Making Bookends Meet

Day Twenty-Six – Strahov Monastery and Library

Library

Peering through the doorway, and surrounded by the sounds of small gasps of awe, the Strahov Monastery Library is a sight to behold.

Built in 1143, the Strahov Monastery Library has over 900,000 volumes, not to mention all the other works of art and artifacts hidden in these walls.

For 50 koruna you pay for a bright yellow sticker that protects you from the harsh barks of the workers who catch you with your phone – that is, to take photos. Admission itself isn’t particularly steep at 120 koruna, and only half that if you’re a student, but there’s not much to see once inside.

The libraries themselves are roped off, just to be peeked in at through cordoned off thresholds, teasing you with the views of the towering bookshelves and gilded adornments.

Between the Philosophical and Theological Hall is a short well-lit corridor that displays different curios that’ve been donated or housed in the monastery from years previous, be they weapons, bug collections or exactly what you’d expect to see in a library.

Philosophical Hall

Philosophical Hall inside the Strahov Monastery Library.

But once you make it to the Theological Hall, the experience mostly ends there. It’s unclear if anyone is ever allowed inside these hallowed halls, but back in 2011 photographer Jeffery Martin was allowed in the baroque style Philosophical Hall, photographing the storied stacks. Other than that, it doesn’t seem that anyone else has been allowed inside in recent history.

Theological

Theological Hall inside the Strahov Monastery Library.

It seems a shame if at least the monks don’t get to go inside. Books were made to be read, at the very least cared for and worshipped, and that’s a little hard to do if everyone is stuck in the hallway.

The opportunity to stand in the center of either of these halls simply to absorb the surroundings would be an experience for the books (pun entirely intended), but regardless, having the ability to bear witness to these collections is worth the price.

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Untamed

Day Twelve – Zoo Prague.

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Walking through the front gates with a fair amount of apprehension, the Prague zoo floods you with merchandise options, hollering families and signs pointing you in every direction.

With a student ID, zoo admission is only $6 USD, and spanning 140 acres the zoo has a variety of entertainment options. From the exhibits themselves, the zoo also has a children’s area with a pool to swim in, and a chair lift that takes you up to the center of the zoo. From there, the observation tower is a quick walk away, offering a 360 degree view of the zoo itself and surrounding countryside.

The zoo itself is a very laid-back place, at least compared to the strict rules and regulations American zoos seem to have. Couples and families are all around, beer sold every few feet in the park it seems and dogs everywhere.

Czech culture is very accepting of dogs accompanying their owners with them most places, and the zoo is no exception. It’s a testament to the temperament of the dogs that they can peaceably walk the zoo and for the most part, not tile up any animals.

The only exception was at the wild pig exhibit where two bulldogs started barking at the animals, but for the most part the visit was a peaceful and innocent one.

Alco-haul

Day Five – Flea Market Praha.

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The largest flea market in the Czech Republic (and supposedly Central Europe) includes a cacophony of sights, sounds and pushy vendors trying to draw your towards their wares. From questionably attained phones to antiques, tires and food, it’s easy to get lost roaming through the stalls. With an entrance fee of 20 koruna (a little under $1 USD), this market opens at 6 A.M. and closes by 1:30 P.M., it lies a 30 minute tram ride east of the Prague city proper.

Walking through and trying to discreetly take pictures of any shop vendors was an endeavor in and of itself. Since their entire business relies on watching any potential customers, photos of either themselves or their wares are pretty obvious. But bring small bills, a camera and the wherewithal to bargain, because you never know what you’ll see.

One thing the Czech Republic is famous for is their love of beer. People will jokingly say that beer is cheaper than water here, but it’s not a particularly inaccurate joke. Most menus list beer before water and the price difference is only about ten koruna. You can consistently find shockingly good dollar beer that you’re allowed to openly carry, and alcohol is in no shortage here.

This will either be disappointing or reliving depending on the reader, but this is a bottle of apple cider, the only proof the “0.0% Alcohol Apple Cider” label on the neck of the bottle. But packaging a bottle that way, and turning to see a young boy looking at Legos nonchalantly carrying this was more than a little surprising, especially when beer stands dot the area.

Watching the culture and interactions of those around the flea market, from bored looking vendors eyeing any interested passerby to customers laughing at sights like this, the market is an unique experience. Come with small bills and prepared to bargain, and an appetite – the 50 koruna sausage are worth every penny.