All right, it’s been awhile, so let’s recap a bit. After I got done teaching in April, I had about two and a half weeks to travel around before heading back home. I chose to go four places: Barcelona, Amsterdam, Prague, and Vienna. There were two main reasons I chose to go to Prague: several people suggested it on my Facebook status asking for advice, and my friend Brona from the UK was living there! She was actually my resident when I was an RA on the International Floor at ISU and invited me to come stay with her. Umm, sold!
It was a weekend of shenanigans, to say the least.
From her not knowing what terminal I was arriving at or where I was coming from since I was traveling (luckily she guessed right), to not having change for the bus, to missing several buses/trains and running A LOT, to funny experiences with her roommates (there was a moldy meat issue, and one didn’t speak English), to not having enough pillows, to adding “fox” to the end of everything, to quoting Friends, it was definitely a very memorable and super FUN time! I’m going to do my best to sum it all up in one post, except for the concentration camp we went to–hopefully my memory holds up!
I got to Prague on a Thursday night. As I mentioned, Brona didn’t know what terminal to go to, but she managed to find the right one because she’s awesome and was there waiting for me. I hadn’t seen her in several years! I got some cash out of the ATM, and proceeded to be weirded out all weekend that one Czech crown was worth like 5 cents. As I mentioned, we didn’t have enough change for the bus, so Brona bought some crappy coffee drink from a vending machine so we’d get enough change back. There was some drink in the machine with a RIDICULOUS name that we laughed at forever, but neither of us can remember it now! It was some terrible translation into English. The bus to the metro station was an experience, to say the least; it was packed, so we had to stand by the doors, which opened very suddenly and quickly! I about got trapped in it the first time, and thus continued our weekend of nonstop laughter.
First running experience: trying to catch the metro so we would get to the store in time to buy a pillow since Brona only had one and I didn’t have room to pack one. Outcome: failure. We had to wait for the next one.
Second running experience: trying to get to the store before she thought it closed at 10. Well, it closed at 9; no amount of running would have helped us. Outcome: failure, which resulted in Brona sleeping on her puffy bar crawl coat all weekend, since she’s a gentlelady and insisted I take her pillow.
We finally made it to her apartment, after first stopping to get me some Mexican food for dinner since I hadn’t eaten yet. When she told me there was a Mexican place near her place, I couldn’t even respond due to my efforts to try to keep my drool inside my mouth. It’s been 8 months since I got back and I STILL haven’t gotten sick of Mexican food. #Chipotleeveryday
The next day, Brona had to go to school, so I explored a bit on my own. The main square in Prague was just a few blocks from her apartment.
Something I noticed about Prague was that it was SUCH a touristy city. Of course, most of the places I went were big tourist destinations, but Prague catered to the tourists unlike any other place I had been. They had bike tours like many other places, but also had Segway tours, free walking tours meeting in the square every day, bar crawls, etc. It was crazy.
All this was in the same square. Did I mention that?
This astronomical clock is known locally as one of the world’s most disappointing tourist attraction, which I kinda get. While the tower is huge, the figures that come out of the clock are small and it’s kinda hard to figure out what’s going on, especially with the throngs of people that gather there every hour. But I found this good blog post that explains and defends it.
I decided to go up in the tower you see a few pictures ago (right before the fountain) to get a good view of the city.
Traveling alone = getting to take dorky photos and no one is there to stop you.
Side note: my memory isn’t this awesome. There were signs explaining what each of the landmarks were, which I took photos of. Again, being dorky for the win.
One day when Brona and I were out sightseeing we went across the Charles Bridge. It was a wide pedestrian bridge with lots of people and caricaturists, musicians, etc. on it.
Once we crossed the bridge, we headed up Petrin Hill, which is where the Petrin Tower and the Prague Castle are. There are a lot of buildings up there and they’re all considered the “Castle.”
Church of St. Vavrinec:
This is the Petrin Maze, which was like a hall of mirrors. We opted to not go in… I’ll hit the funhouse at Great River Days in Muscatine next year. 🙂
Another castle-y building and the changing of the guards.
Some guy was walking backward face-to-face with the guards and yelling stuff. They just ignored him, but Brona and I died laughing. We were like, they have guns…do you not realize that??
A big, intricate church.
We hit the Golden Lane as well, a street in the Prague Castle complex with tiny little shops. They were so cute!
We went in a couple of the shops, which sold knickknacks and touristy stuff. The ceilings were soo low though and the shops were tiny, so I didn’t stay in them long! #fearofbreakingthings
This one is Brona’s favorite.
We could also see the Zizkov Television Tower from there, which is well-known for its creepy babies crawling up the spires. I must not have taken a photo of the whole tower, but you can see one here. And here’s a super-zoomed-in closeup of the babies:
Now on a less-creepy note, the walk down the hill was beautiful with blooming trees. I believe this was the St. Wenceslas Vineyard.
Not sure why some of the trees were blooming, and some were super dead.
Brona the model.
We saw a lot of other cool stuff around Prague, like the Czech Hussite Church.
