18 February 2010
Wow, wow, wow. What can I say about Prague but wow. Every one I knew who has been has said "you HAVE to go", but so do all the young guide books under the heading "Looking for a wild Party". I am not a party person, don't like drinking tons, and had no interest in hooking up with other young singles, so for these reasons I had decided to ignore every ones advice and skip Prague. Here is my logic in my priority of places it was low on my list, I knew nothing about it, and it had a reputation as being a great place for a cheep drinking weekend, or quick thrills. Amsterdam also has a party reputation with the younger travelers largely due to the legalized pot, however I also happen to know that Amsterdam has a hugh Dutch art collection, some incredible Delft china, and a lovely canal system. I do not think I will have time to squeeze Amsterdam in so Prague was out of the question.
Best laid plans of Mice and Men eh? I did not have time to fit Greece in between Germany, and Italy so I had 3 days to kill. The trains from Germany to Italy are long, expensive, and I wasn't feeling well so it would benefit me to take smaller journeys, and stop and rest along the way. Thats how Prague and Vienna got into the itinerary.
Prague as a city was nothing like I expected. It was small, compact, easy to walk, filled with historical places, beautiful, and quiet. Check this out.. Its a picture at night. Yes thats right I went out for a night time stroll, the first one of my trip. As my time in Prague was short, and I needed dinner, I actually went out into the dark cold street for a wonder. The street lamps in Prague are much more dim than you would see any where else. At first it can look really seedy, however the main streets are full of people, the shops are open, and the area is buzzing with life so you don't feel unsafe. Within a few moments the dim seedy lights start to look romantic, or old fashioned. Some of them even flicker, but I'm not sure if this is a electricity problem or if its intentional to add atmosphere to the old city.
There was not a lot of english translations around, so using the metro, reading signs, maps, or plaques on buildings was very challenging. They do not use the Euro so I had to exchange some money, and was feeling kind of hassled by that until I discovered how cheep everything was. My hotel room was private, and it was a proper hotel room like you would see if you stayed at a Sheraton, or Hilton. It was the same price as my 4 bed dorm in the dodgy hostel in Paris. Yes I could have stayed in a hostel here for about 4 bucks, but I had budgeted for 14 and thought my own room would be a nice treat. There was a pool, jacuzzi, and gym but you had to pay extra for those and I chose not too. Breakfast was included and it was a full service hot breakfast buffet, all you can eat. I felt a little bad but I did make full advantage of this and stocked up on all the vitamins I have been missing for 2 weeks. I would not normally eat ALL that I could eat in a complimentary buffet however I think it might have helped make the turning point with my cold.
The next morning I took the circle route tram around the city to take pictures then got off on the far side and walked right through the centre to the train station on the opposite side of town. I saw many beautiful places that I would have loved to visit, took tons of pictures of buildings that I have no idea what they were and no time to find out, and I felt a small twinge of regret that I didn't have more time. I never intended to see Prague and never knew that there was so much more to the city than its reputation speaks of. I would like to say for the record its a crime that Praha is known for its night life and not much else. I'm sure the students who poor in for the weekend don't bring a fortune with them to help the struggling economy. However if word got out that this was a place of enchantment, beauty, quality service, unique culture, and historical value then more families or couples would come and that would make a difference to the local economy. Then maybe you were hear me ranting that the streets were full of loud annoying tourists and that none of the churches were peaceful, and as it was the city was certainly quiet this morning. Perhaps all the party students were sleeping off their hangovers.
There is a lovely square in the centre of old town, simply surrounded by churches (5 or 6 different denominations), and full of stalls or carts. It looked a little like the German Christmas market in Edinburgh but this one is year around. They have outdoor food vendors, crafts, and artists painting through out the square. I did see the Castle way up on top of the hill, and took photos from the Charles Bridge but could not get up there in time, and knew it would only be upsetting to get closer and not go in. There are about a 101 different types of religions in this city and the churches are all beautiful, this Jewish synagogue looked like candy and it made me smile.
Now I'm snuggled up on the train to Vienna with more whorl win touring.
Lots of love,