We caught a train to Prague Central from Munich. The train required no reservations so I was anticipating a huge scramble to get a seat when the train pulled into the station. Turns out I was right, but happened to be a non issue. Danny and I were able to blast past the other tourists toting massive suitcases and small children. About two hours of sitting in coach and nodding in and out of sleep I awoke to a steaming hot car with most of the passengers having got off before we began the actual descent into the depths of the Czech Republic. After a bit of searching we were able to claim an entire sleeper for ourselves, which was wonderful. We rode on into the sunset watching the rolling hills of Eastern Europe pass us at a blurring speed. At this point the closest I had been to real Ex-Yugoslavia was Bosnia and Herzegovina back in ´09. I was really happy to be able to share the experience with Danny. We rode on through the complete darkness periodically sticking our heads out of the train car window and letting the wind blow violently at our faces, considering it was so hot it was wonderful.
I really had no idea what we were info when we would get into Prague. It was approaching midnight and we did not even have a place to sleep that night. We continually said to ourselves. “Man, we have to stop doing this.” We crossed over the Vltava river with a view of the Charles Bridge on our way into the station. When the train finally pulled into the station we were met by two groups of soldiers patrolling the terminals. Fully geared like a SWAT team ready to take down a group of methhead bank robbers who had taken a group of cats hostage. Needless to say this was not a comforting sight to create a first impression of Prague. We exited the train and started walking, having no idea which direction to head in. When we were finally outside the station we saw a large park which was situated next to the station with the Vltava next to that. I looked to Danny and said, “We’ll we could sleep here tonight.” He was not too happy to hear me say that.
We walked on towards what we believed was the city center. We saw one hostel and went inside It was dark and damp but they appeared to have a 24 hour reception. As we might have guessed the place was full. The lady who was on duty pointed us in the direction of another hostle just up the road. This place was called Fusion. We went inside and found a room. It was a bit pricy so we decided only to spend the night. The both of us we so tired at that point all we wanted to do was shower and sleep. When we got into the room we ended up meeting a UofC Med student living in South Loop which we found to be quite bizarre. It was the first Chicagoan we had me so far. Most people are from California or the East Coast.
In the morning, the morning of my 21st Birthday, we gathered our things and headed out for the day. Our destination was hostel artharmony which was recommended to us by some people in Munich we met at Jaegers. First we stopped for a plate of beef goulash and a couple of pints of Czech Budweiser. We ate the food which was quite good and cost us about 350 Koruna. 100 Koruna is about 4 Euros. From there we walked the rest of the way to the next hostel which was even cooler. Perhaps like something out of the Swiss Family Robinson. It had a very forestry theme to it and all the room numbers were the names of people. We stayed in Filip, but thought it was interesting that they had both Kevin and Danny rooms.
We left the hostel to catch a free walking tour which left from the old town square. Our guide was a woman with a Slovakian mother and a Czech father, and she was very insightful about the culture and people in the Czech Republic as well as its long history in and out of Communism. We went to the Astronomical Clock and Prague Estates Theatre where Amadeus Mozart conducted his world premiere of Don Giovanni in 1787. We moved on to the St. Nicholas Church and to the Old Jewish Quarter where we learned a very Ironic thing. As we stood on the street overlooking the river our guide told us about this particular building which house the Hugo Boss Store. She told us that Hugo Boss was the designer of the Nazi S.S. uniforms. This is ironic due to the fact that the Hugo Boss store sat in the Old Jewish Quarter.
Our tour ended at the end of the day near a concert hall overlooking the Charles Bridge. It was a great view, even though it was beginning to rain! The beautiful day was suddenly overcome by a seemingly light rain. We tipped the lady for her time and began to walk on to our next destination. To have our first experience with Absinthe.
As we walked to the bar, Absinthe Time. The wind began to blow harder and harder. We continued along the river and we watched a massive cloud pass from the mountains over the city. All of a sudden the rain came down incredibly hard. I am talking about rain with gale force winds. It was blowing up the sand from the road and it was hitting our skin like needles. We started to run down the street to make it to the bar. Danny was running in front of me and I watched as a huge piece of stone fell from the tops of one of the buildings and it hit the sidewalk and literally exploded inches in front of him. Later when we talked about his near death experience it was still quite shocking. We made it to the bar and sat down to enjoy our first Absinthe. Its served in a tall glass, a spoon is placed across it with a sugar cube atop and water slowly drips over to dissolve the cube into the alcohol. It tastes a lot like licorice, its also very strong. Overall and interesting experience. Later we went on a pub crawl and ended up at one of the biggest clubs in central europe. It had five floors all with a different theme to it. We finished our night with a couple beers on one of the bridges pondering Frank Gehry’s Dancing House.
In the morning we hiked with all of our gear back to the Old Town Square to watch the precession of the Astronomical Clock. After we hiked up the mountain, pack and all to the Prague Church. It was an incredible display of Gothic architecture we stood for a while and admired it then we hiked back down the mountain to catch a train to a bus to the airport. We walked close to twenty miles that day and five of them were getting to the train. When we were waiting on the platform relieved to have finally found the train after what seemed like forever we noticed that all of the people started to leave the terminal. We asked a police officer what was going on and he informed us that the train was not coming. It was stuck somewhere on its way there. We panicked, having only a few hours left to make it to the airport we jumped in a cab, our last resort and finally made it. Off to The Netherlands