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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Going Medieval in Prague

So after actually making the trek across town to the train station for our 6 a.m. train Danielle and I hopped on the train to Prague. This time we were able to get a private room and had it all to ourselves thus allowing us to each take one side (the room is made up of 3 seats facing each other, so 6 seats total) and lie down and nap. The train ride was 4 ½ hours and again was very pretty from what I saw of it. I slept for the majority of the first part but was awake for the last hour or so. Nothing too eventful on the train, just lots of passport and ticket checks. Once we arrived, we headed to our hostel which was not far from the train station, yet was a little tricky finding. We checked in and were showed to our room. The room smelled as though someone had popped in their pants in there and Danielle and I were less than content with the quality of the room. Seeing the door open to the room across the hall we peeked in and saw that that room not only smelled better but looked better too. So we quickly grabbed our bags and went back down to the front desk to ask to be moved. Thankfully they accommodated us and let us have a room there on the first floor which was actually even better than the one we asked to be moved in. This one only had 5 beds in it as opposed to the 7 that the first room had and more importantly it didn’t stink.

On the train Danielle and I had decided we would take a walking tour of Prague since her friend who had just visited the week before recommended we do that. The tour was at 2 and since we arrived so early we had some time to kill. We walked around some on the main street and looked in a lot of the shops, then decided we should eat lunch before the tour. After walking around looking for a nice place to eat, we actually wound up at a Crêperie. Looks like we’re actually turning French. It was no surprise that it was filled with a lot of French tourists; seems the town was filled with them as well. However, I guess we haven’t turned completely French as neither one of us ordered a crêpe, instead I ordered Thai Chicken while Danielle ordered Goulash and Dumplings and we both shared garlic bread and I of course enjoyed cheap Czech beer. Quite an interesting and multicultural meal.

So finally it was 2 and time for our tour. To our surprise no one else showed up for the tour and it turned out to be a private tour for Danielle and me. The tour lasted about 4 hours and took us all over the town. Unfortunately the weather didn’t hold up as long as we would have liked and towards the end of the tour it started raining. Thankfully though it wasn’t that bad and we were able to still enjoy the tour. At the end of the tour Danielle and I walked around just a little bit and then returned to our hostel to shower and get ready to go out again. This time we had a mission for Czech food, but not just any Czech food, we wanted this fried cheese dish we had heard a lot about from Danielle’s friend. We had a list of restaurants in hand and set out. Unfortunately none of the restaurants had the fried cheese and the one we found that did, was too booked. So we wound up at an Italian restaurant. After finishing up dinner we went to a dance club where we had a great night that lasted till 4:30 in the morning dancing. Upon leaving the club we decided that even though our hostel wasn’t very far we were just too cold to walk so we decided to take a cab. Come to find out cabs don’t have meters but instead just tell you a flat rated which apparently differs by cab. Thankfully there were about 20 cabs all gathered in one area. The first cab told us 300 korunas, which we thought was a little high considering we were told it was 600 korunas to the airport which was about 30-45 mins away and we were only about 10 mins max from our hostel. So we decided to think more and during this time another cab driver walked up to us and asked where we were going and upon telling him our destination he told us that would cost 400 koruna. We quickly walked away deciding we’d go ahead and pay 300 but not 400. He then attempted to negotiate I assumed as he asked how much we were willing to pay. I said 250 and he said no so I said 300 and he said no again. Apparently he doesn’t understand the art of negotiation if he was completely unwilling to come down at least 50. So we walked away again and came upon the 3rd cab who said he would take us for 200. Better than we imagined so we hopped in and went back to the hostel.

The next day Danielle and I slept forever as we were absolutely exhausted from not only the night before but our whole trip. We finally woke up and went and had lunch at the place we had wanted to eat at the night before with the fried cheese. We had our fried cheese dish, which is really just like a giant mozzarella cheese stick served with tartar sauce instead of marinara. It was pretty good, but very filling. During our meal we got to watch as a line of army jeeps drove by the restaurant in parade style. That Sunday that we were there marked 60 years since they had been freed from the Soviets. They had apparently had a big demonstration of fighter jets and tanks in the morning but we slept through all that.

After lunch we went to see some of the sights that were pointed out to us on our tour but that we were unable to go in and visit with the tour. First stop was the Spanish synagogue done in Moorish style. That was my first experience with the Moorish style and I have to say I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately they didn’t allow pics at all. After the Synagogue we headed back up Castle Hill where we had been on the tour but had been unable to enter the Church up there. We couldn’t find the stairs we had taken down from Castle hill the day before but wound up taking stairs through the Palace gardens instead. Turned out to be worthwhile as we got several great views of the city. We viewed the church and came back down the hill and walked over to what they call “little Venice”. It’s a small island created alongside of the river by a small canal. Not much going on there but it was cute. We then walked back across Charles Bridge, did a little shopping and went and had a leisurely dinner. Thankfully the weather was great for us all day. We then went back home got ready and went to bed. The next morning would be the worst of all as we had to get up at 3:45 a.m. and leave the hostel by 4:15 to catch our 6 a.m. flight into Paris. Immediately after landing I went to work thus marking the end to my trip and throwing me harshly back into reality.

After the long trip Danielle and I were happy to be home even though we did have a great time. The trip was a blast and Prague was definitely my favorite. With out a doubt I’d return to Prague. I encourage everyone to try and go before they adopt the euro in about 6 years as it’s pretty darn cheap right now. On another note, Danielle and I are always being asked where we’re from when we’re in Paris. Most people assume for some reason that we are from either Italy or Spain. We’re not really sure why but they always seem to guess those two or try to speak to us in Italian or Spanish even when we speak English to each other. So during this trip we were curious to see if the central Europeans would think the same. As it turns out they do. At one restaurant in Vienna they kept speaking to us in Italian the whole night. At a souvenir shop in Prague immediately upon entering, the man starts speaking to us in Italian, when we don’t acknowledge it he then starts in Spanish asking if that’s where we’re from. Very strange it is, but kind of fun at the same time to leave them guessing.

Below is a pic of the Charles Bridge on the Vltava River. Below that is a pic of me with the Czech fried cheese dish called Smazeny Syr in Czech.

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