It all started with a night train.
Finding our 6-bunk cabin and making fast friends with the French students that would sleep on the bunks about 2 feet above our faces, Carly and I left Amsterdam and headed to Prague, on a 14.5 hour trip. We were misinformed with our original booking, which told us it was a 9 hour trip, and then we found out the train left 5 hours earlier. 😦 but in the end we still figured: this is our accommodation and our travel wrapped into one, with no important daylight hours lost in either city.
The summary of making this choice in travel? I don’t think I ever want to do it again. For more somewhat whiney details, you can read the rest of this paragraph. If not, skip to the next one. The ‘beds’ were more aptly described as wood planks with carpet wrapped around them. In addition you get a sheet, a tiny pillow, and a fleece blanket. The noise of the old train, the tracks, the many stops along the way, and the additional two people who joined us as we passed through Germany just after midnight meant that I probably had about a couple hours of sleep in total – and it should also be noted that if you buy a ticket for a bunk bed, there is no place for you to sit if you want to stay awake- you are forced to lie down in your cabin or stand in the hallway. There are no pictures to document the next morning because we looked so terrible after not sleeping.
We arrived in Prague just before 10am on the Wednesday and proceeded to immediately get lost trying to find the right tram. The vast majority of Czech words have absolutely no resemblance to English, German, or French. We had a list of phrases we might need to know, but we actually had no idea what the correct pronounciation was. Lesson learned: even a few important words and phrases, pronounciation and all, are uber helpful to know before arriving in a new country.
We had found accommodations through airbnb, and our host Vlada met us at the tram station and brought us home, which was really nice.
His English was quite good, and as we pulled into the driveway he let us know that he and his wife had four pets, so we always needed to make sure we closed the gate properly. It turns out they had three rabbits and a tiny terrier puppy, all of whom have names I can’t remember because I couldn’t pronounce them. Well, that’s not true. I do remember the black rabbit’s name. It is Karel (the Czech version of ‘Carl’, and coincidentally, the name of our tour guide on our walking tour of Prague).
Vlada was delighted to tell us he had a surprise for us, and showed us our (new) huge room with two large beds and a balcony. It was lovely, and I think we were so tired from our 15 hour travel we didn’t have the mindset to take our photo of the room (or house) at all.
(This is a photo of downtown Prague, nowhere near the suburbs where we stayed):
Armed with a map and suggestions for our first day from Vlada, we took off with bus, and then tram, to get to the oldest medieval castle in the world, and the church there. It was quite a busy place, and we immediately saw the juxtaposition of the pastel buildings of Prague with the dark stone and gothic influence of the older buildings, clock towers, and churches.
We also came across a toy museum, which had everything from tin windup toys to a full anniversary collection of Barbie dolls from the beginning until now.
Walking across the Charles Bridge to Old Town was beautiful, and there were many artists doing portrait work- from characatures to full painted portraits, several art and jewelry vendors, and a few musicians.
Vlada told us that if we wanted authentic Czech food we should go to “Staromēstské Restaurace” right on the Old town Square. So we went there twice. 🙂
We sat inside because he told us the prices are less than half what they charge on the patio, which was absolutely true. It is also true that beer is cheaper than water here, and so it was very sad indeed that I am not a beer drinker. My sister found a nice Belgian dark beer here so she was very happy.
Old Town Square:
We checked out the astronomical clock tower and it was beautiful. We took a walking tour on our second day and our guide told us that every hour the animatronics around the clock face still function, even though the clock is over 600 years old. Huge crowds gather around the base to watch it throughout the day, so of course I had to get a picture of that.
The walking tour was free and organized by New Prague Tours. Our tour guide – Karel (like the aforementioned bunny) – was amazing. He also works in drama therapy, and you could see right away he enjoyed putting on a show of giving us a detailed and entertaining tour around the centre of Prague; the amount of information he knew and shared was spectacular, and we were very close to paying for an afternoon tour with him as well. We walked through the Old Town Square, down to Wenceslas Square, over into New Town and Charles Square, and through the Jewish quarter, passing by the four beautiful synagogues there. He told us about the history in Prague during World War II, many of the local stories of artists and inventors, and we were so glad to have found this company. If you go to Prague, look up http://www.newpraguetours.com. They offer free walking tours and tour packages you can buy as well. If we had been there longer we absolutely would have paid for afternoon tours and possibly even a day trip. Well, next time.
Walking through the streets sometimes felt like you were walking on a movie set, or that the buildings were made of either marshmallows or tinted white chocolate, and the styles we’re varied too. They had everything from Art Deco and Art Nouveau, to the only cubist architecture in the world.
We came upon some of the coolest shops, including many marionette stores. If only I had room in my backpack (and perhaps more money in my pocket), I would have loved to take one or two of these masterpieces home.
We also tried a local snack: ‘Trdlo”, a sweet kind of bread cooked on a turning spit and covered in sugar, almonds, vanilla, and cinnamon.
The evenings in Prague has even more free entertainment in the Old Town square with performers of every variety at every corner of the square- if you didn’t like something, walk 10m.
One night as we were window shopping we came across a black light theatre company called Teatro Negro, and they had a show called Aspects Of Alice, so we immediately bought tickets and had a great time seeing a very creative piece based loosely around Alice from Alice in Wonderland, and falling down the rabbit hole.
Also in our shopping, I bought my first piece of artwork in a small gallery. I couldn’t leave without buying the limited print of a boy and his dog, so I have to get even more creative with my packing now.
The last place we visited before bidding farewell to Prague was the National Gallery. It was on the other side of the river from downtown but had quite a mix of art from many centuries, and we were happy we got to explore it.
All in all, it wasn’t as busy as Amsterdam, but it was fascinating and exciting and well worth the trip.
Well, that’s all for now, folks!