Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Prague: Pub crawl, John Lennon Wall and Trdelník || Travel Diary

Day 1: (Friday)

(Travel Day 17)
We arrived in Prague and walked to our hotel, which was different from the Busabout assigned hostels. Honestly, we got there and thought we were in the wrong place. The lobby looked far too fancy for what we were paying, surely we must be in the wrong place? Nope. Our money went a long way in the Czech Republic, getting us a nice hotel room for the price of a hostel. Complete with apples on our pillows, much healthier than the usual chocolates or mints.

We arrived late in the day so enjoyed an early dinner, and free complementary wine, because who's going to say no to free wine? C'm'on! Afterwards we walked around old town square in the rain but didn't stick around as tomorrow was going to be the touring day.


Day 2:

Breakfast was at the hotel. The bartender helped us learn a few Czech words, after practising on the wait staff and getting it completely wrong. Please: (Pro-seeM) and Thank you: (Ja-Que-ey)

We bought 24hour transport tickets for 110kc each for all trains/trams/subways. A steal if you ask me. Strangely the subway and tram system has no barriers for ticket checking. Anyone can ride without a ticket, at the risk of being caught. Very different to the London and Paris systems! The Prague subway was also very clean. Finding our destination was hard though, when even comprehending the place names, let alone pronouncing them, is difficult.

Later that morning we went on another Sandeman's Free walking tour, it was threatening rain but the heavens only opened at the very end. Our local guide Martin took us around all the sights, and told us the stories of how his family were affected by the communist rule of Czechoslovakia.

Matrin then led us to have lunch at local restaurant booked out entirely for our tour. Chris had sausages, and I had my first authentic goulash with bread dumplings and of course beer.
The building below is called the "Church of the Virgin Mary Before Tyn", what a mouthful. It is part of the architecture surrounding the old town square. At first glance nothing seems out of the ordinary on this stunning Gothic tower, but as you spend more time admiring its structure you will see differences been the two towers. The locals say that the two towers represent Adam and Eve. As they are built slightly differently. The left lower is "Eve", slightly thinner and less imposing with more feminine details. On the right is "Adam" being wider, slightly taller and with slightly different details. Whether the story is true, or that the story was made to cover for the were inconsistencies when building, it still is an impressive feature in Prague's Old Town Square, especially at night.
Prague is another one of those cities where it is worth seeing the sights twice, once during the day and again at night. It adds a whole different feel to the buildings when they are all lit up.
On the opposite side of the Old town square is the famous Astronomical clock. Where a huge crowd will gather on the hour to see the procession of Apostles and figures move.
The figures of the Astronomical Clock are of 3 sinners and 1 skeleton - representing vanity, greed, and indulgence; the men all shaking their heads, implying that they don't want to die for their sins, while the skeleton is nodding.
An interesting technical feat is that the sun and moon designs shift along clock hands over the year, coinciding with the positions of their real counterparts. In the Czech Republic, every day of the year is traditionally given a different "name day", named after someone of influence. Lots of the clocks around Prague also have both Roman and Hebrew numbering.
We were also told about the numerous famous movies (both good and terrible) that are made in Prague, often even when they are set somewhere else. The idea that, what foreign audiences don't know, won't hurt them. The list is long (click here for a few).
We finished our tour near the Charles bridge, and this was when it got very, very wet. We retreated home to dry off.
The Pub crawl was that night, and started at 8pm. And what a way to start, with a power hour, including free beer, wine, vodka & absinthe shots. Wowzers. This was a good opportunity to get to know some of the other Busabouters in Prague with us.
With booze being a great social lubricant and all, we went to 4 clubs. The last one was 5 stories tall, and had an ice bar in the basement. There was a bar to suit most tastes with a different music genre  on each level. We got home at about 2am, after having KFC (of all things) for a late night snack.

Day 3:

Our last day in Prague had quite a late start, as you might imagine. We weren't feeling too flash after the night before. I blame the absinthe shots! So we slept in, I fell asleep at the laundromat, and then had a nana nap at the hotel.
Once we finally hauled ourselves out from the comforts of bed we went to explore more of the city.
A hangover craves sugar, so we harnessed those cravings enjoyed a local delicacy called a Trdelník, which is a cinnamon bread roll. We didn't have the mental capacity to pronounce it properly so from then forth it was known (to us) as a "Turtle neck"...
At 7.30pm we took a tram to the John Lennon Wall, where people from all over the world have come to pay respect to the man himself, and what he represented. Usually by leaving graffiti layered upon graffiti on the wall.
More locks on bridges.
 We followed this up, by walked along Charles Bridge and up to Prague Castle. Where, again, it started raining.

At the end of the evening we took the tram back into city and had dinner at a local pub. We had roast duck served with bread and potato dumplings and a side of sauerkraut. Again washed down with a local Pilsner beer. Which I must say was necessary, as there was a LOT of salt on everything we ate.

Quick Summary (TL;DR)

Duration of stay: 2 and a half days
Was it enough time?: It is ever? We didn't get to see everything as we were hindered by rain.
Where we stayed: Hotel Absolutum
Time of Year: May
Best memories: Getting better acquainted with our Busabout friends on the Prague Pub Crawl
Worst memories: Being rained on, a LOT and the morning after the Pub crawl... You know the drill.
Top tip: Take a tour, it always makes you appreciate the great subtleties of a city and the way it ticks.
Next time: See more of Prague castle, and explore the city more.
Prague in a few words: Old, intoxicating, inexpensive
Recommended?: Yes, Prague is beautiful and full of life. It doesn't hurt that money goes a lot further too.
Overall experience: 7/10
Next destination: Český Krumlov

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