Nite nite, sleep tight....

Trip Start Feb 21, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Czech Republic  ,
Sunday, April 29, 2007

    Yeah.  Remember that little rhyme people told you as kid before you went to bed?  Guess what - they werent kidding!!!  Sometimes you (I) need to learn the hard way.  By this I mean to say... when it starts getting close to May (read: tourist season/summer), by all means book ahead so you dont change hostels every night in the same city and so you dont end up in a dodgily un-clean hostel, where you bring microscopic friends home with you.  The first hostel I stayed in probably where I ended up starting to scratch my arm the following day... and the  next.  Then it wasnt just my arm! Thanks to bedding that looked like it was pulled out of a mothy and dusty old trunk in someones attic, I ended up with what is most assuredly a case of the bed-bug-bites.  And let me tell you it is the most uncomfortable feeling in the world!  Not just itching, but constant itching, and oh yeah, it spreads more easily when you lather up with lotion.  So what started as a couple itches turned into my entire upper arm and face and ear and neck and waist covered in bites.  Sneaky little bastards!  Not fun, my friends.  3 days of liberal doses of hydrocortisone cream and a fantasticly effective laundromat at a friends later, Im happy to say Im on the mend, but I almost wish it was a mosquito bite.  geez louise.

But enough about Prague....  No really, the city itself is great, and save for the hordes of tourists (realized later it was May 1st weekend so that explains the crowds) and the occasional wanna-be-tough-looking-biker-person-w/-violent-dog-that-the- owner-constantly-hits (what??), Praha is another city for the list of Places I Could Live.  The city is quaint architecturally, especially within the city-center (old town), and more modern as it spreads away from the river.  There are literally hundreds of concerts going on per day (albeit mostly near/for the tourists) and artists and musicians abound, namely along the pedestrian Charles Bridge - the main tourist drag.  But heres the cool thing: its not just that theres so many artistes doin their thang, but the diversity is quite impressive as well.  Aside from the large jazz scene in Prague, you have an opera singer, a classical/Spanish guitarist, a honkey-tonk charleston evoking quartet, accordionists, and (my favorite) a cute little old man with a white straw hat that he lifts if you tip him... and what does he do but brush the hair of his stuffed monkey up front, and then twirl away hits on his Syncopator Factory, a sort of popular-music of the monkey organ kind of contraption on wheels.  sweet.  Other weirdness abounds, as the city offers such wonders as french fries from a vending machine (I kid you not), and a no-bikes-allowed sign in parks that looks more like a no-pushing-a-wheel- or no-climbing-on-round-things-allowed sign.  Prague has a replica of the top of the Eiffel Tower on a hill, placed high enough up the hill that it theoretically stands as high as the real one in Paris, as well as a giant metronome sculpture that doesnt work... but I think that might be more of a memorial thing for the Czech composers instead (Chopin, Dvorak) but the jurys still out on that one.

To its credit, it has a cool castle up on a hill, which actually is more impressive and picturesque for the St. Vitus Cathedral that it surrounds.  The inside of the palace itself is quite stark, and unless you know your Czech history (and hell, unless you know Czech!) there isnt too much to read up on in there....  St. Vitus on the other hand is enormous, especially when it seems to have been dropped into the middle of a courtyard with zero zoning laws back in the day.... you cant get far enough from it without backing into a wall to take a picture, and even then you sitll only get about half of it squeezed into the camera frame.  Prague is another beautiful city spoiled by the construction for the summer crowds (hey wait I thought they were already here!). You can also find some fantastic traditional Bohemian chow without looking too far... myself and a couple girls at the hostel scored a restaurant at the foot of the funicular (it goes up to the Eiffel Tower thing), and had a great meal of meat-filled potatoe dumplings with Sauerkraut, goulash soup, fresh fresh rye bread and Pilsner.  All to the tune of 200 and change Kroner (about 10 bucks).  Not bad!

For me the city was even more pleasing to wander around as I had the fortune to meet up with an aunt of mine taking her own trip from Prague up to Berlin on a river cruise.... nice.  So after visiting with her and her niece (and her husband) for a couple days, it was hard to get into tourist mode again.  But we had fun and the four of us attempted to take a 2 hr bus tour of the city, which turned into a bus-almost-breaks-down-after-weve-been-driving-for-5-min.-to ur... so we sat around in the bus for about 20 min before the driver decided, no, maybe it wont break down today after all... lets try it and just push it to the limit.  Theres enough of us to push if we have to!  great.  But luckily the remainder of the tour was uneventful.  Later we took a cab to move their luggage from their hotel to their boat, and here the fun begins.  I remember reading or hearing somewhere int he past that cabbies in Prague are about as trustworthy as those in London.  Basically you need to know exactly where youre going or you take public transportation.

The hotel called a cab a this is what happened:  1. they send us a driver who uses two crutch-like things to walk, therefore rendering him totally incapable of helping load bags (especially large heavy ones) in and out of his own car.  Are you joking???  2. he attempts to drive us to the port.  Instead, he drives to the hotel closest to the port.  3. we get him to ask directions from a guy in the driveway of the hotel (I think he must get a cut because waitll you hear this) who suppsedly tells him the correct way to go, but is pointing away from the river as he says this.  4. the driver proceeds to take us down an entrance ramp to the (oh this is rich) underground parking lot of the hotel!!!  And then you know what?  There was a car in front of us who was stuck because the machine was broken and wouldnt give him a ticket.  We were on such a slope that it was near impossible to back up, and anyways a car came behind us in the mean time.  10 min. later an attendant (not very attentive, are you???) comes out, fixes the machine, insists that we need a ticket as well (hey wait a minute, we dont want to Park here, we want to turn around and get to water for the sake of Peter!!!) then: 5. the driver drives s l o w l y around the underground lot once, then twice as we try to tell him where the exit ramp is... and hes the one thats supposed to speak/read Czech!  holy smokes.  6. we *finally* leave the bloody garage, emerge into sunlight once again (ahhh!) and make him stop the car again so we know exactly where he needs to drive in order to take the car exactly next to the boat so they can board with their luggage.  Are you freaking kidding me?????  Either he was a hell of an actor or the seriously dumbest cabbie I have ever encountered.  oh. my. God.
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