Well it hasn't exactly been long since the last post, but I thought that updates of my amazing weekend in Prague, as well as some Czech Republic related puns were needed. After a very last minute decision on my part to go on the trip, I used most of Friday to get ready, sort out some prague-ticalities and czech that everything was in order. We arrived at the meeting place just before 6pm where we met up with everyone and after a bit of a delay, we embarked at around 6.30pm on the longest bus journey I have ever made in my entire life.
19 hours on the same bus, travelling the best part of 1000km across France, Germany and la République Tchèque itself. Considering that some of the French lads in the group had brought plenty to quench their thirst, and that a lot of them were completely bourré by the time we got to Lyon, it made for some interesting times. I, however was luckily at the very front, away from the shenanigans with my legs squished under a table, thinking that I would never walk again. Chats were had, snacks were eaten and films were watched (including Star Wars V and a very violent Colombian film, among others) while the hours ticked away, and despite road accident delays, random food breaks in dodgy German service stations and some heavy snow, we made it finally to Prague at around 1.30pm on Saturday. Despite snow being quite a common occurrence in the Czech Republic, I, like some others, had forgotten to pack any decent snow shoes, which made for a weekend of cold and wet feet, but it didn't manage to dampen our spirits. We arrived at the hostel and czeched in with a very grumpy lady, before a few of us went on our way to discover what this Bohemian capital had to offer.
The first while was taken up with our extreme difficulty to read the map we were given, because not many of us were very competent in Czech, and en route we spent a lot of the time pointing at funny Czech words, taking pictures and pronouncing them in ridiculous accents (mine seemed to come out as my Soviet Russian accent most of the time. Aaah casual racism..). Luckily most peope seemed to have a decent grasp of English so we weren't in too much trouble. I did prague-tice some Czech that I learned, mainly "děkuji", the word for thank you, which some of us remembered solely due to its similarity to the word "Take-Away"... English speaking ignorance at its finest.
We decided to try out a very Czech looking restaurant that had a mouthwatering and quite frankly hilarious menu outside. Without saying a word, the waiter greeted us in English (must have been the look of utter confusion on our faces) and we sat down and ordered some Bohemian specialities. The beef with creamy sauce and bread dumplings was one of the most amazing things I've ever tasted, and we all got some classic Czech Pilsner to go with it, which turned out to be cheaper than any other drink, such is their fondness for their beer. After the lovely meal, a brief lesson in Czech from our waiter, and some difficulty working out the Czech Koruna /Euro price difference, we went on our way to discover a bit more of the town. One of our friends had arranged to meet his friend that was on Erasmus in Prague, and after visiting the old town with its astronomical clock and generally amazing architecture, we were then shown the Jewish quarter and a very good bar where we all warmed up, after most of the afternoon spent outside in the freezing, snowy, slushy city that Prague had become. We returned to the hostel and took a small nap, which we all agreed was the most prague-tical decision at the time, before meeting a good friend who had left us in Gcchuuunooblhh after Christmas to return to her native Bohemia, so a great catch up was in order.
We then went to this amazingly Czech bar, which was dark, smoky (no smoking ban here which was different from what we were used to) and full of atmosphere with pianos and fireplaces creating a very old-school feel, made all the more interesting by a couple of dogs running around and the two pigs playing with haybales in the corner. Standard apparently. I wonder what the reaction would be if we brought pigs into the local pub back home..
After feeling very cultural altogether, we then took a little tour of some historical buildings before making our way to Karlovy Lazne, which let us know from quite far away thanks to bright fluorescent lights that it was the BIGGEST MUSIC CLUB IN CENTRAL EUROPE. Despite being told that a concession had been organised, no such arrangement had been heard of by those at the door, so we had to pay the full 180Kc *problem with Blogger, if you highlight the white bit you can read it, not sure what the problem is, needs to be czeched out* to get in. 5 floors of the Czech Republic's finest Dance, Hip-Hop, Electro, Pop and 80s music awaited us, with a similar atmosphere to the previous bar, the smoky haze this time being accompanied by strobe lights and speakers to replace the pigs and pianos. A fun night was had, and we returned to the hostel in a flurry of 4am snow.
The following morning, despite sleeping in beyond our ambitious 9am wake up plans, we got up at a decent hour and a group of us from the room set off into town. Souvenir shops were the order of the day, as was another visit to the Old Town Square, the odd snowball fight, and then the magnificent Prague Castle and cathedral. We found the John Lennon wall too, where we left our own little message and then met up with some others to go to a very traditional restaurant to czech out some more national specialities. After a glass of some warm mead, which was surprisingly tasty and warmed me up immediately, I had a pork dish, again with bread dumplings and a delicious sauce which I can't even describe.
Afterwards, a brief snowy walk through the town we headed to a very cool underground bar in the heart of Prague which was highly recommended by our token Czechs in the group. Everything about this place screamed awesome. Following a maze of Hobbit-like tunnels down deep into Prague, we found a table and much merriment and banter ensued all night. Goodbyes unfortunately had to be said, for the second time for our Czech friend who we'll hopefully see again really soon, and to her lovely friends who helped us a great deal over the weekend and were generally great to have around.
Unfortunately the following morning heralded the end of our stay, and so with heavy hearts, and a slightly lighter bus, seeing as one of the guys had gone missing during the night, we headed for home - a 15 hour journey this time which was to provide similar antics to the previous journey. We did watch a few more films, including Carjacked (pronounced so wonderfully as Caarhh jack-hedd by some of our French colleagues), Mean Creek and the extended edition of Lord of the Rings The Return of the King, which single-handedly gave us a good 4 and a half hours of relative peace and quiet. At one of our German stop-off points I decided to crack out some German. However only then did I realise how limited my German really was. Long story short, it went quite badly, and I ended up ordering the wrong thing, while speaking what sounded to me in retrospect like a mixture of French, Italian and Irish (somewhat confusing as to how exactly the latter made an appearance). Considering that making fun of German accents is a past-time of mine I assumed everything would go quite well. Evidently this was not the case, and I have since decided to make some prague-ress in learning some real German to prevent similar mix-ups in the future.
So it was with drained and exhausted faces and bodies that we bundled off the bus in Gcchuuunooblhh at approx 2.30am and made the short walk home.
Moral of the story - Prague is amazing, and I'd highly recommend a visit. Beautiful buildings, nice people, and a very nice atmosphere in general. However I would also strongly recommend not getting a bus, because despite the conviviality, the films and German language experience during the stop offs, it was 35 looong hours of my life that I'm never getting back. So what started as an extremely spontaneous decision the night before turned into a fantastic weekend and a definite highlight of the year, also another great European capital czeched off the list!
Promluvíme si později !!
PS: More pictures coming right up
A view of the Vltava from the Charles Bridge
A hilarious hostel notice which made our day
The entrance to the Charles Bridge, built in the 14th Century
The Jewish Quarter
The man himself, Franz Kafka
The Astronomical Clock
Old Town Square
The bullet trams which went crazily fast