Praha

The train ride was long, about 4-5 hours, but the scenery was really pretty. There were rolling hills with corn or sunflower crops in places, and then dense woods in other places. Once we got into the Czech Republic though, things looked a little, for lack of a better word, Communist. There were several older abandoned warehouses and factories, and some of the train stations looked a bit rough around the edges. It made me second guess all of the hype I heard about Prague being really pretty. But not to worry, Prague was amazing. Of course my favorite things about the train ride were hilarious stories about number one snake Thailand and sharing all sorts of different snack foods.

We got there around 1ish I believe, and went to our hostel. And just so you can get an idea about how okay sex and nudity are in Europe, we were greeted by a giant painting of about 5 or so mostly naked women holding beer and standing/laying in somewhat suggestive poses. It wasn’t raunchy, but it definitely was not something one would see in America. That aside, this hostel was super sketch. To give an example, one of our teacher’s rooms got broken into and she was robbed. Not too much was stolen, just her cash (checkers as we called them) and her Austrian cell phone. The rooms were just “beds” and by beds I mean springs covered with thin sheets and placed precariously on a metal frame. We did get together in a room and partake in hostel yoga, meaning we laid on the beds and put our feet on the wall almost like we were sitting.

After that we did a city walk and saw some of the most important parts of Praha. It is a very beautiful city with a lot of old architecture, especially in the center. It also used to consist of several little towns which sort of merged, and it’s neat because the old gates are still standing where they used to have the towns separated. And not unlike Vienna, Prague also has a fancy old clock, only it is a much quicker show in Prague (which is good because the clock in Vienna takes almost 10 minutes to finish it’s show). The tower sits in a huge square, which at the time we went, had a music festival playing. Which is another thing I really liked about Prague, there was music and street performers everywhere. As one of the group said, it felt like Disney World. Along with that were artists, who were selling things on the street and on this really famous bridge with huge stone sculptures down both sides. We saw so much in Prague, I’m not even sure I can remember it all. But I’ll give it a shot: John Lennon’s wall, a lock bridge, some modern art sculptures, the Spanish quarters, and some churches.

After our tour (which was about 3 hours), we went to a restaurant to try authentic Czech food. Naturally our first order of business was to order a beer, and I want to say the brand of the beer was Pilsner Urquell (but I could be really wrong on that because they only referred to it as Pilsner). It was very good and a bit more on the lighter side of what I usually drink. And the food we ordered was amazing. Of course we tried what everyone else had, so there was a big sampling of foods, which was good. My dish was beef in this brown sort of gravy with their special little dumplings made of bread and potato, with cranberries. Which I never would have thought to put cranberries one a dish like that, but the flavors worked very well together, and I was very satisfied. After that we went back to the hostel and sort of chilled out. There was a bit of drinking involved, but not too much because we had another tour at 9 the next morning.

So on Saturday we saw the Prage castle, which sits on top of a hill, so we also got a gorgeous view of the entire city. The only really bad thing was all of the tourists. And I’m usually alright with tourists (I was one myself), but these tourists were incredibly rude. The best instance to illustrate my point was on the bus ride to the castle. It was a packed bus and we were standing right up against the door, because that was the only place we could fit. So the bus stopped and my friends were trying to step out of the bus to let other people out, and this man pushed them into the door way and turns around and says, “stupid!” They handled the situation just fine, so it was not that big of a deal, but it got kind of irritating as the day went on and people were still really rude. That aside, the castle and the big church (St. Vitus Cathedral) we went into were beautiful. I can not even describe how ornate the church was (which is why I have pictures, my favorite being the one with the light shining down through the window.) Had I written this sooner, or bothered to take notes, I would be able to share more about the history of the castle, but I did not and I regret that slightly. We also were able to see the servant’s quarters, which later housed normal citizens, one notable person being Kafka. It was really interesting. They had rooms set up to represent, for example, a tailors house or a cooks house.

