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Published: April 20th 2006
Well what to make of Prague? Well it could well be my favourite city ever! My favourite city list is topped by Vancouver, Canada but Prague is nipping at it's heals. An amazing mixture of fabulous architecture, vibrant nightlife, a somewhat unusual culture and relative cheapness makes it a worthy contender. While it probably won't take home the cup, it's safe to say it comes in at a close second.
After getting off the plane and having my newly purchased transit tickets thrown at me by a staff member who seemed highly underwhelmed about seeing another damn backpacker, I made my way to the bus. I saw the bus and started my pursuit. I had been previously informed that having a ticket meant nothing unless it was validated by a little yellow box. I started a frantic search for a place to put my ticket in this yellow box placed at the bus stand. To no avail, I rushed to the door only having it be slamed in my face by the driver who "didn't see me" and who continued to not see me for several moments as I wave my arms and knock on the door. As the bus
A grood, cheap way to get around town
chugged off, I reviewed the yellow box in the stand to work out that it was a ticket box not a validator. Validating must be done at the start of a journey on the chosen mode of transport. The next bus takes me into the city past long streets of drab looking buildings left over from the communist era. It all seemed a harsh reality very quickly that all of Prague isn't as beautiful as everyone raves, although not many cities are. Bus to Dejvicka then the train to Jiriho z Poderbrad. Travelling on the public transport is easy enough after your used to it but it's a little intimidating at first. Obviously everything is written and spoken in Czech but very little english is conversed which surprised me a little. I thought english would've made it into the vocabulary a little more. In fact whenever you go to a restaurant, bar or shop, your greeted and dealt with in Czech. Even after replying with "Ne czech", all you get is an "oh well, too bad" shrug or look and Czech is still spoken. One then has to either use a lot of radical hand movements, or learn the local
toungue. Unfortunately, Czech is a bloody hard language to learn and after the whole time I was there, all I managed to master was Ne Czech (No Czech) So getting around can be a pain but after a while you can just guess what they are saying and go with it. It became a hobby for me in the end to have a conversation with a local in our own languages, knowing that neither understood the other but we continued on regardless. It was rather amusing actually.
After meeting up with Tracey, squaring away our gear in our apartment, we made our way to the city centre and began to see the sights. The best thing about Prague is that it is a great walking city with practically everything of interest within a short walk of the centre. The first thing we noticed, of course, was the architecture. Regular readers would know that I obviously have a thing for architecture but this place is different. Buildings of such different eras but all molding to create a unique and beautiful look. The main highlight is the Old Town Square. Surrounded by a clock tower and several churches that look like
that have been plucked out of a fairytale book, the old town square is the first port of call for most tourists and it's easy to see why. There is also an astromical clock attached to the clock tower that is an "attraction." It puts on "a show" at the top of every hour. We realised it was 5 to, so we gathered with the crowd and watched the pathetic display. No real show just a bit of noise and skeletons moving around. After a few days we actually found that a bigger atraction is to watch the masses of crowds gather to watch it. It was almost like a cult where people gather and look in the same direction waiting for an hourly event. The amazing thing is that it is such an attraction, why, I can't imagine. People actually start to gather around the clock at quater past the hour to wait for it. They must be extremely dissapointed when it finally happens. One great thing about the clock tower is, apart from it's beautiful look, is that you can clammer up to the top for some of the most spectacular views of Prague.
After doing that
we headed for Charles Bridge. The oldest bridge in the city and originally built to connect Lesser Town to Old Town over the Vltava River. Standing on the bridge is probably the most beautiful part of the city. Bookended by two beautiful towers and the length of the bridge lined by dozens of statues all with excellent views of the Prague Castle. Being easter with approximately 100 000 tourists in town, Charles Bridge was a bit overrun by people but still was a nice walk.
That night we met up with most of the rest of our group. We now had 9 people, me and 8 women, so we hit the town. There is a little place just around the corner from us called the Piano Bar that was cozy and looked cool enough from the street. After we sat down, I noticed too many pictures of naked men on the wall for this to be a normal bar. Trust me to wander into yet another gay bar, to be honest I am quite sick of it. We had a beer and it wasn't too bad.
The next day we invested 400 Czech Crowns (about 10 quid) in
a walking tour. The other girls hadn't seen any of the town yet so it seemed the perfect option to get aquainted with this beautiful city. Unfortunately it happend to be the only rainy day we had. So while the poor girl dragged us around telling us all these fantasitc facts, we were most interested to get to the nearest shelter. However, we did pick up a lot about the city and see some stuff we wouldn't've other wise.
That night was the biggest of the trip. We were joined a couple that made our group the biggest it would be. After a nice meal we made our way to a bar near our apartment. This was quite an unusual place as there was a stripper dancing but it was not a strip bar. There was rock and heavy music with a stripper dancing to it. There was an usual choice of having Passion Of The Christ playing on the TV's (with the sripper taking more interest in that than the job at hand) We also made a local "friend" who was absolutely wasted. Not speaking a word of english, he kept hanging over our shoulders talking about something
and it became rather annoying but was pretty amusing at the same time. We then made our way back to the Piano Bar because it was the only thing left open at that time of night. We drank the night away and were treated to some of the best impromptu performances of Abba and Barbra Streisand I have seen. All in all it was a great night but all the prissyness was too much after a while.
