By Andrea Lahti (University of Wisconsin - Madison)
I have spent a lot of time in Old Town this week, wandering through the curvy and lively streets. I wanted to get some gifts for friends at home and there are many tourist gift shops to choose from. I am overwhelmed by the amount of people in this area of Prague in comparison to the rest of the city. It is a beautiful and unique part to see, with many hidden sites, underground pubs, and pieces of history around every turn in the street, but I have come to enjoy other parts of Prague as I learn about the history and sites in different areas. I feel very lucky to be able to learn and see beyond the tourist attractions here. My classes have really helped with that. My Art and Architecture professor brought us on trips all over Prague and most of the trips were to places I did not even realize existed. For example, there is an entire underground part of the city underneath all the tourists staring at the Astronomical clock and this amazes me. Also, there is a lot of contemporary art juxtaposed to the old historical art and architecture all over Prague. It is something very beautiful. There is so much to learn here and it is really exciting.
It is getting near the end of my time in Prague. It has been such a great experience that I will always remember. I really think this is the most fascinating city in Europe. I have been able to see the true beauty in the river, the castle at night and the various gardens. I have also been able to see and begin to understand the turmoil the country and the culture had experienced during the communist times and how this has impacted the people living in Prague now. Architecture from these times is still visible around the city in more residential areas. One of my favorite places my class visited was the Radio Free Europe building. Here, we could learn of their role in the Velvet Revolution and the influence the media has on the world. As I was walking back to my apartment today, I starting thinking about how amazing this all is and how important it is for people to be able to communicate and have rights. I really like my class for teaching me about this and allowing me to be more appreciative of everything in my everyday life. My daily life at home is much different though. I do not have castle views two blocks away from my house. I will really miss walking through Vysehrad and hearing music on the streets everywhere in Prague 1. My shoes will appreciate going back to concrete however, because the cobble stones here have really torn up the bottoms of nearly all of them. It is a small price to pay for all of the wonderful places I have visited here.