Published: January 4th 2007May 15th 2004
So, having finished school at University College Utrecht(passed with flying colors by the way), it was time to head out into the world and see what their was to see. And where better for an American to begin his journey than Prague, home to more ridiculously drunken Americans and Brits than anywhere else in the world, outside of America and Britain of course. Here is how it went down(NOTE: I wrote these as emails while doing the traveling, so outside of the intro these are basically copied and pasted, with some ever so slight proofreading, mainly to protect the innocent who will be reading this and guilty who lived it. Proceed.)
Our story begins on a beautiful Sunday morning in Utrecht, the Netherlands. I arise at 9:00 in the morning to prepare for the previously discussed 11:00 am departure time. Unfortunately, my travel companions forgot about our plans. Josh, Richard, and Sal had decided to stay up all night and drink, destroy bikes, and then pass out just as I was awakening. After tying up some loose ends and saying good bye to everyone, I left for Schipol to pick up a plane ticket from Istanbul to Cairo. I was able to wake up Sal, since his window was on the ground floor, and left him in charge of getting everyone to the Eurolines office for our bus ride to Prague. Lord help us when a Canadian is left in charge, but the only other options were an OU student and a southern Californian. Luckily, Sal pulled through and we all made it to Amstel.
As we left Amsterdam, we couldn't have been in higher spirits. We knew that we had an eighteen hour bus ride ahead of us, but we also knew that Prague was waiting on the other end, the light at the end of our current tunnel. Ah Prague, the land of delicious two euro dinners, liters of cheap beer, and amazingly gorgeous women. But we will get back to all that in a bit. The bus was very empty when we left(good), but it was headed in the wrong direction(bad). It turned out that we had to go to Brussels and Luxembourg to pick up more people. This added an extra six hours and about twenty annoying Belguim high school students who spoke French non-stop to the trip, but somehow we survived. During our first break, we met John, an Australian who had just recently arrived in Europe. He had spent the previous three months in Southeast Asia, so we proceeded to exchange travel stories for the next few hours. Josh had brought his travel guitar and so had John, so eventually they began to jam in the back of the bus. This was before the French students. They were both very good and seemed to play well off each other so we decided to form a band and bask for money on the streets of Prague. We called ourselves "Josh Joseph and the Denmark Jam Band, featuring John Sharp." The fact that none of us were Danish, John's last name was Sleipjen, and Sal, Richard, and I did nothing was not important. We were determined to make it big on the streets of Prague, or at least make enough money to cover our bar tab.
Throughout the early morning hours of what will forever be termed black Monday, I considered various ways to kill myself. Richard and I made fun of French people (even though they were Belguin, we couldn't pass up an opportunity to make fun of the French.), hoping that noone around us understood, but not really caring if they did. Sal sleep basically the whole way; the image of Sal sleeping will be a running theme in this chapter, and possibly the rest of the trip. We finally arrived in Amsterdam at 8:30 in the morning. We promptly fled from the bus and collected our baggage. We were hungry, tired, and had no place to stay, but we were in Prague, and that was all that mattered. Earlier on the bus we had been discussing how we missed all you could eat Chinese food and how we didn't think there would be any in Prague. Low and behold, there was a delicous place not ten minutes from the bus stop! We were saved. We dumped our bags in the train station and proceeded to explore the city, making a mental note of the Chinese place so we could come back later.
I won't bore you with describing Prague in detail. It would take too long and it would allow my loyal readers to justify not going themselves. I will simply say that it is one of the best cities I have been to. It is better than Madrid, Paris, Amsterdam, Philly, D.C., even Chicago and New York. The people were nice, the food and beer were good, and it was all very cheap. If you ever get the opportunity to go, you should.
We had originally thought that the first day would consist of beer drinking and little else, but we were in for a surprise. After walking around the city for a few hours and drinking a few beers, we decided to look for a place to stay. The group was divided between staying in a hostel or sleeping in the park. Sal and I were firmly in favor of the park, while the other three were open to other options, namely paying money for lodgings. Around 6:00, after investigating yet another hostel and deciding the ten euro price tag was too much, we found a small park away from the city center. In the middle of the park were a group of eight or ten young people who were sitting and chatting, drinking wine from a plastic bottle. This should have been our first sign of trouble, but we decided to listen to the Californian(Richard) and approch them. Perhaps they knew where cheap accomodations could be found. Little did we know how cheap.
The group consisted of one Norwegian who spoke perfect English and had just finished a book about her travels; an Italian who spoke fair English and had arrived two weeks before us; a Czech girl, Anni, who spoke broken English but was our link to the group; six Czech men and women who spoke no English but were happy to see us; and two German shepards. We asked them if it was ok for people to stay in the park and they offered us some wine and a night of lodging in their squat. It turns out that we stumbled upon some of the vibrant individuals that comprise Prague's street people. For those not in the know, it meant they slept on the street. We played guitar for a while then promised to meet them at the King Charles bridge and bask so that we could buy food and beer.
We returned to the train station to collect our packs, then gorged ourselves on Chinese food. After that we went to Dog Bollocks, a nice bar/restaurant that served Hoegaarden in huge half-liter glasses. We had two and then proceeded to the bridge. Despite the fact that we had slept very little during the last week because of constant partying at Utrecht and Belguim students on the bus, we were determined to stay out late our first night in Prague. It turned out to be the only night that we went to bed before five.
We arrived at the bridge around 10:30. Josh and John began to play, while Sal, Richard, and I went to get beer and our street buddies. I guess we had a job after all. The only problem was that we couldn't decide whether we wanted to stay with them or not. While the idea seemed exciting, the fact the one of our companions had what seemed to be a huge herpes sore streching across the bottom of his face and that he may or may not have drank from the same bottle of wine as us, had us a bit worried(we spent about ten minutes after dinner liberally applying iodine to our lips, which someone said might protect us. Not sure if the person giving the advice was sober or not). We decided we needed to ditch them, but we didn't want to get beat up in the process. These dudes were a tad bit scary, which lead us to believe that tact was the order of the day. We gently, but incessently, explained to Anni that we couldn't stay in the squat. Lucky for us, they wanted to leave right then, so we could use the excuse that we needed to make more money. Everyone bought it, except Anni. Apparently she didn't want to stay with them either, so she attached herself to us.
We proceeded back to Josh and John's position and proceeded to bask to the best of our ability. Our group, now sporting a cracked out Czech who didn't know the words but tried to sing anyway, had a lot of fun. But we didn't make much money. We decided to stop at midnight and look for a place to sleep. Anni said she had the perfect place, in a park about twenty minutes away. When we arrived we discovered that her "park" was actually the base of the hill that led up to the "Little Eiffel Tower", right behind a collection of famous statues of a dude walking, in various states of wholeness. After struggling up the hill, we proceeded to dole out the few blankets we had and go to sleep. We were all asleep by 2:00 and we were all awake by 5:30. It was not as cold and miserable a night as Sal and I had experienced in Maastricht in February, but it was close. If you add to this the fact that we had discovered through the course of the evening that Anni was a seveenten-year-old heroine addict, you can probably make an educated guess out how uncomfortable we felt. After everyone was awake the next morning(except Anni), we decided to get breakfast for everyone and then part ways and explore more of the city.
And that was our first 24 hours in Prague. Could it get any crazier that that? Would the Denmark Jam Band survive one of Europe's finest cities for three more days? Would they make any more money basking? Could they get by on only two or three hours of sleep a night? Tune in next week, same Bat time, same Bat channel, to find out.