I also made sure Brona took me to the John Lennon wall after seeing a really cool picture on it on her Facebook. John Lennon never visited Prague, but his music and messages of freedom were popular in the Czech Republic in the 1970s, despite being banned by the communist regime. When he was murdered in 1980, his portrait was painted on the wall, and people began graffit-ing it with Beatles quotes, drawings, anti-Communist sentiments, messages of peace. For a while, the government tried to keep people from writing on it by employing guards, using surveillance cameras, and painting over the wall, but now it’s owned by a group that allows it to be written on.
We also walked up to check out what we called the Stalin Pendulum, or what is officially called the “Prague Metronome.”
There used to be a monument to Joseph Stalin there, which was understandably torn down in 1962. The big concrete slab was just empty until 1991, when the metronome was built. It doesn’t really serve a purpose, other than to hypnotize onlookers, but it seemed to be a common place for people to meet and hang out.
One of the most…interesting…things I saw in Prague was the following:
See that thing hanging way up high? Let me zoom in for you…
Is it a sleeping bat? Some sort of medieval rat trap? A really old spider web? No, none of the above… it’s a human hand. I think it’s hanging from the arm bone, then you can see what might be some mummified fingers at the bottom. As the story goes, a thief came into the church several hundred years ago and tried to steal jewels that were near a statue. The statue grabbed his hand and wouldn’t let go. The next day, the church monks came in and couldn’t get the statue to let go, so they cut off his hand, and then the statue let go. They then hung the hand as a reminder to other possible thieves.
Translation: Someone tried to steal from the church (St. Jacob’s) and they cut off his hand and hung it from the wall. At least the church was pretty…
Some other random pictures from my trip:
One day, Brona and I and some of her friends went to Podebrody, a nearby town that was about a 45 minute train ride away. Another friend of hers was having a party, so we decided to go. Podebrady is a unique little town known for its spas, because it has underground mineral water that is supposed to be good for you and cure diseases. Of course we all had to try it; see if you can tell from my face what I thought of it.
Yeah. It was not good. It tasted like eggs and pennies and bad dreams. We all had fun laughing at each other’s reactions though.
Podebrady had a lot of unique little things about it. Like this functional clock made of rocks and flowers:
and this puppet-show thing. You put in some money and it performed a song kind of like the one in Shrek.
I also partook in an Oplatek wafer, which I was skeptical of at first. It looked like it would be dry and tasteless, like an oversized Communion wafer, but it was actually delicious! I think mine was lemon flavored.
We also walked around the Castle of Podebrady.
After our quick tour of the town, we went back to Brona’s friend’s apartment to eat. We all brought some food, and stopped a grocery store to pick up some more stuff too. These pictures are blurry, but I want to remember all the cool people I met there.
We hung out there till later that evening, when we headed to a bar, which is where more running and shenanigans came into play. There was a discrepancy among us there as to when the last train was…someone convinced me and Brona that there was a train after the one we thought was last, and then about 5 minutes before it left we finally got someone to look online to double check. Lo and behold, we were correct… cue a group of about 8 foreigners in varying stages of intoxication (I was sober…all we had to drink was beer…gross) sprinting nearly a mile to the train station.
Quick side note here: it is legal to smoke pot in the Czech Republic; you just can’t buy or sell it. There were lots of people on the streets and in bars that were smoking it, as well as the people attending the get-together we went to. Don’t worry Mom, I did not partake… if I didn’t smoke weed in Amsterdam I definitely wasn’t going to smoke it in Prague. However, the date happened to be 4/20, which led to copious weed-smoking, and therefore much struggling when running to the train station. Anyway…
Me and another guy got to the train station first (shocking), only to find that the train had left a couple of minutes earlier, and that it was definitely the last one of the night. The next train to Prague was at 4:30 the next morning. What to do but to go back to the bar? We walked this time though.
After while all of us went back to the friend’s apartment and sat around and talked and sang while some guys played their guitars. There were about 15 of us and it was really fun. At one point we went around the circle saying a phrase in as many different languages as we could–phrases like “Hello” “How are you?” and “I love you.” We always made it around the circle more than once. We counted how many languages were spoken in the circle and how many different nationalities there were, and while I don’t remember the number, I remember that it was a lot and I loved being surrounded by that much culture. I decided that that was going to be what I missed most once I got back to the US, but lo and behold, I now teach an ESL class with students from all over the world. It all worked out!
I have a video of us singing too, but after I took it I realized that a guy on the couch was rolling a blunt. Guess I’ll keep that video to myself.
Brona and I weren’t sure what we were going to do to get back to Prague… we could of course take a train the next morning, but the only problem was that we had bus tickets to go to Terezin, a concentration camp outside of Prague, at 10:30. We debated staying up till the 4:30 train, or else getting some sleep then taking a later train and going straight to the bus stop. We decided to take the 4:30 train, but at about 3 AM we couldn’t stay up anymore. Nearly all the sleeping surfaces were taken up so we crashed on a single bed together in our clothes for about an hour, when the two of us and two of Brona’s friends got up to catch the train. We got back to Prague uneventfully, went to Brona’s and slept for a couple of hours, then went to the bus stop. Thus begins a whole other story of shenanigans and running, but I’ll tell it in the next post, when I share my pictures from Terezin.