A Hummingbird's Sojourn

A loving and fun mother, daughter, friend, lover, thinker, registered nurse and Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) *look it up*. I strive to see/make the best of any given situation. Enjoys books and the arts, especially architecture.
  • Day7

    Light it up!

    January 20, 2017 in Czech Republic

    I was able to time this picture of Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge just right yesterday evening, my last night in Prague, before heading to Vienna for a couple of days. It reminded me of a funny story I heard.

    In 1989, the Iron Curtain fell here in the Czech Republic. This brought about many wonderful changes, especially concerning the arts. It had been 40 years since anyone from outside the country came to Prague to play any music concerts here. There were many clamoring to get in first and the winner was the Rolling Stones. It is said that EVERYONE in Prague came to that concert, young and old, as it was very exciting.

    The story hours that after the concert, Mick Jaeger and the Velvet Revolution-now-Czech-President, Václav Haval, were having a beer together when Mick told Haval that the Prague Castle was beautiful but it's a shame it's not lit up to be seen at night. Haval should remedy that in Mick Jaeger's opinion. Haval looked at Mick and said hey, man, we just got rid of 40 years of communism and I've got bigger priorities that lighting up Prague Castle. Mick downed his beer, clapped Haval on the shoulder and said, no worries, I've got ya covered. The next morning Mick sent his lighting and engineering crew up to the Castle to install lighting so it can be seen at night, using funds out of his own pocket (about £86,000).
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  • Day6

    Defenestration-Old Town Square, Prague

    January 19, 2017 in Czech Republic

    I learned a new word while in Prague: defenestration. It's a cool word I really like. It means to throw someone out the window to their death. The people of Prague define this as a time of cleansing in which bodies fly out windows from very high locations and this has happened twice in their history, very pivotal moments in the Czech's historical tapestry.

    The First Defenestration of Prague to place in the early 1400's and brought about the Hussite Wars. In school, I had been taught that Martin Luther brought about Protestant Reform. However, I have since learned that a Czech man by the name of Jan Želivský, a Hussite priest, came before Luther. Jan Hus believed Mass should be said in common language, not Latin and indulgences (a way to reduce the amount of punishment one has to undergo for sins, usually paid in coins or favors to the church/priests) are the wrong way to go about having sins absolved. Jan Hus was very vocal about his opposition to the Roman Catholic Church's practices so the city of Prague took some Hussites captive. Jan Has and his followers took up arms and marched on the city council, demanding the Hussites be released. City Council refused so the ppl threw the city council, some 13 members, out the window. This event precipitated the Hussites Wars, which lasted until 1436. The Hussites prevailed and the Bohemian lands for the next 200 or so years were quite lenient in their religious freedoms. Protestants, Catholics, and Jews lived and worshipped where they wanted to in Prague for a little while.

    Jan Has is honored in Old Town Square by a huge statue. During the Nazi occupation of Prague, citizens would silently protest the German presence by sitting peacefully at the base of the Jan Has statue in the Square

    The next defenestration took place around 1621. The Bohemian King was quite religiously tolerant, there had been religious freedom for almost 200 years. The Holy Roman Emperor, who happened to be the Austrian-Hungarian king wanted the Bohemian lands for his own, so in the name of the Church declared the Bohemian King was too lenient. Austrian-Hungarian king sent some representatives of the Church with an armed guard, who the Czechs defenestrated, but the two men didn't die. The legend says they were saved from death by angels but in reality there was a pile of horse manure under the window that softened their landing. The Holy Roman Emperor was pretty upset about the fact the Czechs threw the Church's reps out the window and declared war. He sent his army to Prague, rounded up the heads of all the royal Bohemian families and their sons (21 total) and brutally beheaded them in the Town Square for all to see, in retribution for the defenestration. Hence the start of the Thirty Years War. This completely wiped out the Bohemian nobility bloodlines and why there is no longer Bohemian royalty.

    This event is commemorated in 21 cobblestone crosses and swords crossed with a crown of thorns to represent their martyrdom in Old Prague Square with the date, 1621.
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  • Day5

    The Jewish Quarter

    January 18, 2017 in Czech Republic

    The peak Jewish population here in Prague at one time made up 1/3 of all the inhabitants of this city. There were periods of time when Prague experienced religious freedoms (I'll talk more on that in another post) but the majority of Prague's historical behavior towards the Jewish people who lived here has not always been the best. For instance, they were only allowed to live in the Jewish Quarter, which was the slum of the slums, along the river. It was located in lowest elevation of the city and every 10-15 years the river would flood as rivers tend to do, causing massive damage to their homes and shops. The river waters also stirred up yucky things better left undisturbed like disease and human pollution. The Jewish people of Prague were taxed more than the non-Jewish residents of the city and a few times a year the King of the Austrian-Hungary Empire would forgive all the debts of his ppl out of his great benevolence. As the Jewish held most of the debts, their income source would plummet, a difficult life becoming even more so.

