One of my glorious roommates from GAC, Maxwell Lantz, is in the house, so we’ve got ten days to run amuck in Berlin and Prague. Between the necessity of hanging out and actually doing homework, I’ll be limiting this blog to our time in Prague.
We arrive by train in Praha (the Czech word for Prague) at the station Holešovice (you’re going to notice all kinds of shenanigans going on above the letters in Czech; vowels, consonants, it makes no difference). We are pretty sure this isn’t the main station, but the prospect of the next stop being Brno (a city in southern Czech Republic that seems to not have realized it’s missing a vowel) helps us to abandon our inhibitions about getting off the train. Well, we’re now in the suburbs and need to find a way into the city. Being unable to read Czech and not having any Czech money are our first probs. We find an ATM and eventually locate the Metro (after almost getting on a tram to God knows where). Once in the city, we go to our hotel to drop off our backpacks. From there, we start wandering around this gorgeous city. There is a definite reason that some refer to this as the “Paris of the East.” All the buildings and architecture are incredible (also, the women are just as incredible).
As lunchtime arrives, we decide to find some real Czech food. We break away from the main tourist streets and eventually find a place that seems to fit our needs. We start looking at the menu and realize we have no idea what’s going on. There’s no English anywhere. The only name I seem to recognize is Ćevapčići (grilled meat logs; I could probably have tried to make it sound more appealing…) simply because I was intrigued enough to find out what it was when my school’s cafeteria served it once. Other than that though, we have nothing to go off of, so eventually we decide for our second plate to just be the item with the longest name (I mean, it must have a lot to it, right? Hey, you come up with a better system). It turns out to be some kind of roast beef with gravy, dumplings (more like wet bread), and some sauce. Nothing to write home (or a blog) about.
Next, we climb up to the castle that overlooks Prague. Once we get there it seems like a great place for a photo op. One problem, we are struggling to find anyone who speaks either English or German to ask to take our picture. Eventually, a group of older folks start walking our way, and we get the feeling that they could be English-speakers. They turn out to be a Canadian choir, and after chatting a bit, they consent to taking our picture. This is one of the only two times we ever successfully make this happen. The Czechs aren’t exactly known for their warmth (or English skills).
That night, Germany is playing Greece in the quarterfinals of the European Championships, so we head to Prague’s Fan Zone. It’s essentially a really, really big TV (surrounded by all kinds of ads for Hyundai) set up in the main square of the Old Town. We only arrive near the end of the first half (dinner’s a bit longer than expected), but our timing couldn’t have been better. Philip Lahm scores a sick goal less than 30 seconds after we get there. People start to freak out and I realize that there are Deutschland jerseys everywhere. I would not have expected this in the Czech capital, but there are hundreds, if not a thousand, Germans sharing this moment with us. So wonderful. The game turns out to be a great one (from a German perspective) with Germany hammering home four goals all of which are absolute crackers.
The next morning, we hit up the continental breakfast. It’s always nice to start out a morning with orange juice. I take my first sip and nearly gag. Other than being the thinnest “orange juice” I’ve ever had in my life, it has enough sugar in it to instantly induce diabetes (it’s like they squeezed a couple oranges into a bag of sugar). I then observe some Czechs drinking it down like it’s water. HOW?!?! Anyway, with our daily sucrose quota filled for the daily, we head to an island in the middle of the Vltava River where there’s some kind of music festival being held. We listen to a couple bands and then make our way to the “best beach in Prague” that is located on one side of this island. It turns out to be 15 meters of beachfront. I won’t even mention that the water is a murky brown and the single person swimming in it is a man whose tight swim trunks I have no intention of going anywhere near. The only way I can fathom that it garnered that title is by being the only beach in Prague. After this disappointment, we go to a park/mountain on the west side of the city. We climb to the top and get a great view of the city. To add to it, we also get to hang out with some cute kids and ponies while eating free samples of food (living the dream). It isn’t quite enough to satiate our appetite though, so we head down to a Czech restaurant that’s supposed to be good. This is the point where we realize that even “good” Czech food is still average at best. They, like the south Germans, love their meat, potatoes, and sauerkraut, but I’m just not a fan. It probably doesn’t help that we get screwed on our bill and end up getting charged an extra $15 or so. When we ask why there are a bunch of extra charges at the end, our waitress quickly says, “Music, service charge, and kljfs (something indiscernible).” It’s ridiculous. The guy playing the accordion is not that good.
That night we go out to watch the Spain vs. France match. What a snoozefest. From there, our plan is to go to the supposed biggest club in Central Europe. Our adventure starts out a bit shaky. We walk a good 15 minutes in the wrong direction… we totally got this. Luckily, we run into some Americans (one of whom is wearing a Wesley Sneijder jersey; he’s our favorite) who were there last night (classic), so they steer us in the right direction. Eventually, we make it to Karlovy Lázně, the club that’s five stories tall. Each level has a different style of music and a vastly different feel. Really, the only consistency between them is the incredibly hot, humid, sweaty feeling you instantly encounter as you get out of the stairwell. They even have an “Oldies” floor. Apparently Oldies in the Czech Republic means “The Macarena.” After dancing our tails off, we eventually make our way back to the hotel.
The next morning, we decide to sleep through our five star breakfast. At some point, we wake up to take a walk through the northern section of the city, but seeing as we’ve got a train to catch, we head to the main station fairly quickly. The day is suffocatingly hot, so we go to the grocery store in the station. We are beside ourselves with joy when we find the glory that is Gatorade. Sports drinks aren’t nearly as common in Europe as they are in the States, so it felt soooo good to have a thirst quencher that doesn’t rhyme with spotter. As I mentioned, it’s ridiculously hot, so when our train pulls in from Hungary and the air conditioning isn’t working, I nearly start crying. Four and a half hours of hell is not what we paid for. Luckily, after ten minutes, my prayers are miraculously answered and the A/C turns on. We are now whisked back to Berlin in the lap of luxury (well, Hungarian luxury).
Hugs and hand pounds,