TD: Prague

September 2, 2007 - Prague, Czech Republic

Note: We managed to survive the hilarious carnage of La Tomatina (more later) and are now in Madrid. The below is a slightly ancient entry, but we hope it entertains anyway. Happy Fathers┬┤Day to Brian and Doug, our wonderful (respective) dads!

Old Town SquareCity: Prague, Czech Republic
Nights spent: 5
Summary: Fairytale city where the buildings look like castles and the beer is quite literally cheaper than water. Our enjoyment of this marvellous place was unfortunately tempered by dodgy accommodation, an ear infection, and the world's most bizarre weather...but it would take a lot more than that to ruin a Prague experience.
Language: Czech, which resembles English about as much as a possum resembles a banana. In Prague, we had our first experience of being surrounded by a language with which we were totally unfamiliar (Bruges and Amsterdam don't really count, since everyone there spoke English). It was bizarre and overwhelming to be unable to pick out a Charles Bridgesingle word on a sign or in conversation, and to have absolutely no idea what was going on at any given time. Our Busabout guides always give us a very brief language lesson when we enter a new country - they'll tell us the basics like hello, goodbye, thank you and excuse me, and get us to repeat them. In this case, our guide (who was Czech, fortunately) told us the word for hello, and the entire bus remained silent. It was about six syllables long, and resembled nothing we'd ever heard before. In that moment, Henry and I looked at each other and made the decision to hope that people spoke English.
More than a word: Bohemian isn't just a synonym for hippie, kids! Bohemia is the western region of the Czech Republic, in which Prague is located. There's one for your next quiz night.
View from Charles Bridge 2Highlight: It's hard to pick one for Prague - my favourite activity was probably just walking around and gaping at the beautiful architecture. The Old Town Square never failed to make my mouth drop open, the Charles Bridge was stunning (though knee-deep in tourists), the Little Quarter was enchanting, the Jewish Quarter was dripping with charm, and the castle (particularly St. Vitus' Cathedral) was magnificent. Another enjoyable experience was going to Ufleku, a bar recommended by Julia, and getting absolutely wasted on a shot of Becherovka and a beer the colour of coke. Henry had to hold me up on the way back to the hostel.
View from Prague CastleLowlight: The free walking tour was worth the price, and the weather was like nothing we'd ever seen - it would rain for an hour, then stop, then become scorching hot, then rain again. We eventually got into the habit of seeking refuge in a coffee shop whenever the rain arrived, since it would usually finish at about the same time our coffee did, but the weather still put quite a dampener on our Prague experience.
Hostel quirk: Ah, Praha Heaven. How do we hate thee? Let us count the ways. We had to climb 130 steps to get to our room, the only one of your staff members we ever saw was blatantly incompetent and spoke no English, your fabled breakfast remained mythical, your shower Another view of St Vitus'had no hot water, the nearby tram lines were under construction and the aforementioned incompetent staff member was unable to give us any information about alternative forms of transport, we had to walk through a dark park and up a killer-steep hill before embarking on a 45-minute walk to the city centre, which made it very difficult to experience any of Prague's nightlife...you were clean, Praha Heaven, and you were well priced, but we hated the stuffing out of you.
Hostel quirk 2: Ah, Plus Prague. How do we love thee? Let us count the ways. Your staff were delightful, your rooms were shiny in their newness, your free breakfast was outstanding, your facilities were flawless, your free internet was the eighth wonder of the world, the small issue of your out-of-the-way location was all but neutralised by the tram stop around the corner. If only we hadn't tried to be clever by finding a hostel closer to the city centre, thus depriving ourselves of your magnificence in favour of the lamentable Praha Heaven! We're sorry, Plus Prague. We'll never disrespect you again.
RibsFood addiction: The traditional Czech cuisine was always delicious, but by far the most remarkable culinary experience occurred at a restaurant around the corner from Plus Prague. Henry single-handedly consumed 800 grams of pork ribs - which, for those of you playing at home, is a hell of a lot. The plate of ribs, which cost almost nothing, was a sight to behold - you know it's going to be a noteworthy meal when the food is bigger than your head. Henry, I salute you.
Colourful character: Libor, our guide for the free walking tour, who had recently returned from nine months of Buddhist meditation in Myanmar. He had only the vaguest ideas about structure, and as a result his tour consisted of a mish-mash of random information from various unidentified historical periods, which had only occasional relevance to the area of the city we were in. We were quite tempted to refrain from giving him a tip on the basis that Buddhists aren't big on material goods, so to Us on the bridgegive him money would surely be disrespectful of his beliefs...but ultimately, our guilt prevented us from going through with the plan. Good luck to you, Libor - next time, try meditating on the tour before you give it. Ommmmm!
Conclusion: Despite some less-than-ideal circumstances, Prague worked its special brand of magic on us and made us eager to return for a purer dose of its offbeat Old World charm. Vive la boheme!

Pictures

Ribs
St Wenceslas Square at night
St Wenceslas Statue
Lennon Wall
 
 

2 Comments

lou jones:
September 10, 2007
Going by the ravenous look on your face, I guess spare ribs are on the menu when you return home, Henry! XX
Elizabeth Duke:
September 19, 2007
Looking forward to seeing you at the end of your travels. Have just noted that you will be visiting Anascaul. The very place my mother's family, the Sheehans came from. Their farm overlooked the Inch on the Dingle Peninsula. Glorious view. Enjoy it for me!
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