“Hmph, ‘you didn’t know,’” the officer snapped back, “Give me your passport.” “I’m so sorry sir, I just got in yesterday,” I replied extremely embarrassed at having been caught doing something illegal. “Now you pay the fee. 800 Kronner,” he ordered. When I pulled out my empty wallet, he said “Come, I follow you to ATM machine.”
Date: May 17th, 2016
Time: 9:04 a.m. – 09:04 EST
Location: Brioche Doree, Hlavni Nadrazi Train Station – Prague, Czech Republic
I arrived in Prague around 4:30ish p.m. on Sunday, and I was absolutely exhausted. Berlin had worn me out, and the only thing I wanted was sleep. A friend of my mom’s had a niece living in Prague, and the niece had kindly offered to allow me to stay with her during my visit, and much to my relief she came to the train station to meet me. She truly went above and beyond in her host duties, even buying my bus ticket home from the station. “They’re very strict here. Sometimes I go three weeks without anyone asking for my ticket, and then other days I’ll get stopped four times. If you get caught without one you have to pay a ridiculous fee,” she told me while she deposited coins into the ticket machine.
When we arrived to her apartment I was ecstatic to see how clean and cozy it was – I would even get to sleep in a queen size bed instead of a tiny hostel bunk. She gave me a quick explanation of the best things to see in Prague and how to get around the city. My exhaustion got the best of me and I ended up falling asleep around 7:00 p.m. before the sun had even gone down. I woke up to my host getting ready for work – it was 6:45 a.m., she said, “Go back to sleep, if you’d like to. I’m leaving you keys and directions for when you wake up.” I’m convinced she was my Prague Guardian Angel.
I woke up again around 10:00 a.m., which means I slept about 15 hours straight. Finally, I felt like I had really recovered from Berlin. I got dressed and headed out into the city. My host lived about a 15-minute bus ride from the center of Prague, and although she had left directions on how to get to the bus stop, I ended up walking aimlessly for almost half an hour. Eventually I saw a store that had a sign in English, and I stopped to ask for directions.
When I got into the subway station, I bought my ticket and hopped onto the right train. Upon exiting the station I was taken aback by how beautiful all of the buildings were; I understood why so many people describe Prague as a magical city. Unfortunately the weather was cold and rainy and grey, not exactly ideal for walking around. I saw a sign that advertised a free tour at 2:00 p.m., and since it was only 11:30 a.m. I decided to find a place to eat and kill some time before my tour. I wanted to be somewhere with WiFi, so I went into a TGIFridays, something I’m not very proud of. However, although the food was way overpriced, I was happy to finally get some steamed veggies in my system. After I finished eating, I used Google Maps to find a close Starbucks where I could sit down and blog until it was time for my tour.
Although the GPS said it was a five-minute walk, I ended up going around in circles because of the strange layout of the city. When I found a Starbucks, it wasn’t the one of my map, but I was relieved nonetheless. I ordered a small hot chocolate, but when I paid, the person at the register neglected to give me any change back. This was the first time I had anyone try to take advantage of me as a tourist, and I was livid. However, I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt, and politely asked for my change when she was done taking the next person’s order. She feigned surprise, and tossed my 105 Kronner on the counter.
I sat down and began blogging, then left the coffee shop around 1:35 p.m. to try and find the meeting spot for the free tour. It seemed like all these days of being on foot had helped improve my sense of direction because I found the spot easily. I ended up going on the Spanish tour and enjoyed how colorful and energetic our young tour guide was. We visited many historical spots of importance, and he vividly described each one, delving into the sometimes violent, sometimes funny story behind each building, church or plaza.
Prague has a very interesting history full of people being thrown out of windows, citizens denouncing religion, and buildings getting quirky names based on little statues and location, for example one church was named “Church of the Virgin in front of Tyn” because it was in front of a square named Tyn. “The Czechs are interesting people,” explained the tour guide, “They’re very cold and have a dry sense of humor, but its understandable considering their messy history.”
When the tour was over, I decided to continue walking around to see all of the other beautiful places I had read about in my guidebook, that being said, it’s worth mentioning that walking around in Prague was nothing like walking around in Berlin. Prague has massive hills and stairs and tiny cobblestones streets. After 15 minutes of being on foot, I found myself thankful that I spent so much time at the gym back home. The Charles Gate Bridge was stunning, and in that moment I felt like the walk had absolutely been worth it. However, I was left a little unimpressed with the Palace, but the cathedral behind it was
beautiful. As I was leaving the Palace, I noticed a little Starbucks outdoor terrace, and when I looked out at the view I was in awe. I sat there for almost an hour taking in the magic of Prague.
As I made my way back home, I was slightly disappointed at how cold everyone seemed. In Berlin, I made a new friend on every bus ride or coffee shop, but here, people weren’t very receptive to conversing and didn’t particularly smile back. I realized that despite it’s architectural beauty, Prague, was not my city. I decided that I had seen all I wanted to and would continue onto the next city. I stopped at the main train station and bought my ticket to Vienna for 10:52 a.m. for the next morning. When I got back to my host’s apartment, she cooked and I told her about my busy day. “Yeah, I totally think you can do Prague in a day, I just wish we had been able to hang out some more,” she said after I told her I would be leaving the next morning.
We woke up around 7:00 a.m. and got ready to head out. On the bus ride to the train station I made eye contact with a guy in his late twenties with grey eyes and reddish hair. He smiled, and I smiled back. Maybe not all Czechs were cold. We got off at the same stop, and he said to me, “You have a beautiful smile, would you like to grab coffee?” I explained that my train left within two hours, and instead we made small talk about the complexity of the English language. When we got down to the tram entrance, an official was checking tickets. The Czech guy pulled his out, and I turned bright red as I explained to the officer that I had forgotten to get a ticket. He had no sympathy for me, so I said a quick goodbye to the Czech I met on the bus as the officer followed me up to the ATM machine.
I ended up paying a $35 fee, and the officer gave me a receipt explaining that this would serve as a valid ticket for the next 20 minutes. I got onto the tram, and when I exited, I was met by yet another official. This time I smugly pulled out my receipt and jokingly said, “Someone else already got me,” which gave the officer and his companion a bit of a chuckle. I’m currently sitting at a coffee shop in the train station, and I feel excited to be moving on. Prague may be beautiful, but unlike with Berlin, I have no qualms about saying goodbye, see you soon Vienna!