Note: This post is part of a series. Read the second part here.
I made it back from London just fine. Here’s the first part of my trip to Prague, only a week late…
Wednesday afternoon, skipping my one class for the day, I caught the bus to the airport. I easily glided through security and got to my gate, soon boarding my flight before making the quick hop to Prague. Getting out of the gate and walking to the bus terminal, I was immediately struck by how cold it was. I’d know it was going to be cold, but there is a difference between reading it will be 20 degrees and stepping out into it. I was just as immediately accosted by the Prague stereotype–rogue taxi drivers. “Hey man, you need a ride?” “Cheap taxi!” “I’ll take you into town, cheap!” No thanks. I took the bus to the nearest metro stop, from there catching the subway and then another bus to the hostel.
The hostel, The Boathouse, was one of the nicer I’ve stayed in. While it was an unfortunately long way out of town, 25 minutes by tram, I suspect it’s location, on a quiet part of the Vltava south of town, would actually be a very nice place in summer. Location aside, everything else was incredible. The women that run it are like mothers, and took care of anything we needed. They also offered dinner and deluxe breakfast, both excellent, for excellent prices.
Immediately after checking in, I met Joel, a rather awkward, though very nice, American from Seattle. We hung out while I waited for my friends from London to arrive on their later flight. We ate dinner at the hostel, enjoying an excellent goulash stew followed by schnitzel, then we went into town for a bit to grab a beer. I got my first sight of the Charles Bridge here, lit up at night with the castle towering on the other bank. The Charles Bridge is by far one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, and stolling across it with the Vltava flowing under you while the gorgeous medieval buildings rise on either side is a wonderful experience.
Getting back to the hostel, the guys from London soon arrived, and we all sat down with a few beers and drank and caught up for a bit. I hadn’t seen these guys for four or more months, so it was excellent to get to talk to them. Eventually we decided to head to bed so that we’d still have some energy to get up the next morning.
That next morning, we caught a wonderful breakfast at the hostel, then headed into town. We walked along the Vltava, where I saw several sights I know from photographs that my good friend and former photography teacher, Byron Baldwin had taken, one of which I have framed and hanging on my wall in Charlotte. We then caught a tram across the river and up the hill to the castle, narrowly avoiding getting busted for having slightly expired tickets.
The castle in Prague is actually nothing like a castle that one thinks of. The seat of Czech government for some time, it is actually an enclosed palace area, encompassing many different residences and buildings, and even containing its own very large gothic cathedral. At all the gates stand guards, very similar to the royal guards in London, standing stock still while tourists flock around them taking pictures. They even march around the grounds in groups of three. We walked around the grounds for a while, some wandering into the cathedral while others of us just walked the grounds. Probably the most incredible part was one of the gates, what had to have been the main gate, surrounded by wraught iron fencing topped with incredible statues, guarded by more stone-still royal guards, and looking over the most incredible view of Prague. The Vltava spreads out below you, while the endless red roofs of the Mala Strana, the Little Quarter, cluster along the side of the hill. It was a fantastic view, and reaffirmed to me that Prague was by far the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to, surpassing London, Paris, and even Rome.
Soon, stomachs growling with hunger, we walked up the hill a bit more to the monastery brewery there for lunch and a couple of drinks. The lunch was good, but the beer, brewed on the premises, was incredible–and incredibly potent. The amber was 13% alcohol, while the dark was 14%. The funny thing was, you couldn’t taste the alcohol at all, though you could feel it as it hit your stomach and started tingling, or when you had a nice buzz after only one beer. We had to deliberately pace ourselves lest we end up drunk, but we managed to leave with nothing more than a nice buzz, a welcome shield from the bitter cold outside.
By this time, the sun was starting to go down, so we wandered around through the city and across the Charles Bridge, taking in the view in the fading daylight. We then caught the tram back home to shower and warm up, but after a nice dinner, we were all so tired and not wanting to go back out in the cold that we skipped plans to go out that night and instead managed to get to bed at an early hour.