Prague

A couple of weekends ago (Oct 12-14), my German boyfriend and I made a weekend trip to Prague.

Here’s an approximated summary of what we did:

Friday – Carpool with strangers via Mitfahrergelegenheit.de to Czesky Prag.

Change money, find out hostel (which happens to be inside a restaurant). Find out that the reception is at the top floor, not the bottom, and that the “reception” looks like somebody’s living room with leopard-print furnishings straight out of the 60’s. (Wish I had taken photos of our hostel.) Complete with a bathroom, couches, coffee, and an ancient computer. Get settled in, ask our wonderful hostel owner about good places to eat. She recommends us to a place where the locals go, which turns out not to be a restaurant but a pub with three dishes on the menu. The man working there brings us two beers before we even order anything. Standard procedure? I’m not a fan of beer AT ALL, but of the few that I’ve tried, I have to say that the Czech Pilsner Urquell was the best. I actually drank half of my glass before giving up.

After telling us that they were still serving food, the man there refused to serve us food, saying the kitchen was closed. We gave him puppy eyes saying we were very hungry, so he brought us a basket of bread and some sort of soft white cheese covered in some sort of olive-oil based sauce/seasoning, with lots of raw onions. We ate it because we were starving – although it wasn’t much of a meal, it was better than nothing. Our tab at the end of this adventure? Somewhere around 3 euro.

We walked around the city a bit at night, which was quite beautiful. Our hostel was located very close to the King Charles Bridge, which I took lots of pictures of, and we also saw the Astronomical Clock. We visited a couple of clubs but we were tired from riding in the car all day so we went in pretty early.

Saturday – we slept in! Which was wonderful. We then did sort of the tourist loop, slowly making our way across the bridge, stopping often to gawk at things. We climbed up one of the bridge towers and got some photos from the top. There were lots of artists and musicians and homeless people begging tourists for money on the bridge.

Apparently homeless people lay prostrate with their hands stretched out while begging for money. At least we saw a few of them doing that.

We went and saw the big tourist attraction castle, of course I’ve forgotten the name of it now but it was a big deal. My camera has too much of a crop factor for me to get a really good photo of the whole thing, so I focused on details. It’s amazing how much detail goes into Gothic architecture – the intricate latticework, the stone reliefs on the doors, the little carved figurines everywhere. I started wondering who those long-dead people were, important enough to get their faces carved on the castle. They don’t do that for just anyone, you know.

Unfortunately we didn’t get a tour, I think it was closed that day for some reason, so we didn’t see much of the inside except for the chapel, which was still neat.

We went to the Museum of Musical Instruments, where we spent a good lot of time. Unfortunately you weren’t allowed to take pictures in there. I had tons of fun geeking out over the antique instruments – early lutes and guitars, player organs and calliopes, a Hardanger fiddle from Norway (I wrote an article for the school paper about a Norwegian musical prodigy who came and performed at our school on such an instrument, so I knew a little bit about it), and countless other violin-types with resonance strings. There was a piano in the lobby that you were allowed to play, so I wound up spending about an hour trying to teach Mischo how to play “Heart & Soul.” Haha.

For dinner we went to a restaurant highly advised by TripAdvisor. (Mischo spent at least as much time looking at the TripAdvisor app on his phone as he did looking at the real things. I half-jokingly suggested to him that for our next trip we just download the app and take a virtual tour, to save money.) He had some traditional Czech dumplings and I had a traditional Czech hunk of duck leg. It was quite filling and delicious. The restaurant was extremely full and we got seated at a large table next to strangers, which was actually kind of neat because they happened to be German tourists and they suggested a few things to us, including going to a concert at a church, which I guess there are dozens of every night.

So on our way back to the hostel we walked by a church, and lo-and-behold there was a concert starting in 10 minutes. So I talked Mischo into going to it, not calculating the exchange rate correctly in my head, and we wound up paying like 16 euro each to go in. Oops. It was a nice concert though and a beautiful church. There was an organ and a violin and a vocalist.

Sunday – We went to the town square to watch the highly overrated Astronomical Clock routine, which happens every hour. I guess the little anematronic figurines were quite a novelty back in the 1500’s when it was made, but today’s tourists are highly unimpressed. We started taking a free guided tour through the city, but when we found out the tour was three hours long and the tour guide was mostly interested in talking about himself, we ditched out.

At this point we wanted to get away from the tourist stuff. One of the IES mentors had told us about a beautiful little picturesque neighborhood with cobblestone streets and colorful houses called Novy Svet, so we looked it on a map and hopped on the public transit and made our way out there. It was nice to be in a quieter area. However, as we were walking uphill the streets started getting a little busier… and then we stumbled upon a castle and realized we hadn’t escaped the tourist stuff at all, just took a little detour in getting there. So we walked back a different way we came, swept along in the herd of tourists. We passed by the orchards, which I guess are kind of famous and you can pick fruit from them and eat it for free. Not that there was any fruit in October. We stopped by some souvenir stands and bought a couple of watercolor prints of the city to remember it by. (I’ve never bought “art” before in my life so I was kind of excited about this.)

We stopped by a grocery store so Mischo could buy some Czech groceries for his Slovakian father, like some special brand of cheese or something, then we went to another traditional Czech restaurant, ate some more dumplings and gravy, and then it was time to make our way home…

Overall a very fun trip, and I don’t have any regrets but I do wish we had done more, and that we had tried harder to get away from the tourist stuff. But hey, learn from experience! It was still a great time, and a very beautiful city.

Please enjoy the pictures. Sorry I didn’t take the time to insert them into appropriate places in the post, but it literally took two days to upload all of them and used up 80% of the space I’m allowed on here, so I hope you at least look through a few of them. 🙂 Definitely not doing that again, haha.

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