Prague & Vienna – A lesson in history and culture

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Last summer, we took the kids to Prague and Vienna for the holidays.  We opted for an apartment a bit outside the city center of Prague as we could not find a reasonably priced hotel or even a B&B near the city center.  Prague was all booked out.

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Prague is packed in summer!

I was a bit disappointed that we had to stay in an apartment with no breakfast.  You see, during work days, I don’t get a decent breakfast (only bread and nutella or peanut butter and instant coffee).  I could of course spend more time preparing breakfast but I have priorities – like reading the ‘news’ and this takes up at least an hour. I can’t quit the habit of reading the local newspaper every morning from every place I’ve lived in. So my reading list includes inquirer.net, rappler.com, smh.com.au, vg.no, aftenposten.no, dutchnews.nl, dvhn.nl, cnn.com and facebook too. So proper breakfast during holidays is something I look forward to. Luckily, Prague has a lot of small cafes serving excellent coffee, bread and pastries.

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Julia enjoying her Bohemian breakfast

Prague has a rich history.  It used to be the cultural center of central Europe in the 14th century and this is evident in its castles, in its bridges and structures. The Prague Castle for instance is the largest ancient castle in the world.  It is a bit of a hike to go up the castle complex but the best views of the city of Prague can be seen from there.

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city of Prague

Prague had also been under the rule of the Communist Party for about 40 years.  It transitioned to democracy thru a non-violent revolution popularly known as the Velvet Revolution in 1989. This reminds me of the Philippine’s own peaceful EDSA People Power Revolution in 1986 where we ousted the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.  If you read the news these days, you will learn that the newly elected President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the burial of Marcos in our national heroes cemetery – a campaign promise he made as the Marcoses supported him during the campaign.  He thanked Imee Marcos (the dictator’s daughter) for contributing to his campaign fund while Imee Marcos thanked him on the other hand for offering to have Marcos Sr. remains be buried in the national heroes cemetery.  So we now have a dictator buried as a hero.  Oops, I have regurgitated too much political news.  But that’s what’s good with travelling, you see parallels with your own history, experiences and  it encourages introspection.

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relics under communist rule

After a few days in Prague, we took the train to Vienna and I must admit, I will miss the breakfasts.  While Prague was a lesson in history, Vienna was a lesson in culture. We first took the kids to see the Lipizzaner horses in the Spanish Riding School. They are in the UNESCO ‘s list of cultural heritage for continuing their tradition for over 450 years now.  What we learned is that it is a partnership between the horse and the rider and it takes years of training before they can perform.  Unfortunately there was no scheduled performance while we were there.  It is also both a lifetime career and partnership for the horses and the riders.  And as careers go, the horses also have summer holidays in a small village in Austria and eventually retire and spend the rest of their days there.

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where the Lippizaners perform
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Lippizaner horses’ saddles

In the evening, we watched a concert. It was a performance by a string quartet and two opera singers.  Both Joel and I are ignorant when it comes to classical music so I don’t remember exactly the titles of the pieces they performed but I could remember them when I hear the music.   They played the more popular of the classics (if there’s such a thing).  The show was a bit long with a short pause in between the sets. At first, we were worried the children would lose interest but they were actually listening intently the whole time and enjoying the show.  There were some fun parts were the opera singers were ‘courting’ each other and the children were giggling along with the audience.

 

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Julia enjoying the concert

We also spent a day at the Schonbrunn Palace which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  It was built in the 17th century by  Emperor Leopold I as an imperial hunting lodge for his son.  The palace grounds was vast so we had to take a hop-on hop-off mini ‘train’ to get around.

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the Palace and seen from the Gloriette

There was also a Children’s Museum in the Palace complex.  It was a dream come true for Julia to be princess for the day.  And Kuya also gamely played along addressing her as Her Majesty.  It was a fun way to learn about the royals!

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Princess Julia and Prince Kuya

And Joel too had a lot of fun, look how he fits in naturally with the royals, with his hair and all.  We didn’t realize his hair could be so versatile, Piet one day and royalty the next!

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