Column: Prague Summer Program creates life-long memories

The Newtonite

[media-credit name=”Photo courtesy: Jessica Chaikoff” align=”alignleft” width=”300″]Krakow, Poland[/media-credit]

Prague Summer visits Main Market Square, in the old town of Krakow.
by Jessica Chaikoff

An amazing travel experience awaits when you attend the Prague Summer Program. Prague Summer, a travel program that has been running since 1988, was established by history teacher Ty Vignone the year before the Berlin Wall came down. It is now 23 years later, and Prague Summer is still going strong. This summer, 36 students from this school and South joined six teachers on the Prague Summer Program. I was one of the 36 lucky students to go on the trip.

A big part of Polish history is the Salt Mines, one of my all time favorite sights. Inside the Salt Mines are statues, paintings and an underground church hand-carved right out of salt. The tour guide recommended that visitors lick the walls and the floors of the mines. Even though I was disgusted with licking a wall that had been tasted by over a million visitors, I could not leave without slurping what I hoped to be the cleanest wall.

After staying in Poland for four days, we drove for seven hours to Prague, Czech Republic. Prague is well known for its architecture. “Americans don’t look up,” Mr. Vignone pointed out when we arrived. “Be sure to look up, or you will miss half of what there is to see in Prague.”

Just north of Prague is the village of Lidice, where we went next. In 1942, the Nazis raided and burned the town to the ground. All that remains there now is an empty field. As I stood there, I could not believe I was standing in a place where history actually happened, and I tried to imagine what the empty field looked like before the Nazis destroyed it.

After spending a week in Prague and Lidice, we drove for five hours to Berlin. A well known historic site in Berlin is the Berlin Wall, a barrier that split Germany into two parts, East and West. Seeing the remains of the Berlin Wall, it was hard to believe that, for about thirty years, Germany was split into two parts.

Krakow, Prague and Berlin were not the only three cities that we saw during our time in Europe. We took day trips to other places in the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland, including Auschwitz, the deadliest concentration camp from World War II. These visits, along with our morning lessons, hanging out with our peers and the culture, created a memorable experience for everyone.

According to history teacher Greg Drake, “It is every history teacher’s dream to teach about something and go out there to actually touch it.”

The Prague Summer Program was an enriching experience. Everything that we learned and saw while in Europe we will remember for a lifetime.