I have to admit that neither Morgan nor I knew much about the Czech Republic at all. However the train journey from Berlin to Praha – otherwise known as Prague definitely put us in high spirits. The journey from Schona to Prague was gorgeous. Colourful little houses dotted the countryside as the train straddled the Vltava River down.
We arrived in Prague in the early afternoon and after withdrawing thousands of Czech Crowns (haha by the way we aren’t that rich, 25 Crown = 1 Euro) we made our way to our hostel. After we walked the 2km to our hostel past all the candy coloured buildings, I am sure we had already decided we wanted to stay longer than the 3 nights we had booked. I think we checked nearly every restaurant menu on the way past and the beer and food prices were so cheap compared to Western Europe.
Our hostel (Hostel One) was really nice; we had our own room equipped with a loft and fridge, which was luxury. The only downfall of the hostel was that on the top floors the WIFI doesn’t reach so we would always have to go downstairs to do anything.
So by this time the hunger and thirst had set in and we were on a mission to satisfy our needs. We found a cute little pub called ‘Restaurant Spirit Bar’ where we ate like kings. First up with a half-liter of the famous Bohemian beer – Pilsner Urquell for 35 Crown. Now that is better prices than Oktoberfest. The beer was washed down with 500 grams (each!) of honey BBQ pork ribs and chips. The full meal cost fewer than 15 Euros and was worth every cent.
To work off the shock to our stomachs we headed about 1km up the road to the local supermarket (Albert) to stock up on some Czech wine and breakfast for the morning. By this time we were buggered and were keen to rest up for a big day of sightseeing the next day.
The next morning we decided to head into the Old Town Square and on the way down we bumped into another Kiwi called Becky and what a coincidence she was from Hamilton of all places! So she decided to join us for our self-guided walking tour of Prague.
The Old Town Square is dominated by the old gothic Tyn Church (1365) and the Old Town Hall where the town clock has an entertaining parade with trumpet players every hour on the hour. After a very informative chat with the girls at the tourist information center we hung out a bit in the square since celebrations were going on for the annual grape harvest season. It was here we tried the Czech new wine – Burcak. It is freshly harvested and still fermenting when you drink it – grapey, yeasty and sweet but oh so tasty for 25 Crown a glass (for more details click here).
Our Burcak was the perfect accompaniment for the walk to the illustrious Charles Bridge built in 1357 and home to 30 statues dating back to the 18th century. You will also be familiar with the bridge if you have seen the movie ‘Triple X’. The bridge is full with various street performers and stalls selling jewelry, art, etc. My favourite had to be the 5 man – “Bridge Band”. Fantastic music and this group of old guys looked like they wee having so much fun. We definitely regret not stopping to by their CD for something like 4 Euro.
Once we reached the other side our first stop was the eminent “Piss Sculpture”. Basically it is two men with moving torsos who are pissing into a puddle in the shape of the Czech Republic. Hmm… I am still trying to find the proper interpretation for this. Any ideas?? However we have since found out that the moving torsos are actually spelling out famous Czech literary quotations and there is a number you can sms to have your own message spelled out! It’s like a dream come true really, my named spelled out by a naked statue’s weiner.
Next stop was a wall completely full of graffiti in recognition of John Lennon – apparently this is to do with a student uproar in 1988 ironically described as “Lennonism”. It was close-by we found the “Love Padlock” gate on a small bridge over a stream that has thousands of padlocks affixed to it to symbolize a couples everlasting love. Funnily enough there was a bride and groom doing this while we were there.
Next up was the Prague Castle, which sits atop a hill with some stunning views of the city. The castle courtyard and gardens were nice to wander around however after seeing the Templar castle in Tomar, Portugal, nothing really compares sadly. The St Vitus Cathedral is impressive and it dominates the main courtyard. You can pay for tours however we have heard through the grapevine that they aren’t really worth it.
After heading back down the hill and over the bridge we made our way up through Wenceslas Square to a beer garden in the Riegrovy Sady (park). You can’t beat a half-liter of beer for 29 Crown’s after such an exhausting day. We then were absolutely starving so headed back to the main road for some traditional Czech food – beef goulash with bacon dumplings. Of course this was washed down with another half liter of Pivo (perhaps we don’t sound so much like beer whores if I use the Czech name for beer). By this time we had decided we definitely needed extra time in Prague so we booked to stay another night. The night ended with a few more Pivo’s at the hostel bar ‘Johnny Drama’s’ and then a good nights rest.
Day three was pretty relaxed. We were up early in the morning to race to the supermarket for supplies before sitting down in the common room to stream the NZ vs. France rugby game. Due to site problems we didn’t end up getting a stream till half time however it was well worth it and the 5 of us Kiwi’s from the hostel enjoying our victory with some good Czech beer and pastries. In the arvo we headed to the The War Museum at the Park Vitkov that covered the full first and second World Wars. It was absolutely free of charge to get in and loaded with tons of information – if you are a war junkie like Morgan you will love it or if you have read The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simon’s you will also have some flash backs.
After a few hours at the museum we headed back into the Old Town Square for some expensive ham cooked on a spit… the ham was so good however we had a wee misunderstanding regarding the prices so it turned into the most expensive ham of our lives. This of course had to be washed down with more Burcak to calm our shock. Therefore we changed our dinner plans and opted for the supermarket option of cheap beer and noodles. You can’t bet that!
Our last full day in Prague was probably my favourite. We got up relatively early and caught a train 40 minutes out of Prague to a town called Karlstejn. It is here that in the 14th century the Emperor Charles IV lived in the Karlstejn Castle with his vineyards surrounding. Lucky for us the annual ‘Wine Harvest Festival’ was happening that exact weekend. It cost us 80 Crown each to get in and basically the day was a gastronomic adventure of plentiful Burcak and Czech delicacies ranging from ‘Trdelnik’ – swirled bread covered in sugar, vanilla, almonds, nuts, toffee and cinnamon to a deep fried dough covered with garlic, ketchup and cheese. To aid our adventure we also saw sword fighting demonstrations, jestering and juggling, traditional polka bands and the grand parade. Surprisingly everyone got very much into it and 50% of the crowd would have been in traditional dress. For further details, click here.
Our souvenir from the day was a 1.5litre of Burcak to take back to the hostel to accompany our burgers for dinner before yet again packing up our bags ready to hit the train tracks again the next day.
On a warm summer’s evening, on a train bound for…