After two weeks of settling into Wrocław, we are back to traveling with our “Negotiating Identities” class. On this particular weekend trip we are headed southwest; first to Prague and then to Dresden.
We left Wrocław mid-morning on Thursday ecstatic to be seeing the Czech Republic that afternoon. With a few pit stops on the way, we finally made it to Prague around 5pm where we were greeted with a beautiful buffet and Krista. Krista works at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. and was our guide in Prague for the weekend.
Following dinner and a discussion on the weekend’s program, we were set free into the night to explore Prague. Seeing Prague lit up under the night sky is truly a unique experience.
We wandered through the small alleys, trying not to trip over the cobblestone while simultaneously attempting to soak in the city. We are only able to wander for so long before remembering that we still have class in the morning.
The next morning we left the hotel and headed to the Robert Guffman Gallery where there was an exhibit about Jewish refugees that came to the Czech lands after World War I.
Because of the pogroms (organized violence against Jews) that were taking place in the east, many civilians fled west seeking peace and safety during the interwar period. The vast majority of these people came from the regions Galicia and Bukovina.
The exhibit, while consisting of just three rooms, was filled with information on the lives and hardships the new refugees faced in the Czech lands. We learned about life in refugee camps as well as the prejudices against refugees during this time period. While this information spanned the first and last rooms, my favorite was the center room. The center room contained televisions that broadcast interviews with people that once lived in these Czech refugee camps. Very cool.
Following our tour of the gallery, we headed to the Institute of Ethnology. Here we were given a lecture on “The State of the Jews in Czechoslovakia” by a post-doc, Jacob Labendz, from Washington University in St. Louis. While the lecture was only an hour, I feel like I have a much better understanding of the post-WWII Jewish community in Czechoslovakia.
At this point in time, we were once again set free to explore the city. Sam, Andy and I took this time to take to the streets and see what we could find during the daylight.
We wandered through an outdoor market, admiring the beautiful handmade trinkets and jewelry and the freshly picked fruit. One of my favorite finds while walking around was a street band. Mostly because of the interesting collection of instruments that it consisted of; a tuba, bassoon, oboe, banjo, violin, and bass/cymbal combo. What.
The next morning, we had another bout of free time before heading to Northern Bohemia. We took this opportunity to visit St. Vitus Cathedral. While the climb up the hill felt like a lot at the time, the view it revealed was breathtaking.
Perhaps just as breathtaking, if not more so, however was the inside of St. Vitus Cathedral. Incredibly detailed stained glass windows sprawled across the ancient walls, letting colorful light shine in.
After visiting the church we took our time going back down the hill, even stopping at a cafe with a look out before getting back on the bus.
It was a fairly short drive to Northern Bohemia where we convened in a church to discuss the presence of the Romani in the Czech lands. Prior to arriving in Northern Bohemia, we conversed about race riots that had occurred in this area in 2011. Due to the stigma surrounding the Romani, they are often discriminated against. One of the most common ways that they are discriminated against is in the education of their children. Romani children are often picked out to be sent to “special” schools, where the education is sub-par. The few children that make it all the way to college usually leave to find better opportunities elsewhere.
As a whole, it was quite the mind-opening experience. One of my favorite aspects of this program has definitely been being able to hear the viewpoints of people that often go unheard.
Following our discussion we left Northern Bohemia. Next stop, Dresden!