiste Castle. We took the students on a field trip to the castle.

If you have ever seen the movie "The Illusionist", this is the castle that was used for the home of the Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary. We took the train to Benesov, the village close to the castle. From there, we had planned to take a shuttle to the castle, but a sign at the place the shuttle left from claimed it wasn't running (though we did see it later in the day). It worked out just as well to take taxis to the castle. My kids thought this was quiet the adventure, since we had learned earlier in our unit that the French had rushed their soldier to the First Battle of Marne using Parisian taxis. (It's just like the Battle of Marne, Miss Miller!)

The bear in the moat was another highlight of the castle.

We had lunch and then took our tour of the castle. There are three different tours to choose from. The first two are the cheaper ones. The last tour is more expensive--but it takes you to Franz Ferdinand's private quarters. We took the second tour. This took us to the apartments set aside for the Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary (he never stayed there, but they were set aside for him anyway), the chapel, the armory, and the library. We also got to the lift (elevator for you Americans). The lift had a couch in it--which my kids raved about. Most of them agreed that their favorite place was the armory. My boys loved seeing all the different weapons that Franz Ferdinand owned. He was quiet the hunter. He killed thousands of animals--and the castle only had a 3% or so of what he killed. Still, antlers, animals heads, and trophies were all over the place. There were some chandeliers made from antlers that I suggested my mom tell her brother about (my uncle likes to hunt), but she didn't think my aunt would appreciate the idea. :)

The bibliophile that I am, my favorite part was the library....although I did find the ashtray made from an elephant's foot to be a little creepy and the elephant trunks hanging there as decoration to be disturbing. :S I also thought the chapel was beautiful. They also host weddings, so I may have pointed it our as a possible wedding location for the future. (Jokingly, that is!)

On Saturday, my parents packed up in the morning and we set off to visit my favorite place in Prague--Vysehrad. i love the views of the city from there, and it's not quite on the typical tourist path. (And it's also really close to CISP's new building!) After that we went to another of my favorite restaurants (The Hairy Ghost--I can never remember the Czech name). After walking back down to the bridge so they could pick up a few more gifts for people, we went back to my flat so we could meet the taxi to go back to the airport. Short visit--but so glad I had the chance to share my home with them. :)