Jeremy and I woke up in Munich and rushed off to get ourselves sorted at the central station for what we thought was going to be a direct train to Prague, Czech Republic. We got there very very early, but were therefore able to relax over breakfast and watch two guys down several pints before 8am and try to flirt with a girl who was obviously having none of their shit as she grabbed a coffee on a way to catch her commuter train to work… hah, gotta love a trier I suppose.
Our train was waiting around for its departure time so after finishing our amazing cream-filling croissants (you’re welcome, Jer, for picking such delicious croissants when you expressly told me not to pick them 😉 ) we hopped on.
We asked one of the train staff if it was going to Prague and she said yep, so we thought everything would be simple. She then handed us a sheet in German which looked like it included both timetables for various bus and train routes as well as emergency information… but what do we know, it was all in German. She told us we’d have to transfer to a bus and then back to a train, something which we were not very keen on doing for obvious reasons, most of which are language-related (most people in Munich speak English but the rural areas are another story). We figured out a good three hours later, when we were back on the train, that the pamphlet she’d given us was warning us that there was an interruption in the train line due to construction and so they were providing buses direct from the Hegensburg train station to the Schwandorf train station where the continuation of our train would be waiting for us. There was some added stress because they hadn’t updated the screens of our second train, and so they still read “Direction: Munich.” But we asked the staff if it was headed to Prague and he looked at us, like, “where else would it be going??” Whatever, dude.
At the Czech border, two guys in jeans and leather jackets got on and looked at our passports. They might have been border guards, they might have been randos. We’ll never know.
Pretty much the entire train ride was surrounded by beautiful scenery. I mean, the buildings we passed were often on the sketch side, especially once we got into the Czech Republic, but I expected that because there are never rich people near the train tracks. Anyway. We eventually got into this valley surrounded on both sides by rocky hills and snaked along beside a river until fiiiiiinally approaching Prague.
We got into Praha hlavní nádraží (Prague Central Station) just before 3pm and promptly got lost because my googling of the directions to our hostel had been incredibly inaccurate, but I had no way of knowing, never having been to Prague before… very frustrating. We eventually got our bearings and trudged up to our hostel.
It’s called Hostel Elf and it is the most charming and perfect hostel ever. There’s a graffitied patio/beer garden with lights and star lanterns that overlooks a park… well, the park overlooks IT, because the terrain once you exit the hostel’s gate goes straight upwards in a hill that culminates in the giant, boxy National Monument… it’s called the Žižkov Vítkov hill and it’s in the Vítkov park. Anyway, the patio is also adorned with planks which have been given to past guests to decorate with their country. Found a Canada, and also a Quebec… didn’t know they were different countries 😛 to be fair though, there was also a Glasgow plank, which might as well be its own country. The hostel on the inside is a mixture of wood furnishings, plants, orange walls, and funky lanterns. There are also weird paintings on all the washroom doors. Totes a cool hostel (plus cheap beer, free breakfast, AND a proper kitchen 🙂 —Maggie approved). We dropped all our gear off and hung out on the patio couch for a while, eating snacks and drinking beer called Staropramen (the first beer I was able to drink on the trip!!).
We wandered up to the top of the Vítkov hill with our beers (you’re allowed to walk around with open alkee in Europe—the way it should be 😛 ). We had to cross the path of some psycho longboarders before we got to the top where we had a beautiful view of the city as the sun set, silhouetting the spires of Prague Castle. Then we went back down to the “Potraviny,” or 24hr market, across from the hostel and grabbed some things before heading back to the hostel. We drank a few more Staropramen for mega cheap (30 Czech Koruna, or 30Kc. Note that 1 Euro is equal to 27Kc), as well as ate some ramen and played some cards (“I’ll bet you one euro cent that I can beat you at Spit”) before going to bed.
The next morning we woke up and grabbed the hostel’s free breakfast of various cheeses, cured meats, and breads before heading into the city. We discovered the bike path that led directly from our hostel’s doorstep to the train station… whoops, woulda been handy the day before. But anyway. Roller-blading is really big in the Czech Republic, and as many people were blading as were biking. Hockey is also pretty big; it was funny to see advertisements for hockey after living in Scotland for so long 😛
We walked to the Staroměstské náměstí, or the Old Town Square, where they had an Easter Market set up. The buildings were all amazing, and the stalls set up were very cute. They had decorated the trees in the square with eggs and streamers as well.
