My days left in Prague are dwindling away quickly, I almost can’t believe it whenever I tell people I am leaving next Wednesday. It all seems so soon! I will be honest though, I am excited. I cannot wait to embark on my last leg of travel, and then finally head back to Melbourne to jump back into life full swing. The plane trip home, however, is nothing to be excited about. 20+ hours of fly time, anyone?
I have resumed my status of being a shut in over the past few days, as I attempt to finish of essays and study for an exam, as well as rest up to battle a cold I seem to have picked up off Chris. I definitely do not want to be sick traveling! This afternoon I was craving some time out of my house (that wasn’t a trip to the shops), so I decided to check out the National Monument.
I have no idea how I missed this thing. It looks to me like one of the greater attractions of Prague, but I have never heard of anyone going there! Located on Žižkov Hill, the monument is filled with information about the history if the Czech Republic in the 20th century. It kind of stands as a monument to both World Wars, as well as the communist era, as the construction of the building coincided with the Nazi invasion, changing its initial function.
The above statue if of Jan Žižka (yes, the hill is named after him!), who from what I can tell was some one-eyed bad-ass who lead a battle against a Roman emperor on this very hill.
The above is a grave of an unknown soldier from the First World War (or perhaps the Second, I cannot quite remember!). Below is a pole filled with dirt or sand from every combat the Czech army has been involved it.
As part of the admission to the monument (only 80 CZK for students, i.e. $4 AUD), one can climb up to the roof for some spectacular views over Prague. I had realised the weather wasn’t too great as soon as I left my house, but I was totally unprepared for the gale force gusts that felt like they were going to send me over the edge. I managed about two minutes up on the roof, desperately trying to hold my camera still enough to take a photo.
I am always surprised by the amount of greenery (well, parks that are usually green in summer!) in Prague. There seems to be a rolling hill popping out of blocks of apartments in every direction.
After successfully avoiding falling to my death on the rooftop, I came back down to look at the exhibitions. Most of them are permanent, but there was a small, temporary exhibition about music and politics. It was truly fascinating, reading about how the two can be interwoven, or against each other. There were even numerous headphones as you worked your way through to allow you to listen to various Czech pieces of music. I found the prominence of music during the Communist regime to be of particular interest. It is crazy to think of living in a society where one could be arrested and interrogated for belonging to a punk rock band.
I really had no idea what to expect from the National Monument, and happily wandered along following signs. I was taken through the above room, which was ornately decorated with mosaic depictions of soldiers. A stair case lead down to the basement, to a part of the museum I had not expected.
Called the Basement of Gottwald, the subterranean area featured small snippets of information about the horrors experienced in the communist era. I received a bit of fright when I was walking down a narrow, dark corridor and found these four guns trained at me through holes in the wall. Statistics about the amount of Czechs arrested, killed, exported and sent to work camps were dotted on the walls and floor. Needless to say, the exhibition certainly set a grim scene.
At the end of the corridors there was an eerie room, slightly reminiscent of Frankenstein’s lab. This room was once used by scientists to maintain the decaying body of former Czech president – and Communist leader – Klement Gottwald. His body was on display during the day for visitors to the memorial. Apparently Lenin did a similar thing back in Russia. Thankfully, he is no longer there.
The remainder of the museum documented the struggles of the Czech Republic during the 2oth century. I really wish I had come to the Monument earlier, as it would have been fascinating to know more about the country which I have been living in! Nevertheless, I know now.
The title of this post – kde domov můj (pronounce gde domov mooy) – is the name of the Czech’s national anthem: ‘Where is my home?’. After learning about the tumultuous history of this nation, I certainly have a greater appreciation about why such a song represents this country.