The following day our group split up to take in different sights. A few of the girls and I decided to take in more of the Prague Castle. Sitting atop a large hill, Prague Castle is seen from a majority of the city and is the most beautiful part of the skyline. Actually consisting of several castles and the massive St. Vitus Cathedral, it is a fantastic wander with the cathedral being the obvious highlight. Not since the Grand Mosque in Muscat, Oman has a room impressed me so much. Gigantic but meticulously crafted on the inside makes it a very special room to stand in.
We past the Rudolfinum (Prague Opera House) on the way back and the girls bought
some tickets for a show that night. While sitting on the steps the sun came out and blasted us with heat. I had not felt heat since Dubai. We kicked back on the stairs and took in the sun for an hour or so. While they were at the show that night, John, Mel and I went for a walk and headed for a sight that I was determined to see before I left. With all this amazing architecture, one building stands out in amazing fashion. The Dancing Building is one of the buildings that you only see in amusment parks, but this one is in the middle of Prague. After streets and streets of the usual but beautiful buildings, the dancing building jumps out at you like, well, like a dancer. With not a straight line on the building, it's amazing that the thing even stands.
Prague is a fantastic city but we exploited the chance to leave it. A certain little church in a town called Kutna Hora lured us away for the day. About 1 and a half hours by train, the town of Kutna Hora is a quiet little medievil town (although I didn't see
Mesmerised by the ordinary
much medievil about it) with not a lot going on. The day we were there was easter sunday and so an easter festival had the town in a buzz. The main thing we came to see is a little church now known as the Ossuary. A statue of St. John Nepomuckey greats me as I wander into this seemingly ordinary graveyard on the outside of this little chapel. Once we enter, however, things change dramatically. Masses and masses of human bones arranged into statues and other wired things. There is a long history and reason attached but basically the reason was too many people being buried especially during the black death and as a grizzly symbol of the soul carrying on. I have been to Cambodia and seen masses of human bones stacked and arranged as a result of sickening crimes but to see them arragned so lovingly was kinda weird. It was grewsome, disturbing yet attractive and intriguing all at the same time. Definately a place I won't forget in a hurry. With not much else happening in the town we wandered around for a while then made our way back to Prague.
That night was the last
View of Prague
From the Clock Tower, Old Town Sqaure
night we had most of the group left so we hit the town. We had heard about a large night club just near the Charles Bridge that apparently is the largest night club in Central Europe. 5 levels of doof doof and RnB mayhem. After getting there we realised that it was obviously a club that doesn't get going untill very late. We hung around for a while then made our way back to our apartment to find a closer place. We met a local couple on the metro and they lead us to a place that was apparently pretty good. It turned out to be what I call a sardine pub. One of those places where you can't move, are extremely hot and can't hear a word of what the person next to you is screaming. We spent the rest of the night there and it wasn't too bad after all.
The next day we all parted ways and it was just Tracey and I again. We had to leave the apartment so we got a hotel in another part of town. Not having have much planned that day, I dedicated most of it to tracking down a
concert. Since I had arrived I had seen advertising in the street raving about Sepultura and In Flames playing in Prague on the Monday. I had to find out where it was as all the ads were in Czech. I found the location on the net and made my way there. Once I finally got to the area, I still had to find it. I asked a man if he spoke english. "Yes yes english"
"Ah good. Can you tell me where this is please?"
He then started rambling on in Czech. It was clear that the only english he knew was yes, english. I followed his hand movements to a basketball stadium. The area was not far out of the centre but it was a world away. The buildings were run down and rife in grafitti I walked into the foyer of the building. I saw a man leaning up against the wall tapping away on a laptop. I know I had seen him before. Then it hit me, it was Derrick, the singer of Sepultura. I didn't even think as out of my mouth came "Hey Derrick"
"What's up man" He replied as he nodded in a tone
as if he should know me. I continued outside and asked some other fans where to buy tickets. After a response in Czech and more radical hand movements I saw the window where tickets were to go on sale at 3pm. I had 20 minutes to wait so I wandered in the foyer again and saw Anders, the singer of In Flames setting up his laptop, as well as the guitarist. I had just realised that I had never been to a venue hours before the show started and I figured this must be the norm. What surprised me was that a few more fans we beggining to show up for tickets. All of them saw the band members but didn't even seem bothered by it. I hung around for a bit and then saw Roy, who is filling in for Igor on drums for Sepultura. It worked on Derrick so I tried it again. "Hey Roy" He didn't seem that excited to see me so just gave a reluctant nod. Shortly after Andreas, guitarist from Sepultura walked out at least he responded to me with the rhetorical "Hey how's it going" I was tempted to strike a conversation and
tell him how one day many years ago, I met his mother on a crusie in Fiji but he seemed busy geting organised. I had my camera and had I been in Australia, I probably would've asked for a photo but all the fans here didn't even seem to care that they were just wandering around among them, so I didn't bother.
That night at the show, the band members where gone and the fans packed in. We waited at the base of the stairs in the foyer for the doors to open. I saw a girl taking into a room all these meals that I figure was for for the band. Then Derrick walked out of that room, made his way through the crowd and disappeared into another room. No one seemed to care. Everyone saw him and a few people smiled but nothing happend. If that was in Australia, a huge cheer would've gone up and he would have had to push his way through the admiring fans. The show itself was pretty good. It's always a pleasure to hear the old school Sepultura songs, although they seem to struggle to play them since the only original
This shop was 2 doors up from us. This is for the Adelaide crew
member is Andreas.
So when all said and done I had an awesome time in Prague. It is easy to say how great that city is but I can tell the more I travel around Europe, the better it will get.
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