I have had several people ask me, which was my favourite out of the places we went… and it is really a tough call. I think I would say Prague, but ask me tomorrow and I might answer differently.
Coming into Czech, the countryside had sort of a run-down, low-income feel. Terrain-wise, it actually reminded me of a mix of Indiana, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. There were also a ton of little huts!! They had whole strips of what appeared to be one room houses. They were so small and there were so many, that it was incredible! I am all for the tiny house movement, so I would live in one.
When we got into Prague, we carried our bags up a cobblestone sidewalk on a giant hill. Since we didn’t have a GPS and didn’t know the streets, finding the hostel was a bit of a problem. After some backtracking and stopping to gather ourselves, we found our way to Elf Hostel.
We were a little troubled when we walked up to the hostel because it was in a kind of rough looking area and there was barbed wire outside. But, the inside of the place was cute. Definitely eclectic, but cute. We ended up getting a huge six person room to ourselves because they were doing construction on the upstairs rooms. This was the only time that we didn’t have a bathroom in our room, but it wasn’t a problem at all because they had so many different rooms in the hall with either a shower, toilet, or sink.
After getting settled in, we realized that we didn’t have enough sunlight to make it to much in Prague, so we asked the desk where to go and were given a few suggestions. So, we headed out and found our way to the TV tower, where we went up an infinite elevator to the top and overlooked the whole city. They had these strange bubble seats that we sat in for a little while and looked out the windows.
Afterwards, we walked around a bit and then realized that all of the shops around us were closing down even though it was only around 7 pm. We found out through research that in Prague, shops open early and close early. I stopped at an ATM to withdraw a little bit of cash in their currency. We didn’t want to get stuck with a bunch of Korunas in the end, so I ended up being the only one to withdraw cash here and we used cards once we ran out. We ended up deciding to get take-away because it was getting dark and sketchy out. We found a busy Vietnamese place, grabbed some food, and took it back to the hostel.
In the morning, we got up and headed out around 9:10. I was able to successfully navigate us to the metro so we didn’t waste time walking to the attractions. We did make sure to figure out how to buy tickets here, because from the reading it seemed like they were more strict about tickets and everyone around us seemed to be getting them. A notable event for the day was that upon leaving the metro, I stopped in at a “WC” (water closet) where I had to pay as usual, but also had to grab the toilet paper I needed before entering the stall.
We started out our day at Prague castle. On the way up, we met George, a street musician. He talked to us for quite a while and gave us suggestions on what to try and see. He told us that it would take at least a year of living in Prague to be able to fully appreciate and know the city. Before we continued the walk up to the castle, he played his violin for us and we took a selfie.
The castle had great views over the city. There were straight faced guards standing at the entrance to the estate. I decided that I wouldn’t be able to do that job because I would start laughing.
Inside the property, there was really neat gothic architecture. Since we were limited on time, we couldn’t do everything they offered at the castle considering it was nearly 18 acres! We did go up the bell tower. The 282 steps wore me out, but the view was well worth it!
After leaving the castle, we went to pick up our train tickets for the next day. Along the way, it felt wonderful outside and the sun was shining. We stopped and made giant soap bubbles with a guy in a park area. It was harder than it looked, but I was able to get a few bubbles made!
The streets of Prague are adorable. They are pretty narrow and the streets are mostly cobble. After finding the ticket office, we stopped in a cafe for lunch and had some really great food. Dumplings are supposedly a big deal in Czech, so the dessert we shared was dumpling wrapped strawberries. Their dumplings aren’t what you would expect. Definitely not cracker barrel dumplings. Ali had some with her meal and it was almost just like a spongy bread.
We continued on our way across Saint Charles Bridge, where we experience our most magical moment of the whole trip. The weather was gorgeous and views out over the water were extremely relaxing. Streets vendors and performers lined the bridge. There were several stands where you could get caricatures drawn. We ended up stopping at a stand with hand painted pebble necklaces made by a lady from Czech. I got one with a little hut on it because we saw so many of them on the train ride in.
Just off the bridge was the Old Town square. All of the streets were still really eclectic and adorable. Yet again, we happened upon food stands with a bunch of Czech cultural foods. We had another chimney cake, for research purposes of course. We had to see how their chimney cake compared to that from Budapest. They were in fact different from each other. This one didn’t have the vanilla glaze, but it was fluffier. We also ate a plate of really delicious ham that had been roasted right there, along with some beer bread and a Staropramen beer. Pork and beer are two more huge food products for them. Czech has the highest per capita consumption of beer, and after trying their beer that makes a little more sense to me. I have found since coming to Europe that I do not enjoy the taste of beer, but I could handle Czech’s!
After eating, we walked over to the really strange, huge clock. It has a bunch of symbols on it that people apparently don’t know the meaning of, but it was pretty impressive looking. While we were waiting for the hour to strike so we could see what the clock does, Ali tried joining in on a tour group. We had to leave because I am pretty sure the guide realized I wasn’t in the group. She kept giving me confused looks. We decided that I don’t have a familiar face like Ali does. Also while we were waiting, people kept trying to get us to do Segway tours and we were getting pretty annoyed. I finally walked away to get some hot chocolate from a stand nearby. The hot chocolate ended up being more like warm chocolate pudding. It still tasted good and warmed up my hands, so totally worth it. On the hour, the clock went off and pictures of saints scrolled across the top. Nothing else really happened, so it wasn’t too exciting, but still kind of neat.
