Checking In, From Prague

It has been a few days since I last posted from Auschwitz. Currently, I am in Prague with a week to go before I head home.

I have slowed down quite a bit in the last few days. Working in my journal, taking a personal inventory, and considering the times that lay ahead. I have finished almost all of the sightseeing I care to do. Mostly, I am finding nice coffee houses to hang out in, and write. One downside being that I also have frequent access to wifi, and have been sucking news and Twitter a lot.

I saw a very appropriate quote on Twitter today: “Do not look for happiness, where you lost it.” It is time for me let some things go, and move on.

I arrived in Prague on Saturday night. Hung out in the airports at Krakow and Berlin for most of day, both of my flights being delayed. Tired and hungry, I opted for a cab to the hotel. Heading on to the freeway, the driver loaded Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” onto his stereo. And he set the volume — very low. He was happy when I told him to go ahead and crank it. He drove rather quick, too. And naturally, there were no seat belts in the back. Whoopie!

The hotel has an excellent location in New Town. Just about everything within walking distance. I have not bothered to check out the Metro. Too much to see above ground. Broad pedestrian malls, feeding into narrow cobblestone streets. Many buildings appear to be from the 18th Century, lots of Baroque & Rococo, colorful with little damage from World War II.

Speaking of which, I visited the crypt of the St. Cyril & Methodius Church on Sunday. It was there that the assassins of Reinhard Heydrich were trapped and killed in June 1942. It is a very small and sad space. Berlin, Wannsee, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Prague all tie together with respect to Heydrich, and terror he orchestrated under the Nazi regime. Heydrich was one of the most interesting characters of the time. Thrown out of the German Navy, he cut a Faustian bargain with Heinrich Himmler, and became the hub of Reich Security. The architect and direct manager of the terror regime.

He reached his zenith of power, after Hitler appointed him Protector of Bohemia and Moravia in September 1941. Within a matter of months, he crushed resistance, and increased industrial production (a significant amount being geared towards armaments). He also found time to return to Berlin in January 1942, and chair the Wannsee Conference, in which he laid out his plan for the Final Solution.

Highly confident that the Czechs were not a threat to him, Heydrich drove around Prague without an escort, while taking the same route to work everyday. On May 27th 1942, on his normal commute, his driver slowed down the Mercedes convertible for a tight curve, where one of the assassins, Jozef Gabčík, stepped forward, then pointed and fired a weapon, which jammed. Instead of driving off, Heydrich had the driver stop the car, so he could challenge Gabčík. This gave another man, Jan Kubiš, the opportunity to toss a modified tank grenade at Heydrich, who was mortally wounded and died a week later of infection. The subsequent reprisals against the Czechs were horrific. Thousands were arrested and killed, but it was a significant blow to the Nazis.

My photo taking has dropped significantly. Prague is very tidy. There is not much in terms of interesting graffiti, street art, or odd things that stir my imagination. At least not in this area. There are a great deal of tourist oriented shops, cafes, and attractions. Lots of Segways, some interesting touring cars, as well as personal paddle boats on the river. It is a very nice town.

I did manage to wander into an exhibit of photos by Sam Shaw. Two floors. Great variety of subjects from film stars (mostly 1950s-60s, with delightful emphasis on Marilyn Monroe) to street scenes and people in the American Deep South during and just after World War II. I was there for a couple of hours, taking a break to write at a small table by a stairwell.

I am eating fairly well, perhaps too much given my reduced walking, compared to Berlin and Auschwitz. I am also sleeping a lot more. Got almost 9 hours last night. That said, it is well after 2am. So, I am going to sign off and get some sleep.