Date: Friday, July 4, 2014 (for Thursday, July 3, 2014)
Time: 8:40 am local time (2:40 am EST)
Place: Train between Prague and Berlin, just outside the Prague station
Yesterday we met just after breakfast for our class time, taught by Dr. Diller. She’s a lot of fun to get to listen to, so I’m glad she’s been our teacher. She leaves tomorrow evening or Sunday morning.
Before Lisa started to talk, though, Dr. Wohlers gave a short worship talk, tying John Hus, the Reformer, with Psalm 54. Hus was the rector of the University of Prague who called for church reform (at the time when it was quite obviously in need of reform: when there were three popes at once). He was sent to Constance, Switzerland, to face a trial, where he was burned at the stake.
From the Great Controversy, “When he had been fastened to the stake, and all was ready for the fire to be lighted, the martyr was once more exhorted to save himself by renouncing his errors. ‘What errors,’ said Huss, ‘shall I renounce? I know myself guilty of none. I call God to witness that all that I have written and preached has been with the view of rescuing souls from sin and perdition; and, therefore, most joyfully will I confirm with my blood that truth which I have written and preached.”
Then Lisa began her talk. She started in the 30 Years’ War, which was not just a religious war, but a nationalistic war. The Catholics verses the Protestants. The Hapsburgs suppressed Protestantism and also suppressed the Czech language. John Huss believed that people should be given Biblical instruction in their own language.
She turned to World War I, which was begun by the assassination of Franz Ferdinand by a Serbian who wanted his ethnic group to have its own country. Every people group wanted to have its own country. The Treaty of Versailles in 1919 aided in the process. All the big empires (Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, etc.) were split up and smaller, independent countries were formed.
This left Germany very weak, however, and Hitler’s ideas were Nationalism on steroids. He claimed that all German speaking peoples should have one country. This was difficult since German speaking people had been spreading all around Europe for centuries. This is why he invaded all those other countries, starting (I believe) with the Czech Sudetenland, which is in western Czechoslovakia, about 1/3 of the landmass.
After the war, the Czechs kicked out all the Germans from their country, getting rid of about 1/3 of their population. This was ethnic cleansing, though I wasn’t given the idea that the Germans were killed. Just deported. In 1940, approximately 35% of the Czech population was of German decent. By 1960 it was somewhere closer to half a percent.
The Cold War is really a misnomer. True, the US and USSR didn’t ever actually fight each other (though in Korea and Vietnam we fought their allies). There was a lot of violence, however. During this time, people didn’t fight about religion, or nationalism, but they did fight about their ideologies. Communist vs. Democratic systems of government. After the end of the Cold War (1990-ish) Nationalism comes back with a vengeance.
When you fight a war, you don’t just get to pick up and go home. You have to set up a new government, one that likes you, or a worse person will come to power and then you’ll have real troubles. That is why countries that were liberated from German control by the Russian communists became communist, and those that were liberated by the US became democratic (or at least closer to our model.
Towards the end of the Cold War, another political party in Poland said that it was going to enter the elections, and it won. The communists did nothing to stop it. This was the beginning of the end. Soon it was happening all over the USSR. In Czechoslovakia it was the Velvet Revolution of 1989 with Havel and Dubček. In 1990 the Czech Republic and Slovakia split (peacefully, I believe).
After class we met with Renata again and were taken up to the Castle complex. Instead of Buckingham Palace where the only thing on the grounds is the palace, their castle is more like a medieval castle, with a church and other buildings inside.
We walked inside, then waited for Renata to get us our tickets. While we were waiting we enjoyed the beautiful scenery and street musicians (a double bass, violin, flute, and accordion) play “Going Home” from Dvorak’s Symphony “From the New World.” They took some of the falling themes very freely, but I loved how they performed. They knew how it was supposed to sound.
I don’t remember the name of the church we went into, (though I’m pretty sure he was a saint, and I’m pretty sure his name started with a V) but inside were beautiful, modern stained glass windows. The most famous is (I believe) number 3, which shows Good King (actually never King, but Prince) Wenceslas, who is one of the patron saints of the country. He was killed by his brother who wanted to become king. Also pictured is Wenceslas’ grandmother, also a saint, who was martyred by her daughter-in-law who was a pagan. Note to self, don’t get sainted because you have to die a horrible death.
