If You Go to Prague

If you go to Prague, be sure to get off the beaten path.

Cross the river, take the underground, go to the other side of town, and explore.

Selfie in front of Prague Old Town
Downtown Prague is a fairy-tale land, full of inauthentic but beautiful stuff to impress tourists.

Sure, you should see the tourist attractions, too. See the astronomical clock, go to the castle, walk along the King Charles Bridge. But sooner or later, you’ll realize this isn’t the real Prague – those tour guides with their yellow umbrellas, the waiters standing outside restaurants, waving for you to come in, the museums and gift shops and street artists are just predators, preying on tourists, milking them of the money which keeps the city alive. It’s a sort of Disneyland, enthralling visitors with its fairy tale towers and cobblestone streets. The historical buildings, the colorful winding streets, the costumed performers, they all do such a good job re-enacting Prague in the middle ages (or 19th century, or 20th century, or take your pick), that many visitors never get to see what Prague in the 21st century is like.

The first time I went to Prague, I checked the tourist stuff off the list. The Old Town Square with its highly-overrated anematronic clock, the castle, the restaurants. I returned nearly seven years later (has it been that long?) with a different purpose to the trip: to visit friends – or, more specifically, a former lover. I wound up seeing a new side of the city, and gaining a new appreciation for it. Continue reading “If You Go to Prague”

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My first German sauna experience

Saunas are a popular winter pasttime in northern Europe. The steam and heat are the perfect antidote to the darkness and the cold, which sap your energy and leave you tense and shivering all the time. Though many of my friends spoke fondly of their sauna experiences, I had somehow never been invited to one, and I was too nervous to go on my own. But when a dear friend from the U.S., Kel, came to visit me in Hamburg in November, it was the perfect opportunity to try.

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The sauna called “Kaffeestube” (coffee shop) at Holthusenbad.

Continue reading “My first German sauna experience”

There’s got to be a better way to stop the Nazis

Thousands  of counter-protestors successfully halted a neo-Nazi march on the anniversary of Rudolf Hess’s death on the outskirts of Berlin last Saturday. International media is largely hailing this as a victory for the left and praising the efforts of the brave protestors. What they’re not talking about, however, is how the counter-demonstrators accomplished this feat.

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500 right-wing extremists march towards Berlin Spandau. Photo: dpa
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Workers survey the damage to a train signal outside of Berlin after protestors set fire to it in order to stop a train of Nazis from entering Berlin. Photo: DPA

Anti-Nazi counter-protestors set fire to a train signal outside of Berlin last Saturday morning in order to prevent a train full of neo-Nazis who came to participate in the march from reaching its destination. The fire was successful in stopping that train – and all of the trains that were scheduled on that route for the next three days. This included two of the most highly traveled routes in Germany: Berlin-Hamburg and Berlin-Hannover.

Why do I care? Because me and my parents were scheduled to take one of those trains. And because the fire resulted in canceled trains and massive delays, my parents missed their flight home. Overall, this little stunt cost my family about $500. Continue reading “There’s got to be a better way to stop the Nazis”

Something magical happens in this botanical garden in Germany every night

Planten un Blomen. The name is low German, or Plattdeutsch, for “plants and flowers.” This beautiful botanical garden is located right in the Hamburg city center, easily reachable by public transit.

Every evening in summer around dusk, an incredible performance takes place here: the Wasserlichtspiel, or water light show.

Continue reading “Something magical happens in this botanical garden in Germany every night”