Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Paint, pink(as) and orange(ways)….

There were two main tasks for our last day in Prague. We needed to visit a “place of worship different to your own” as one of our challenges. For this we went to the Pinkas Synagogue and the Old Cemetery. The Pinkas Synagogue used to be a working synagogue but has since been turned into a memorial for those in Czech Republic that suffered the fate of the holocaust. The names of each person was written on the wall. There were several pieces of artwork displaced, both some therapeutic work from children in concentration camps and some of local children trying to understand the experiences and feelings of their predecessors. Quite a sobering experience. The synagogue then lead to the Jewish old cemetery, which hasn’t been used since the 1700s. Imagine a plot of land twice the size of a typical suburban back garden and in this there were 12,000 grave stones and 100,000 bodies – layered five people deep in places. The gravestones varied from those carved ornately in Hebrew and those which were so old you couldn’t tell what had been carved on them before. For those who hadn’t touched history textbooks in a long long time it made the World War feel like far more than just a fight between England, America, France and Germany on a beach in Normandy as often portrayed. Cultures spread over geographical boundaries, beliefs can be common even when the language is different – but the most important thing is having the freedom to choose your belief.

Our next task was poignant in a different way, we aimed to leave our mark on the Lennon Wall which we had visited yesterday. The wall surrounds the garden of the Maltese embassy but the pavement has a 1 meter band alongside the wall which is considered Maltese soil. So during communist times this wall was an area where freedom of expression (highly themed by 1960s peace aspirations of the Beatles) could exist as was not on communist soil. Armed with three tester pots of finest Dulux and several Sharpie pens we set about filling the wall with trefoils and inspirational quotes from Baden-Powell. It was difficult finding a patch worth writing over, without removing some other inspirational quote about world peace or making the world a better place. The paint was quite hard to work with as we didn’t have time to let it dry so had several marble effects, which of course was the artistic style we were aiming for! Overall however, we were very impressed with our artistic endeavours. We wonder if other groups travelling through Prague will notice our finger prints? Guess we’ll find out at the finale party in five days.

What a mixed bag of transport! We are sat on our first coach. Lizz had managed to get us free tickets for orangeways (yay!) and we are extremely grateful to them for their kindness. Their website is a very nice website with all the details you could possibly need to travel with them. They say on their website they have established themselves to be the easyjet equivalent transport for coaches – cheap and efficient, and particularly orange themed. They suggest coach travel is more environmentally friendly than our friend Stavros and want more people to travel through Europe by road than pollute the skies. When we arrived at the coach station the ticket office lady was incredibly helpful and we trotted off to the coach to check in. The drivers wear a particularly nice peach uniform (continuing the orange theme). The man ticked our names off on the list and checked our passports (first time since London…. only five countries later!) and had a bit of a joke with him. We said to each other “boy, this is like luxury and not easyjet”! THEN we checked our big bags in the ‘hold’. Our ticket clearly said we must pay the bus driver 20CZK for our big bags so we had earlier eaten enough ice creams to allow us to only have enough coins for the 20CZK each and metro (such a hard life, I had to have three scoops, all for the team you see). The man said it costs 30CZK each and showed us his sheet of paper, which was different to our ticket. Those of you who know me will be aware of my knowledge of all Consumer Protection laws and which subsections apply in situations and often quote this. Alas, this was a problem here because a) the laws I know are English and not Czech and b) suddenly the man failed to understand English. Firstly I didn’t want to pay an extra 10CZK per person out of principle, but secondly we didn’t have this because we spent it all on ice cream as we didn’t want leftover coins! Luckily after lots of scrabbling around Jennifer and Katie found some spare coins enough to pay the man so our bags were taken. We went to get on the coach and suddenly Amy was stopped. Apparently her hang luggage bag was too big. Now I had checked their very friendly website before we left and noted all the baggage allowance sizes and knew our bags most certainly fit these restrictions. Suddenly the man had lost all use of spoken English again. Magic. We realised he wanted to check it into the hold because the second bag in the hold costs 140CZK. Cheeky monkey. After lots of protesting (holding up other passengers) he let us on. Luckily our protestations haven’t barred us from the free hot drinks and complementary single-use-headphones as people sit watching the Pink Panther. We did check the bus station as we left, as far as we could see they hadn’t thrown our bags back on the floor – fingers crossed they leave the coach with us!! Orangeways like easyjet? A little bit more luxurious but yes, there are most certainly some similar traits! As with beliefs above, certain trading ethos’ can cross all boundaries. There most certainly is no such thing as a free lunch, but there are very cheap lunches if you look hard! (thank you Lizz!)

Next update will be from Bratislava, our penultimate city booohoooo.

Gem xx

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