    Then there is the Jewish Cemetery of Prague, a plot of land in the middle of the Jewish Quarter. When you look at it, it's like a hill in between buildings. My first thought was they raised the ground where they buried their dead so that their resting places wouldn't be disturbed by the flood waters. Sadly, that is not the case. You see, when the original cemetery was filled and there was no more room to bury anyone, the Jewish ppl asked the city for another place to burial ground, they needed more land. The city said no, there is no more land to give but we can give you soil. So they put another layer of earth on top of the graves already there, just moving the gravestones up. This went on for generations and at least 10 layers. There is an estimated 40, 000 graves in that small area, stacked on top of each other. The headstones are jagged and jumbled, all smushed together, not enough for everyone that is buried there. It was quite an experience to be near something like that.

    The Jewish Quarter is no longer a slum and the city raised the level of the area so it no longer gets flooded when the river rises. There have been times in Prague's history where religious freedom was widespread and the Jewish people were allowed to live and work where they chose.

    I did not have time this trip to go visit the Jewish Cemetery inside or any of the synagogues. Only saw their outside walls, which looked much like the outside of the other walls in the area. But I knew what was there and I recognized. Nor did I get to see the display of 5,000+ works of children's art that was done at the concentration camps in which the teacher hid them in suitcases under floorboards not found until 10 years after the end of WW II. Prague we'll see me again and I will give proper time and attention to this piece of Prague's historical tapestry.
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  • Day5

    Dem Bones, Dem Bones...The Bone Chapel

    January 18, 2017 in Czech Republic

    Tuesday we traveled to Kuńta Hora to visit the Kostnice Seldec, also known as the Bone Church. It is said that the abbott of the Seldec monastery brought back soil from Palestine to this chapel in the 13th century. He then sprinkled the Holy Land soil all around the cemetery of this little church, making it the most sought after burial ground for all of Central Europe's aristocracy. After the Thirty Years War, they ran out of room to bury ppl so they exhumed those who had been buried there the longest and began piling them in the church to make room for the newly dead. They estimate there are about 40,000 different people's bones used in the church today.

    In about 1840, the family that owned the land at the time, the Schwarzenburgs, hired a woodcarver named F. Rink to create sculptures out of the bones to decorate the chapel and remind us all of the impermanence of life and that death is inescapable. Real cheery, isn't it?

    This is one of the 12 World Heritage ENESCO sites in the Czech Republic and it was fascinating to see and experience first hand. The chapel is still a part of the Roman Catholic Church, although I do not believe they hold Mass or any other church ceremony there anymore.
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  • Day4

    Prague's Astronomical Clock

    January 17, 2017 in Czech Republic

    A fascinating structure is Prague's Astronomical Clock-the Pride of Praha, a pure work of genius. It is made of all mechanical fixtures but one. It shows the seasons, the 24 hr and the 12 hr time measure, what zodiac the earth is in at the moment, and the phases of the moon (the one piece that gets hand-turned every night). It was originally installed back in the 1400s and legend says was commissioned by the city officials. The master clock maker amazed everyone and Prague was very proud of their clock. The city officials were SO happy with the clock and it's maker they threw him a big party with lots of wine and beer. Well into the party, the clock maker was quite wasted, which the city officials intended so they could cut out the clock maker's eyes and cut off his tongue. You see, while they were very pleased with the clock, they were also very afraid of some other city acquiring such a cool clock. In medieval times, instead of having civilised conversation and a contract with a non compete clause, people lose body parts.

    The legend goes on to say the clock maker got his revenge, however. Soon after his eyes and tongue were removed, he timed a well placed jump into the clock tower gears, ending his own life and the working of the clock for many, many years until someone smart enough could come around and rebuild it.

