Trip Start Jan 27, 2009
20Trip End May 15, 2009
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Where I stayed
So three days ago I wrote to you from the London airport. That night, I had dinner at an all-you-can-eat Mongolian restaurant with some people in Linz, and I was sad to say goodbye (again)... We didn't get time to see Linz or even do our laundry, as it took me most of the next morning to pack up my four months worth of crap and decide what to take home or leave behind. As we were leaving I got a bit anxious about it, I guess i was more attached to the place than I let myself believe!
Anyway we took a train from the Hauptbahnhof to Prague, and we were lucky enough to have a compartment mostly to ourselves for most of the trip! The scenery was again quite beautiful - I'll say this about train travel in Europe: It costs a bloody arm and a leg, but it is a damn sight more interesting and comfortable than plane travel, for all it's slowness. Anywhoo we eventually arrived in Prague as it was getting dark, and got thoroughly confused by the train station and currency change. By the time we found the hotel, our arms were going to fall off from heaving around all my luggage - too many months worth of crap were kept, methinks.
Sunday morning we decided to take this free tour, run by the same company as the one we did in Dublin. We wandered the streets towards old town around 9am looking for a feed, and after finding very little we eventually settled on Subway which was an interesting experience in itself.
From here, there was many more people on the streets - and also, a live band. And barriers blocking roads. Hello, something interesting going on here? Next we see people running down said roads, with numbers - ah so it's some sort of marathon or fun run, right? We dash in front of the runners and down the streets until, after increasing numbers of people and noise, we come into the main square of old town.
It is PACKED.
Apparently, we happened upon Prague the same day as the Volkswagen International Prague Marathon. So the enture square is packed with people, stalls, live music, and - of course - marathon runners. It was a good thing we were 20 minutes early, as it took us 20 minutes to get from where we entered the square, 20 metres across to where the tours started. The tour started late to allow for people having difficulty with the crowds, then the poor guides had to improvise on a trail to take and where they could stop to talk, and being a rather new tour route for them it was obviously a bit of a struggle. But our guide did well, and he was quite good at informing us of the history and sights of the old town.
After much meandering, we stopped for lunch and a toilet break at a place called Bohemian Bagel. We only had cheesecake (after eating footlong subs for breakfast we weren't in the mood for a big lunch) which was DELICIOUS and, after getting excited at the menu, decided that we'd be back for breakfast the next day.
After this we headed through the Jewish quarter, then across the river to Kampa island where Justin wrapped up the tour somewhat late due to all the marathon kerfuffle with the story of how 20,000 Prague civilians held off 900,000 of the Nazi elites at the end of the war. Or some such romantic tale.
We followed our noses to a hotdog stall and thoroughly enjoyed some Czech sausage (hehe) before heading across the Charles Bridge and down the river towards the hostel. Both of us were really bushed, me because I'm unfit and Fiona because her cough was wearing her down, so we had a nap before heading out to dinner nearby, then sitting back and watching some satellite TV and going to sleep.
This morning, as I mentioned, we were keen on Bohemian Bagel for breakfast - but not so keen that we got up early. Sleeping in until 9am, we deposited our clothing to be washed at the laundromat (you can't do-it-yourself in Prague) before walking up the streets into old town again. Only problem was that it was raining quite heavily (unlike yesterday, where I got sunburnt on my face) and we were absolutely soaked by the time we found the place.
We enjoyed our hearty breakfast and dried off some, taking about an hour to really enjoy ourselves. By now it was like noon, so our breakfast served also as lunch XD We wanted to look in some shops, so we kept wandering through old town stopping at every jewellery story in case Fiona found something she liked. I needed a post office, where I posted home some scarves, my towel, and a soft toy (I'm sorry, Dubby!) to make room in my luggage. After hauling it into Prague, we weren't keen to haul it all back out :P It wasn't too expensive, at least.
So as we wandered, I spent vast quantities of cash in souvenir shops and bought some 'traditional Czech chocolate', along with some more postcards, and Fiona looked in every single jewellery store window we passed. It was all still a bit too expensive, in the end, but it was nice looking at the Bohemian jewellery still.
We crossed the Charles bridge, and headed up the slight incline towards St Nicolaus church. I was, as usual, very tired from all the walking so we stopped at Starbucks for a break, before continuing up the slopes. Then we climbed a hella-huge staircase, which I had to stop like eleventy times before reaching the top, where Prague castle was situated (I don't care how defensible it is, I'm sick of these castles being in high places that I have to climb to! :P). We purchased the incredibly expensive tickets to see the castle etc, and got one audio guide to share between us. If I could do it again, I might not bother with the tickets and just get the audioguide - you can enter St Vitisus's Cathedral without a ticket, and that's where most of the audioguide info is centred. You can also glean a heck of a lot of information from the audioguide from places you don't actually go into, such as the Old Royal Palace and St George's Basilica which are both impressive enough from outside. And don't even ask me about the Golden Lane, it's a stupid place which you've paid to get into, and is crammed full of shops. The Daliborka tower also doesn't require a ticket, and was a prison with all sorts of lovely torture devices in it. After this I heard my favourite part of the audioguide tour, where the Lobkovicz Prine personally invites us into his palace to enjoy the views, and have a cappuccino with him and his wife who will just happen to be waiting around to hang out with us foreign commoners. Yeah, right! :P
By now it was 5:30pm, and I had to return my (overpriced) audioguide before 6pm to get my student ID back so I left Fiona at the vineyard and waddled back up the stupid hill to return the guide. I was rewarded with some sunshine, which was pretty, so I guess it was all worth it. And, of course, we now got to traverse the steps down the hill which was far more enjoyable than going up the hill.
We were again quite tired, so instead of attempting to see anymore sights while the sun's still up we headed back to the hotel to pick up our now clean laundry. In case you're wondering why I'm not starving, sometime during the palace I found some more tasty Czech sausage in a bun (hot dogs seem popular here) so it's kept me going.
And now, I better don some clean clothes and head out for dinner before I get too hungry to move.
Until next time, sbohem and děkuji!