From there, we tried going to the Jewish quarter to look at a cemetery there, but we again ran into the problem of everything closing early even though it was only around 5 pm. We were able to go into a neat little shop selling things made around the Czech. Afterwards, we decided to try and locate where we needed to go for the symphony we had tickets for. We walked back through Old Town Square, which was full of street performers: people painted in gold to look like statues, a guy dressed as a pirate with two little pigs on leashes, and even a man playing a grand piano!
We stopped and got directions from a guy in the Municipal house, who we caught watching “Friends” on the computer when we walked up. He was extremely nice and printed off instructions for where we needed to head. We set off in the right direction and stopped in a cafe along the way since we had time to spare. The cafe had a ton of delicious looking desserts! They also had the biggest meringues I have ever seen. Ali and I ended up sharing a cheesecake with strawberries on it.
We got to the church where the symphony was to be held, but were still an hour early. So, we sat outside the sanctuary, hung out, and compared what we look like crossing eyes. I am sure that’s not what most people attending that event do in their spare time, but it was fun.
We were finally seated inside in the sanctuary, which was elaborate as expected. I was surprised by how small the group playing was, but nevertheless, they were amazing. The concert lasted about 2 hours, and we enjoyed every minute of it. The clarinet was played so beautifully, with such great tone and precision. I was in awe.
After the concert, we found our way back to the metro and then home. On the way back, we passed by a huge hole in the side of a bridge. Ali, Kelly, and I took off running because we were terrified of what or who was in there. It was hilarious after the fact, especially considering that people waiting at a cross-walk nearby were looking at us like we were crazy. We are… so that’s okay.
On our last day in Prague, we wandered around a bit since our train wasn’t scheduled to leave until around 10 pm. We were first going to go back to the Jewish cemetery, but the lady at the desk said “Lunch time- ten minutes!” in a really snippy way, so we just left. We went back across the bridge that we loved so much the first day. There weren’t as many vendors because the weather was kind of nasty. Ali, Kelly, and I did majorly crash a selfie of a group. I fit perfectly into the background between two people from the group. We left when they put the selfie stick down, and upon reviewing their picture they noticed us in the picture and started yelling to us in Italian. I think they thought it was funny, but since we ran away and don’t know Italian… we will never know.
We walked back into the main city area and went into a candy store. We were able to see a candy making demonstration for their hard candy with designs in it. They make a big tube of the sugar substance with the design and then pull it out into tiny cylinders that are chopped up. It was pretty incredible. You can have them make some personalized, but you have to order 120 euros worth of them. While we were watching the candy making, we got free samples. A guy who was also watching, gave us a chocolate truffle that was probably really expensive. I have been told to never take candy from strangers, but considering he opened the container right next to us, we chanced it. We made friends with the Chef guy in charge and got another selfie.
We decided to go eat actual food, so we went into a cafe and stayed there for several hours because it was a coffee shop kind of day. We collectively drank 5 pots of tea while we were there. I had a 3 course lunch special that was very cheap and very spicy. My tongue had second degree burns from biting into chili peppers, but I ate through the pain because it tasted so good. From there we headed back to Hostel Elf to gather our belongings and get to the station before dark.
Here are a few more notes from Prague:
1) Whenever we would laugh, we would say “Prahahaha.”
2) Cat and dachshund memorabilia are everywhere. There were a lot of real dachshunds as well. Dogs in general are primarily pure-bred and un-neutered.
3) People rush through the metro. It is important to stay right when standing on an escalator, because people run past on the left.
4) Statues of women are built with incredibly realistic figures. They carry fat in their midriffs in a relatable way. It is comforting actually.
5) Everything seems so colourful. Buildings, street art, etc.
6) You have to ask for your check here as well.
7) Tea is not as strong or good as in Ireland.
8) Dog poop is all over the streets.
9) Carts are small for their public transport. People are packed into buses and trams.
10) The cross walk “go” lasts for only a short time, so you have to hurry across the street.
We booked a sleeper car on the train, since this trip was pretty long and overnight. On the train, I went to go to the bathroom and forgot what number our sleeper cart was. The guy in the attendant room didn’t speak English and got really frustrated with me when I asked for help. He kept telling me “train to Poland,” which I knew. At one point, he rolled his eyes at me I decided to wait out in the hallway in hopes that Ali or Kelly would come out. The attendant kept stepping out and looking at me, so I went and hid in one of the bathrooms. I had a little bit of a migraine and I was really tired, so I sat on the floor of the bathroom that smelt strongly of pee and tried going to sleep with my head rested against the door, hoping that I could hear if anyone came calling for me. Finally, Kelly came and sort of knocked on the door. She rescued me, so I was able to go back to our tiny cart, where I attempted to sleep. I ended up waking up several times. Once was at 5:30 am to my alarm I had set on my watch in case I spent the whole night on the bathroom floor. We had to get up around 6 am anyway because the train made it to Krakow.