“The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.”
It’s our second day in Prague and today we decided to venture off the beat and path to visit Terezin, a concentration camp during the Holocaust. Up until now, this trip has been very relaxing and easy going. This day trip was a sobering reflection of how quickly lives can be taken at the hands of one person. We rented a car and drove 45 minutes to Terezin. Upon arriving, I felt a dark energy from this town. Maybe I made it up in my head, but there was something different. First, we toured the concentration camp where 100,000+ Jews where housed. Terezin was an internment camp where most Jews were held before being sent to extermination camps to die. Despite this, many people died at Terezin from disease. The camp and its conditions were surreal and it pretty much what’d you expect if you could imagine what a concentration camp would look like. The crazy thing about Terezin is that the Red Cross visited the camp and were convinced that this was “spa” with a barbershop and other “amenities”. Don’t ask… The experience was heavy for me and it’s difficult to express everything in words. After the tour of the concentration camp, we went to the crematorium, where the bodies were cremated, saw the graves of many who died, and then went to the Terezin ghetto museum.
This trip definitely put things in perspective and led me to think about a theme that me and my travel buddy, J had a debate about when she first arrived. The debate was about happiness being a choice. I was reading a magazine with a quote about happiness being a choice, to which J responded, “I don’t agree with that!”. By day three, J changed her initial opinion and agreed with me, and started using small situations as examples of how to “choose” happiness. So I thought about this in the context of the concentration camp. It’s easy for me to say happiness is a choice because my life is pretty good in the grand scheme of things, but if I were in the shoes of the victims of the Holocaust, would it be as easy for me to choose happiness? Does “choosing happiness” mean adopting a sense of complacency? If you’re fighting for your life, does happiness even fit into the equation. So after giving J a hard time for her response, I think I have changed my point of view. Happiness is a choice, but only when basic freedoms are in place.
I’m sure all of you know that I love food. Part of what makes a city great to me is the quality of the food. I could be in the most amazing place, but if the food is bad it’s a thumbs down for me. So in the past six weeks, I’ve indulged in local cuisine and sought out small restaurants and bars and have found some great food in Spain. The food in Madrid, Granada, Sevilla was really good, but only average in Tenerife so I was hoping for good food in Prague. I was skeptical given that I wasn’t sure what Prague was known for. All I could think of was the one type of food that I hate…German. While walking the streets of Prague on my first day, I saw a stand on the street with sausages on a grill. The sausages looked and smelled so good that I stopped in my tracks. I whispered to Ana that I secretly wanted one and she said she did too. So we snuck away from our health conscious companions to buy some “street meat”. We emerged from the stand with a huge sausage that was so good, we ravished it in minutes. At that moment, I was hooked. The sausage cost 50 Kc with is about $3.00. This was great given that we had lunch at a place that was charging 500-600 Kc ($30-40) for a salad or sandwich. The sausage became my “Zahir” (see previous post) for the moment and I became obsessed with street meat. I obsessed over it so, that I turned it into a form of currency. I had a hard time making sense of the value of a Czech Koruna ($1=0.055Kc) was so I just started quoting things in street meat. “For that bottle of water, I could get 60 street meats….for that salad, I could feed 100 kids with 25 street meats…” I had to have street meat daily and probably drove my travel buddies crazy one day when were walking around a less touristy area that had no street meat vendors. I told them that I thought we should go look for street meat. I ignored the blank stares and continued on my pursuit. Luckily, I turned the corner and happen upon this guy with a grill selling street meat. Ahhh…divine intervention. I even got Janel to get one who kept telling herself that she shouldn’t. You probably think I’m crazy right now, but to drive the point home even more I’ve included a few photos to show the deliciousness that is Prague street meat!
“The more special something is, the more people start to take it for granted. It’s like they think it will never change.” – The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks
Today I am leaving Tenerife en route to Prague, Czech Republic. This is the final city on my tour of Spain this summer. Prague is a city that everyone says I will love, so I am looking forward to seeing it. I’ll be in Prague for four days. The good thing about this flight is that we have an 8-hour layover in Madrid! Normally that would suck, but I’m so happy to get a chance to return to Madrid one last time. My love for the city has grown since leaving. I appreciate it so much more now that I’ve been to other cities. Madrid will always be special to me because of the combination of the city itself and the experience I had here.