That afternoon we went to the market, which is where I bought most of my souvenirs. They sold almost everything you could imagine, but it was more inexpensive and I really liked the atmosphere. We went shopping at a couple other places, but we were starting to get tired and grumpy, so we headed back to the hostel and took a nap. That night we went to a bar, which was recommended to us by last year’s students, but we went to the one on the outskirts of the city as opposed to the one in the center of the city. So it was not really that happening, but it was fun. We took up two tables, but the tables had their own tap in the middle which kept up with your charges as you drank. It was pretty awesome. After that we went back to the hostel bar, and I tried a sip of Absinth (sp?) which was okay as long as it was in grapefruit juice, but a little too minty on its own. We also saw some crazy 13 year olds who stripped in the lobby and ran around on the streets half naked. Some of our group yelled at them to be quiet, and I could not help but to think, where are their parents and why are they acting like hooligans? I know, get off my lawn you crazy kids.

Our final day was spent looking at the Jewish quarter. Today it is one of the most expensive streets in Prague (meaning it has all the fancy places to shop), but it was once a ghetto. It was very interesting. We went into an old synagog, which was now a museum. We also learned a good deal about Judaism as a religion. We also went to the Jewish cemetery, which was one of the most awesome cemeteries I’ve been to, just because it looks like it was pulled straight from a horror movie. The stones are all packed together and uneven, there are ravens perched everywhere, the path is winding and shaded by several large trees. It was awesome. We also saw an old Spanish style synagog, which was very pretty. The saddest, but probably one of the best things we saw all day was the Jewish synagog, which was no longer in use for ceremonies, but rather dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust. All of their names and dates of birth and death are painted on the walls. It was overwhelming how many names were on a wall, and how many walls of names there were. And upstairs there was a room dedicated to children of the the Holocaust. Before being taken to the Concentration camps, the Jews were confined to ghettos, and they secretly taught their children. In these secret schools the children drew pictures, some of what their life was like, others of the past, and the saddest were the ones of what they hoped for in the future. It was a very sobering moment in our trip, and I am very glad to have gone there.

After that we had several hours to blow. We went up to the top of the aforementioned clock tower and got a panoramic view of the city. After that the group sort of split up and went our separate ways for the afternoon. Becca and I ended up eating sausages for lunch in a park. Which, as it turned out, were very greasy. At one point, Becca bit into her sausage and grease shot out of the side and, because I was sitting right next to her, landed all over my lap. (Preemptive your mom). It was quite hilarious, because she did not even realize it at first, and I was too shocked to say anything. But the grease ended up coming out just fine in the wash, so it was all good. We also ate some ice cream, and this pastry which I don’t remember the name of, but it was good (and we saw them making them!) We also saw a sign for a hazelnut McFlurry, which I to this day, regret not trying because they didn’t have them back in Vienna. Then we went to a garden, which is on the UNESCO list, so it is really famous. There was a wedding rehearsal and pictures being taken there when we first arrived. There was also a string quartet, which really just made the garden even more beautiful. So we just chilled there for awhile before heading back to the hostel to leave.

I would love to say the way back was uneventful, but that was not the case at all. One the subway our group was split into two, each subgroup standing one the opposite side of the car. I was in the group at the front, but there was this man in the back group, who was trying to pick pocket everyone. He had his hand in one girl’s purse, but she caught him and he did not get anything from her. My roommate, however, was not so lucky. We got to the train station, and she realized her wallet was gone. Fortunately she only had about $12 worth of cash, but unfortunately, she lost all of her credit cards and id’s (but not her passport). So after getting that worked and almost missing the train, we got moved to first class because someone took our cars and refused to move. So at least that part of the trip back was good, heh heh. But despite the tourists, sketch hostels, and pick pockets, I really did like Praha a lot, and I will be going back there one day. (I rubbed a relief of some saint to ensure that.)

 

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2 Comments

  1. Rebecca said,

    August 11, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    you know how we were saying we wouldn’t have any regrets about anything that happened on the trip? hazelnut mcflurry. that is my regret. mmmm…i can imagine it being it so good….

    • arichan13 said,

      August 12, 2011 at 12:04 am

      We’ll just have to get one when we inevitably go back, right?


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