    That's not exactly what happened but it's a great story told as we walked the cobblestone streets. It is beautiful and on the hour, apostles come out and do a little jig, rooster crowing and everything. It is only one of three astrological clocks still in existence and the oldest one still working.
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  • Day3

    Old Town Praha

    January 16, 2017 in the United Kingdom

    Our first full day in Prague, it was recommended to us by an American at our hostel breakfast to do the free walking tour of Old Town. If any of you know my traveling style it is first and foremost to do the walking and/or bus tour to get a broad overview of the history, points of interests, and must-sees of whatever town you are visiting, so this was right up my alley. We bundled up cuz it's snowing weather and took off in search of tour guides. Since neither Fatin or I know Czech, nor do we really know what is considered "Old Town", it was quite funny trying to navigate the streets via the map app on my phone, trying to figure out where and what we were doing. We loved wandering around though and came across some amazing mixes of Baroque styled architecture, a bit of Art Nouveau, and some Medieval gates thrown in there for good measure. And we found our tour guide...Pistis was his name, the Israeli-now-Prague-resident.

    Pistis had a great story. He was living and working in the UK, then met a girl from Prague he really liked. He came to visit her one weekend in Prague, but it was turned out to be awful. They couldn't communicate very well, it was awkward, he had a dreadful time, so he was happy to be back on a plane headed home to the UK. Oh, but wait! When he landed in London, the airport security detained him, questioned him, wanted to know why an Israeli was coming to the UK from Prague, etc., etc. They kept him overnight, by which in the morning they decided his work visa was no longer valid and they sent him back to Prague. He's been in Prague ever since for the past four years and it has become a city he loves. He passes his passion and love for Prague on to the tourists he meets everyday as he gives his tours.

    Pistis says Prague is magic and I am quite inclined to believe him. The name means "doorway" and maybe this place is a doorway, into another place or time or world. Who knows! I will tell you it is a lovely city, safe, clean and beautiful. There is a rich history here that many do not know, but I can guarantee once you find out, you'll see how it's connected to your history somehow.
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  • Day2

    To Connecting Flights - Heathrow, London

    January 15, 2017 in the United Kingdom

    1) The security guys at the check points watch soccer. You can score numerous high fives for knowing details about Giroud's back kick scoring goal last weekend while waiting for your bags to either get exposed to x-ray radiation and decreased ability to reproduce or to get dumped into a red tub then wiped down with a toilet wand.

    2) Do NOT be the group of women headed for somewhere in Africa who used their carry-on luggage to transport a bunch (like 20) of greater than 100 mL bottles of perfume. The security agent will make you either throw it all away and proceed forward or they will let you go back out to the beginning and check that bag, just like the rest of freaking universe. TSA has some serious explaining to do for letting that onboard any international plane out of America. It was jaw dropping... the woman had like a Mary Poppins bag, with never ending bottles of perfume. It was quite embarrassing that an American airport let all that on an airplane. What else could sneak through?

    3) They are serious about the exact size of their clear plastic bag. Security will make you repackage in their preferred size, having to ditch your Poop-ourri Spray, your hand lotion and 4 lip glosses.

    4) Don't bring all your lip glosses on any flight, they are at risk of sudden extermination with no notice.

    5) Hot-natured ppl, don't wear a sweater and jeans, with your knee high compression socks, plus boots onto any flight over 2.5 hrs. I don't care what the travel blogs say about wearing your heavier items on the plane so they don't take up room in your carry-on. That's BS! Be comfortable cuz it's a loooong flight.

    6) A smile and manners goes far in making those around you enjoyable to be around.

    Thank you, that is all for now...

    ~hj
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  • Day1

    ... in Cedar Park

    January 14, 2017 in the United States

    As I frantically pack my carry-on backpack (the only luggage I am hauling around) and double check the many balls flying in the air over my head, the time has arrived for my first international travel sojourn of 2017...Prague, Czech Republic & Vienna, Austria!

    I set sail in the air tomorrow to join my boyfriend's daughter, BfD, at our designated meeting spot, a.k.a. Any Coffee Shop , Prague Airport, on Sunday for five days of an intriguing part of the world. Then I am headed to Vienna, by rail for a few days of whatever the wind stirs up.

    Below is a picture of the current conditions in Prague. A bit snowy, I see. Good thing I have packed my soft long undies and wool socks. BfD did not bring long undies so I'm bringing an extra undershirt for her...and as for the rest of it? We'll just get creative.

    Another point worth mentioning- I'll be staying in a hostel for the first time. The hostel has a signature Prague Pub Crawl. Woo hoo! I guess I'm going to learn to enjoy the taste of beer, whadaya think? This is going to be...adventurously interesting! Haha! (Yes, Ma, I packed my shower shoes and bed liner).

    Until later!
    ~hj
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