Just to the side of that square is the Pražský orloj, Prague’s famous astrological clock. Absolutely beautiful but very crowded.
There was a restauraunt called Kolkovna which served Kozel Beer, a Czech brew. We stopped there for a quick bite; I grabbed a goat-cheese dish with honey and pistachios, which ended up being the best-tasting thing Jer and I had the whole trip. We also had Kozels 🙂 As people beside us were leaving the waiters were giving the women each a rose… but they didn’t give me one and I’m still quite gutted about it.
Then we explored the Old Town and headed into the Jewish Quarter of the city, which was supposed to be nice. Like all of Prague, it was. We remembered that it was Saturday, a.k.a. the Jewish Sabbath; this was irrelevant, but we are Religion Majors, so everything is irrelevant.
We eventually came to the River Vltava where we could see the castle, and followed the river along to the famous Karlův most, or Charles IV Bridge, and crossed there.
We weaved through the narrow streets upwards to the castle which was attached to the St. Vitus Cathedral.
We went inside and then wandered around to the lookout to have a nice view over the city. There’s this weird building in Prague called the Žižkov Television Tower that’s really ugly, it ruins the entire skyline. Just so you know, we hate it.
From there we headed home and hung out in the hostel for a while before striking out for BARFüD, a cute food joint just down the street from the hostel serving American-style dishes with a Czech twist. They had a bunch of funny quips and quotes up on the wall, most of which were in English, but the ones in Czech were exclusively rips on American tourists 😛 the owner read them to us. In BARFüD, we watched as two Americans did a Czech shot that apparently no Czech people actually like—I think this is called Becherovka—then eventually started talking to them. They were Patrick and Abby, two Americans having a typical Backpacker’s Romance. They’d both been travelling and had met in India before parting ways as Abby went on to Nepal and Patrick stayed in India, but they’d agreed to meet up again in Prague for a few nights. Anyway they were great, Patrick actually lives in a tiny town in Manitoba called Snowflake (hahaha, go Canada…).
Jer and I ate and drank there (Kingswood Cider and Pilsner Urquell, two Czech bevvies), then said goodbye to the nice owner and Patrick and Abby and headed down the road to the Live Bar. We grabbed a few drinks there, and watched both the bartender and his off-duty boss smoke weed behind the bar… See, in the Czech republic you can still smoke cigarettes in bars and restauraunts, but like, wow. We also saw some idiot in a Leafs hoodie and both simultaneously vomited and shat our pants. Then Abby and Patrick walked in, so we talked to them for a while longer before heading home to bed.
The next morning we slept in past the hostel’s free breakfast (whoops) so we went out for lunch instead. We walked to this park called Riegrovy Sady (“sady” is the word for park or garden) where there was a beer garden that was actually just a restauraunt with a big patio in the middle of a park. We waited about an hour for our meal but it was good when it finally came. I had a Czech dish, it was pork rolled with zucchini and eggplant (plus chips/fries). Delish.
Then we went into the New Town of Prague, which, like the rest of Prague, was beautiful.
We crossed the river into the Smíchov neighbourhood of Prague, which seemed to be the place where the locals were. It was like, businesses and ordinary city stuff, except still nice like the rest of Prague. We were looking for Mozart’s house, which was in a park in this area. We found it; I think it was a museum but it was closed so we got pictures of the gate.
In the park there was this adorable little red cable car that entertained us for a ridiculous amount of time. We climbed to the top of the park’s hill to find where it began; turns out it was owned by a hotel so we couldn’t use it 😦
On our way home we stopped at McDonald’s for McFlurries; the one I got was Czech-specific because it had bits of a Czech chocolate bar called Studentská pečeť in it. So delish.
Then we went home and hung out, ate more ramen (because Czech Ramen is Best Ramen) and some pizza before going to bed earlyish in anticipation of our early early start the next day to catch our plane to Brussels.
Goodbye, Prague :]