03.19.2010 - 03.22.2010
From the moment we landed in Prague, we had a feeling that this might be one of the most challenging stops on our route. The Czech Republic has yet to convert their currency to Euros. They still use the Czech Koruna (Czech Crown). To get to our hostel, we had to take the metro and a tram. We headed to the nearest ATM to get our crowns and aqquire transportation tickets. The ATM gave Aud a 2000 CZK bill. Our metro tickets only cost 26CZK, so we obviously needed change. After waiting in line for over 20 minutes, we finally made it to the front of the line at the change office. Assuming the ticket machines take dollar bills like everywhere else in Europe, we didn't think twice when the slower than a snail change lady broke our 2000 CZK into smaller bills. Much to our dismay, we soon find out that the ticket machine only takes coins. We get back in line at the change counter, wait for another 15 minutes and break one of the 100CZK bills into coins. By this point we were getting flustered, but were happy that we were finally seconds away from holding our precious tickets in hand. But wait! After the stupid machine rejected our stupid coins, we see in the fine print mixed in with the multitude of Czech instructions, that this machine takes EXACT CHANGE ONLY. Trying to avoid visiting the change desk for the third time in an hour, we go to a convenience store to purchase a water and some Twix (chocolate always calms my nerves) in hopes of recieving change. The clerk behind the register refuses to change our extra coins even after we made a purchase. We have the epiphany that only a mere 20 years ago, this was in fact a communist country and some of the older citizens might not care for Americans. All this being said, we still did not have correct change and had to return to the change counter for a third time, tails tucked between our legs. After an hour and fifteen minutes of this back and forth ticket/correct change dance, we finally had correct change and got our f*ing tickets.
Our hostel is nice and is probably a rediculously fun place in the summer. It has a huge two level dinning/bar area complete with a dance floor and DJ. It even has a sauna and a pool (which is closed at the moment). However, it currently looks like a ghost town. We took it easy our first night knowing we were going to do a lot of sightseeing the next day.
NewEurope Tours operates out of several major cities. We enjoyed our tours in Munich so much that we did the free walking tour of Prague to see what the area had to offer. Yet again, our guide was AWESOME. It was this small guy from Whales named Hew. He lead us all over Prague giving us a thousand years of history in just over three hours. He told all of these stories with risque humor while using slang terms to connect with the younger generation. It worked, cause I paid attention to the whole thing. We saw the Astronomical Clock, the Charles Bridge, various buildings, and memorials from the different ages of the Czech history. He spoke mainly about the Defenestration of Prague, when, in 1618 two Habsburg councillors were thrown from a window of the Prague Castle (making the joke of the Czech's bouncing....get it....checks bouncing hahaha), igniting the Thirty Years War. He also talked extensively about the two Golden Ages of Czech history, the effect of WWII, and the rise and fall of the communist regime.
After this fabulous verbal trip back into time, we opted to join the Castle Tour that was starting not long after our free tour. Unfortunately, we did not have Hew for the second tour. We had Keith, a salt and pepper 50 something American who met a woman while visiting the Czech Republic seven years prior. He was extremely enthusiastic about the history of the Prague Castle and surrounding area, constantly using lots of exaggerated hand gestures to point out various facts and tidbits. I compared him to Chris Farley's character Matt Foley on SNL. You remember the infamous "In a van...DOWN BY THE RIVER!!" speech? Not quite as intense as that, but pretty close. Any who, after our eight hours of walking all over Prague we hustled back to the hostel for some amazing home made pizza, and a quick recoup before meeting under the Astronomical Clock for a Pub Crawl.
