Most Beautiful City Ever, Yet So Disappointing

Trip Start Jun 08, 2008
Trip End Jul 09, 2008

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Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Thursday, June 19, 2008

Before arriving to Prague I had heard so many good things about the city.  For one, people told me that it is the most beautiful city in the world, more so than even Paris.  And on this count I would have to agree with them; I have never seen Paris but I would imagine that it would have a rough time competing against Prague in the beauty department.  All the buildings are so beautiful that they all seem to be historically important, even though the building may now just be home to a grocery or liquor store.  Just walking around the streets of Prague you get carried away into the story book charm that the city's buildings exude.
The ride to Prague wasn't too bad, though it was exceptionally long due to the mountainous roads that Tomek took to bring us there.  We passed through the old border town that is now nearly deserted and falling apart due to the lack of travelers stopping int eh town.  Many small towns sprouted up around border checkpoints in the old days because there was money to be made from travelers waiting in long lines (this is Eastern Europe after all, long lines are the usual occurrence).  However when the borders were opened with the Schengen Agreement travelers began to fly through these border towns with no need for checkpoint stops, thus the town's income gradually decreased until they became deserted.  I would imagine this is the case with the majority of former border crossing towns throughout the EU.
We arrived to the city fairly late with just enough time to get some dinner and a little bit of beer before passing out.  I was fairly excited for the next day because we would be exploring the city and it was also when my friend Johnny was supposed to arrive meaning the real Euro Trip would begin.  The previous two weeks I had been with family, had plans set for me, as well as having a safety net in case something happened.  However I would soon be given the opportunity to travel wherever and whenever I wanted, as well as doing whatever wherever whenever I wanted.  The new sense of independence in a foreign land was empowering but at the same time slightly terrifying.
The next morning we woke up early, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and arranged for a tour of Prague figuring it was the best way to see the entire city in one shot.  The tour group only had a total of five people in it making the tour guide and the tour itself feel a lot more personable.  With the exception of our tour bus driver getting ill and having to go to the hospital (problems followed me across Europe for this trip) the tour went rather smoothly.  I saw all the major sights and was able to take a walking tour from Prague Castle across the Charles Bridge and into the heart of the Old Town Square.  When the tour was over, we decided to sty in the Old Town Square to have lunch and explore the Old Town a little bit.  An odd thing about Prague, they charge you nearly double the price to eat outside than inside.  It's a weird trick they use to get extra money, because they only show you the menu with inside prices outside... tricky Czechs.
The Old Town is a confusing set of winding streets and old buildings and would be remarkable if it wasn't for the fact that every damn five feet you run into another souvenir shop.  It's a shame that such a beautiful and historic area of Prague is relegated to being the city's souvenir mecca, each shop selling the same exact toys and gadgets as the next.  After getting lost for far too long in the Old Town we finally found our way back to the Charles Bridge, which by the way is quite the sight.  It's an amazing old bridge with great picture opportunities, but as such is jam packed with fellow tourists and hawkers trying to sell their paintings or other trinkets.  A few local musicians also set up shop on the bridge, which I think is one of the best parts of the Charles Bridge.  There was one fellow who played songs on wine glasses and also was a one man band; the one man band was probably one of the funniest things I had seen in a while.
After making our way across the Charles Bridge we had to make it back up to our hotel by the Strahovska Monastery; anyone familiar with Prague knows that this is no easy walk.  It took us nearly forty five minutes of walking up a steep hill in the blazing sun, several wrong turns along the way, before we finally made our way back to the hotel.  On the walk I had time to think about what people told me about Prague and what I felt about it.  I could honestly say that it is the most beautiful city I have ever been in, but at the same time disappointing.  Maybe my hopes had been too high for this city but after walking through the Old Town and all those souvenir shops I felt like I was cheated from an authentic experience of "Prague."  I chalked it up to it being the first day in the city and hoped the rest of my time in Prague would be better.   
Upon entering my room I see Johnny had finally arrived from America but he was passed out drunk on the bed.  I was thinking to myself that he chose a great way to start an adventure...
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