While in Prague, we planned travel outside the city with sides trips to Terezin Concentration Camp, Cesky Raj, and Trosky Castle.
Terezin Concentration Camp
For most of our travels and adventures, we shy away from organized bus tours but we tossed out that rule to visit Terezin. Around 1940 the Nazi Gestapo began transforming the town of Terezín and an old fortress into a Jewish ghetto and concentration camp. Considerable work was done over two years to prepare the complex for the overcrowding that inmates would be subjected to.
The sign above the camp entrance say "Work Frees". For over 88,000 prisoners, Terezin was the last stop before being deported to the death camps at Auschwitz, Treblinka or Sobibor.
These are sections of the Terezin housing blocks and barracks. Terezin primarily held Jews from Czechoslovakia, as well as tens of thousands of Jews deported from Germany and Austria, as well as hundreds from the Netherlands and Denmark. More than 150,000 Jews were sent to Terezin, including 15,000 children. Fewer than 100 children survived this hell hole.
At a minimum, each room held 20-30 prisoners. Although it was not an extermination camp, over 33,000 died in the ghetto mostly due to overcrowding, lack of hygiene facilities, work conditions, malnutrition, and disease.
This was the housing for the SS staff.
The SS families even had an in-ground swimming pool. The pool would have been close enough to hear gun fire during execution of prisoners.
Crematorium for Jewish victims who died as a result of the atrocious living and working conditions as well as the periodic epidemics that struck the camp.
There is a Jewish cemetery for the remains of the over 8000 individuals who died at Terezin.
It was a very moving and emotional experience, even more so for Dave whose dad was a German prisoner of war during WWII. I only took a few pictures as it just didn't seem respectful to take more. Terezin was a place to focus and reflect on this horrible period in history.
We planned a day trip to hike the Prachov rocks of Cesky Raj, which roughly translates to 'Bohemian Paradise'.. Although we knew a few hours wouldn't do justice, we still wanted to venture and explore this cool location This national park is located in Southern Bohemia about 90 minutes outside of Prague.
One of the most recognizable elements of this region are the sandstone rock clusters which form labyrinths of pillars, crevices and tunnels. Park trails pass above, around and through the magnificent sandstone pinnacles.
Since 1933, these 60 million year old formations have been a protected natural reserve.
All the trails are marked and relatively easy to hike. It's not so much the hike distance as the hiking experience in Cesky Raj.
The beginnings of the sandstone formations date back to the over 65-145 million years ago when the whole territory was flooded with sea water. Sedimentary layers of rocks, sand and mud were deposited in depths exceeding 600 meters. Millions of years later, the region was pushed up by the effects of powerful tectonic powers. Vertical cracks started to form in the sandstone and gradually weathering and erosion formed these distinctive tall rock towers and deep rock gaps.
There were a few lookouts which helped put these rock pillars in perspective.
The path includes several long and short passageways between the pillars.
It was a short trip but it was great to get out of the city and experience Czechia's natural beauty.
After leaving the Prachov rocks we drove to Trosky Castle, an impressive castle ruin that is located on the summits of two basalt volcanic plugs in Cesky Raj. The castle was established by Čeněk of Vartenberk in the second half of the 14th century. Two towers were constructed, one on top of each rock, and various residential buildings and outhouses erected between them.
The castle's central features are two towers and three layers of walls which protected the castle from attack. On the lower peak (154 ft) is the two-story structure called Baba (Old Woman), and on the higher outcrop (187 ft) is the four-sided structure known as Panna (Virgin). Stairs provide access to the top of each tower and incredible views of the valley below.
A view of the two of the defensive walls that protected the castle.
The castle ruin is one of the most visited sights of the Czechia. Trosky was a virtually unassailable stronghold in its days as an active fortress.
A few of the valley from a tower window.
How the castle probably appeared during its heydays.
You can never have too many pictures of castles. Since it was my birthday, Dave paid for me to hold an eagle.
Just so you know, I am not leaning away from the bird; it was the bad photo angle that Dave used.
On the drive back to Prague, we stopped in the small town of Jicin for dinner. It was such a quiet and sleepy town, we were lucky to find a restaurant that had English speaking staff. We had a great Czech dinner to end a fun day.