Czech Republic trip day 8, 27 Nov 2012. Terezin ghetto and concentration camp, Mlada Boleslav, Skoda Museum, Prague at night, Charles Bridge at night.
I miscounted – a week is supposed to be 7 days and I had planned to stay a week in CZ. Well, actually what happened was there was a cheaper flight if I came back a day later so I used the money I saved to buy more beer and fridge magnets in Prague.
Driving north from Prague is a town called Terezin. It was built in the late 18th century as a fortified garrison town. Now there are gaps in the fortifications for you to simply drive through, but it still looks quite formidable. There are two parts to the town – the Main Fortress, and the Small Fortress (with the names meaning what they sound like). The Main Fortress is quite large, and contains the town of Terezin. During WWII, the Main Fortress was a Jewish ghetto, which is a polite way of saying holding pen. Jews were shipped here from around Europe, and then sent off to concentration camps like Auschwitz. A museum has some comprehensive and informative displays with depressing photos, stories, and reminders of those times.
The town has a depressing feel about it, and the cold, cloudy, gloomy winter weather added to the air of depression. Perhaps it’s a more appropriate time to visit a place like this instead of a bright sunny day. The first thing I saw when walking into the museum was a collection of drawings by children who had lived in the ghetto before being killed, along with the children’s names, dates of birth and death (if known). The dates of death were all before the end of 1945. Very sad, very moving.
What is the point in visiting such a depressing memorial? It makes everything you read and hear about that part of history more real. Yes, it’s sad, but you leave a place like that a little bit changed, hopefully for the better. It was certainly a memorable part of my trip to CZ.
I can’t imagine how people still live there though, but they do.
The other part of the fortress, the Small Fortress, was a prison camp and concentration camp. You could do an insightful walk around the camp and see the conditions under which prisoners were kept. There was another museum there. One of the more infamous inmates was Gavrilo Princip, whom most people are more likely to know as the assassin of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (the event that prompted the start of WWI).
So after staying there much longer than I expected, I skipped visits to a couple of historic towns in the neighbourhood, and went to Mlada Boleslav, the home of a well-known Czech icon, Skoda Automobiles. There is a Skoda Museum there, renovated and reopened that day apparently. The museum had nice bright lighting but I wouldn’t say it was worth a visit. There is a factory visit also possible, that might be interesting but needs to be booked ahead, or something.
Then back to Prague where I strolled around taking a few more photos before early morning departure the next day. I tried to finish drinking the wee bottle of Absinthe I bought but it still tasted foul, so I left it behind.
501 – Terezin Main Fortress surrounding the town. Inside the bunkers is accommodation, prisons, a tunnel network (29 km apparently).
521 – Inside Terezin Main Fortress – town center (or ghetto center).
532 – Driving in through Terezin fortress walls.
539 – Terezin ghetto buildings.
542 – Terezin map – town center in center, road in from two photos previously is on left side, previous photo building and trees is first building inside fortress on map above road in, Small Fortress area is top left of map above river (below river is Main Fortress area containing Terezin town).
557 – Collection of paintings and drawings from ghetto prisoners during WWII.
571 – Ghetto museum interior.
577 – Identity documents from ghetto and concentration camp prisoners. It jars you somewhat when you see them in the museum.
621 – Cemetery outside the Small Fortress.
636 – It’s not just Auschwitz where the entrance is labelled “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work makes you free).
641 – Small Fortress prison and concentration camp.
660 – Prison medical room.
679 – One of the tunnels through the fortress.
707 – Small fortress, in the background is the central housing for the supervising personnel.
733 – Small Fortress dormitory. Prisoners didn’t sleep lengthways, they slept across the wooden slats. So there would be 25-30 or so prisoners sleeping between the wall at the end and where the camera was (just on that level).
747 – Museum display in the Small Fortress.
761 – Small Fortress central area and housing.
Then to Skoda …
769 – Skoda Museum.
778 – Antique Skoda restoration from before to after in 4 stages.
824 – Skoda supermarket.
839 – Skoda Bakfiets.
844 – Skoda Batmobile.
855 – Skoda front door – see the guy pushing it shut? The automatic doors didn’t work, so some fella was there manually sliding it open and closed each time someone arrived or left. There’s probably a joke poking fun at Skoda in there somewhere.
Back to Prague …
883 – Prague National Museum from Wenceslas Square.
893 – Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square. Astronomical refers to the design rather than the size I guess.
906 – Town Hall, Old Town Square, and Church of Our Lady Tyn.
927 – Charles Bridge start from Old Town side.
930 – Charles Bridge.
948 – Prague Castle and St Vitus Cathedral from Charles Bridge.
976 – Charles Bridge. The end. Good night.