There is a 300+ year old pipe organ in the church, which is used for the three services on Sundays. There is a very small, one manual, organ that they use during the daily masses.
Renata took us around the inside of the church, showing us important pieces of art, including a map of Prague dating back to probably around the 1600s. I was actually able to figure out where (approximately) our hotel would have been.
One of the paintings tells the story of St. John Nepomuk, who was the personal priest and confessor of the Czech queen. One day confession took longer than usual, and the king got jealous. Nepomuk wouldn’t break the vow of secrecy he had made to God, and had his tongue cut out and then was dumped off the Charles Bridge.
We then went into the Castle itself, which owes the most of its fame to being the place where the 30 Years’ War began. Some of the Protestant Bohemian (Czech) nobility were fed up with the (Catholic) Hapsburgs. They came into the church and grabbed two governors: Chlum and Borita and threw them out of the window. They landed, according to history, in a manure pile.
We walked through the “Golden Lane” which had cute little houses (just small enough that I could bonk my head on the way in, but that I could stand up straight inside. Someone half an inch taller wouldn’t have been able to. There were gift shops in the little houses, and one was set up like it was when the last person moved out (in the 60s, I believe). He was a movie buff, and they still show old black and white movies in the house. I got to see a film winder/reparer and reel upon reel of movie film canisters.
From the Golden Lane we walked to a Czech restaurant where Dr. Wohlers had pre-ordered our meal. Being vegetarians we didn’t have a great entrée, but it worked. Our opener was a bowl of really yummy mushroom soup (without a whole lot of chunks of mushroom, and with a few other vegetables thrown in for good measure). Then the main course was fried cheese with tartar sauce (it was good, tasting like mozzarella sticks). A body wants more than just mozzarella sticks for lunch, though. Luckily we got to have crepes for dessert. Yum!
We walked past the one wall in Prague where it is legal to write and do graffiti. It was really something to see, especially since they were also playing pop music from the 60s-80s on an acoustic guitar right nearby. Jason, one of the animation majors, got up on Brandon’s shoulders to write all our names on the wall. I feel special.
We walked to the Charles Bridge next, and got to enjoy the sights, which included absolutely beautiful watercolors that I wanted to buy, but couldn’t quite bear to spend money on (they were about 30 Euros, which is about $45, which isn’t out of the realm of possibility, especially since I really haven’t bought souvenirs yet). It was very historical.
I got my picture taken touching the statue of St. John Nepomuk (if you touch him with your left hand, you will get to come back to Prague, but if you touch the dog on the other side of the statue, it won’t work). I also got my picture taken with the Charles Bridge in the background.
We left Renata at that point and continued toward our hotel. I was tired, needed to go to the bathroom, and was thirsty. We passed the statue of Huss, and I stopped to get a picture. I spent the afternoon (maybe two hours) in the hotel room, and I fell asleep. Hard. Joel came up and knocked on the door to get let in, and I didn’t hear him. For five minutes. Finally he went down to the desk and called the room phone. I groggily found my way to the phone (I couldn’t find my phone), and evidently I answered the phone like I was wide awake.
That evening Dr. Wohlers took us to a concert in Dvorak Hall. It was the California Youth Symphony in the last concert of their four country tour. Grandpa, you would have loved it! First up on the program was Don Juan by Richard Strauss. The orchestra was so rich and colorful! Then we heard a set of dances from On the Town by Leonard Bernstein. There was an intermission, then we came back and heard a suite from John Williams’ ET (which was so-so). Closing the concert was a suite from Porgy and Bess (which included Summer time). For an encore they played the theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark).
After the concert the girls (both Laughlins and Goddard) wanted to stay and see the lights come on on the bridge, but I was ready for bed. I walked ahead of Joel and Chris Dant, and found my way all the way back to the hotel (though when I got there, I walked too far…). All in all a very nice day.
I’ll write more later. Hopefully we’ll have consistent internet in Berlin.
Did I mention that I only had to share the room with Joel these past two nights? It was great! He and I get along fine. It’s the others I need to worry about.
Love to all!
I'm a Classical musician, a growing Christian, and a world traveler. I'm learning, exploring, and trying to understand this wonderful world I live in.