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Europe Day 6: Terezin and Cruise

The wifi has been down at the Vienna hotel so I have been a bit behind in posting. But now it is working again and I am able to get on!

6.26.10 Saturday

This morning we went to Terezin, the Jewish ghetto/concentration camp. It was originally built at the end of the 18th century as a small fortress in honor of Empress Maria Theresa (which is why it is called Terezin). During World War II it was a prison camp of the Gestapo Police.

In front of the fortress is a National Cemetary where they buried some 10,000 victims.

The location actually has two parts. One is the small fortress, which is where we toured. Next to it is the town of Terezin, which is where the Jewish ghetto was located. Today people live in the town, though parts of it has the abandoned buildings that I suppose are how they originally were.

The fortress is pretty imposing. There is a dry moat all around, which prevented prisoners from escaping.

The tour guide was quite knowledgeable. It was a very sobering and sad tour as she explained what happened at the camps. What she told us cannot even reflect the actual horrors those poor people went through. Chris told us that often there are German children visiting at this site, so that they will not forget and that these horrors will not be repeated.

The administrative yard was part of the original fortress. This was where people had to stand in line for 8 hours and get proccessed. The entrance of the gate ironically has the words “War makes you free.” (I think that’s what she said.)

The prisoners lived in inhumane conditions – wooden beds all squeezed together with no heat in winter, packed like sardines into small rooms.

Dark corridors where there were cells…


A steamer to remove lice from clothes. No dryer though, so people had to wear wet clothes in winter all the time.


The conditions were inhumane, but when the Red Cross came to check it out, the Nazis tricked them by redecorating. They made a big room full of sinks to make it look like the Jews had good hygiene and nice facilities. But they were for show only. The faucets didn’t even have water.

Another view of the immense moat. Because the walls were so high, relatively few soldiers were needed to guard the prisoners.

The Nazis built a new, larger yard when the fortress got full.

This one was larger and more roomy but it meant they could pack even more prisoners in.

In the fortress was also a building for the Nazi families. They had a school for children and a place for the families to live. It is quite a contrast compared to the prison conditions.

The tour ended with a German propaganda movie. Most citizens would be totally unaware of the conditions of these camps, as the films portrayed the Jews as having a good time.

Afterwards we passed by the National Cemetary on the way out. Many of these people were executed or died of the inhumane treatment at Terezin. They found a mass grave of over 600 bodies. Many of the gravestones have no names, only numbers.

The group was quietly reflective at the end of the tour. I was inspired to be a leader that brings hope and peace to people but also horrified at the evil that people are capable of. This experience is something I will reflect upon deeply in the days to come.

Afterward we were in need of some refreshment so we returned to the Prague old town center to get lunch. We all split up into different groups.

Our group ended up being in a big modern mall – over 200 shops in one building. The place was four stories tall.

The entire upper floor was a huge eating court.

We went for the Mongolian BBQ. It was funny to hear Wendy talking to the lady there in Chinese. I’m so used to everyone here speaking in Czech or English!

Megan makes the funniest expressions.

She got her favorite – a bowl of noodle soup!

Afterwards we went back to the hotel and this time I remembered to take a picture of it!

I didn’t get the other side though. It is a bit odd looking. But the outside is nothing compared to the inside.

I don’t know who chose the colors but… well… I guess they aren’t colors I would’ve chosen!

The communists built a bunch of buildings around the same time. There are many in this area. They are quite utilitarian and not at all aesthetically pleasing. One person told me, “Well, I guess they did to make it look better!”

We rested a bit and then it was time to go to our 9pm dinner cruise. (Dinners have been quite late around here!) The cruise was on a very long boat.

Lots of pictures were taken. These kids really like to take pictures! I enjoy watching them and all the creative types of pictures they take. This one’s a nice group shot.

The dinner was a buffet. They sure have a lot of fried food around here. I miss my usual vegetables and salad!

This side is the appetizer-ish stuff. I think they must eat a lot of processed meat here. Every hotel we have been at in the morning they serve ham, liverwurst and a pepperoni-ish kind of meat.

We started the cruise up top, enjoying the beautiful scenery. It’s a very long boat!

A view from the other end of the boat.

Every time the boat passed another boat, everyone would cheer. It was kind of funny. This is one of my favorite pictures from the trip of Megan and Josephine laughing afterward.

There was a water lock too. The boat would go in and then the water would raise or lower so we could go to the next part of the river.

Then it was time to go below and have dinner. The adults got to go first because once the kids came down it would be like ravenous locusts descending and polishing off everything. I was amazed we all fit down there! It was a bit crowded but everyone got to eat!

The river was so beautiful and peaceful. I was starting to develop a sore throat so I sat on the side and didn’t talk and just looked out into the river. It was so peaceful, even with all the noise around. I think this is a government building.

These glowing lights looked like odd cones from far away. When we got closer, I realized they were lighted penguins! The building is a museum of some sort.

We passed by the Dvorak Hall where the kids had played the other day. It’s mostly obscured by trees, though.

You can just see the moon peeking above the building here.

This is my favorite shot. A full moon and beautiful water reflections.

It was a wonderful cruise. We got home late and went to bed at midnight!

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