This is where things get good. The evening started out great with the free drinks as promised. We noticed that the second bar they took us too was extremely crowded so we made sure to ask what time we had to leave for the third bar. They obviously didn't tell anyone else because as we left there was a mass of people asking each other where our guides were (one of which was the owner Isaac) and when we were supposed to leave. We all headed outside together to wait. After waiting for 30 minutes, one of the fellow pub crawlers had to go back inside to search for our three guides. She managed to pluck the owner, who was pretty drunk himself, off of a bar stool. He led the group to the third bar without even doing a head count to see if the entire group was there. Again, at the third bar, Audrey had to go track down one of our fearless leaders and ask what time we were to be outside. By this point, the owner was long gone. When the time came to leave, we stood for 30 minutes by the exit, watching our other two guides grind on each other and have a dance off. All of a sudden, one of them shouts "Pub Crawl, next bar!!!" and they head for the door. I wait by the exit as Aud goes back into the bar to collect as many of our fellow pub crawlers as possible. En route to the next bar we look around and realize that the group of over 40 we started out with, has now been reduced to about 10. Who knows where everyone else was, and let's all say a prayer hoping they made it home ok. By this point, Aud and I were so fed up that we decided to ditch and go back to the hostel.
We get on the tram in what we were hoping was the right direction. After a solid 30 minutes, probably longer, and several back and forth converstations of "Cat, I think were going the wrong direction" and "I don't think we are, Aud".....Aud finally convinces my stubborn ass to get off the tram. We check out the nearest tram map and find out that Aud was absolutely correct. We were now on the outskirts of Prague at a very well lit (thank god) tram stop. By this point it was just after 3 am. We then had to wait 30 minutes for the next tram into town.... next to a man who minutes before was just puking next to his bench and was now passed out sitting up dry heaving on himself. The tram comes and we ride back into Prague still unsure of what stop we needed because the night trams are on a completely different schedule. Keep in mind, we researched all of this before going out, but it became apparent that it was not explained very well. Aud made the executive decision to hop off the tram when we were back in civilization. We decided to regroup by getting a hot dog and caving in to calling a cab. While we were eating our abnormally huge sausage (hehe), I look over my shoulder to see that we are standing directly in front of a Czech strip club. Now, it made sense as to why there were so many creepers around us. We decided that if we were going to be stranded in Prague, waiting for a cab, with no idea as to our whereabouts, that in front of a strip club with body gaurds and bouncers was probably one of the safest places for us to be at almost 4 am. Aud would like me to point out that I apparently, warded off a swarm of Africans with a single death stare. I am now not only her bird gaurding ninja, I save her from strip club lurking Africans as well. Our yellow charriot finally arrived and dropped us at our hostel sometime after 4:15 AM. Needless to say, we spent the whole next day sleeping and taking it easy.
Originally, we were going to head to Berlin today. We felt that if we left Prague after the pubcrawl debacle, we wouldn't have the same appreciation for the city that countless others speak so highly about. Plus, there were a few things we still wanted to do. First thing this morning we headed to the train station to find our way to Kutna Hora. It's about an hour away and is the location of the BONE CHURCH! Kutna Hora is super teeny....all it took was a 15 minute walk to arrive at Kostnice Ossuary. The ossuary is estimated to contain the skeletons of between 40,000 and 70,000 people, many of whom have had their bones artistically arranged to form decorations and furnishings for the chapel. The rest of the bones were actually exhumed from the church cemetary in the early 1500's. This cemetary had once been a very desirable burial site throughout Central Europe, which is why there are so many bones. The bones lay in masses around the church until the late 1800's when a woodcarver was employed to put the bones heaps into order. I thought it was going to be creepy and scary, but it really wasn't. Weird for sure, but there's no bad jou jou there.
We finished out the day with the Old Town open air market and a stroll across the Charles Bridge to the John Lennon Wall. The Old Town Market was delightful. There were were amazing kebobs, hotdogs, and all kinds of fried goodies everywhere....kind of like carnie food. We took our time browsing the shops and eating our lunch while enjoying a local Czech beer. I've heard that the Czech's make better beer than the Germans....even had a German tell me that. The John Lennon Wall was alot more interesting than I thought it would be. There are literally, layers and layers of graffiti and signatures everywhere. The paint is so thick in some places that you can see it peeling. Think about how many generations and nationalities of people have left their mark on that wall. Pretty cool if you ask me. As we made our way back to the hostel, Aud and I concluded that Prague had pulled through in a crucial moment. We are now also very fond of this beautiful city. We will be packing our bags tonight and heading back into Germany tomorrow. I hope you are all enjoying the blog as much as we are writing it.
Cat and Aud