Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ahoj, Praha

The title of this post translates to Hello, Prague. Deep, right? Not really, but because I saw the John Lennon wall and Beatles are on my mind, You say goodbye, I say Hello... Prague.  

Now that that's out of the way i'll begin the journey. A friend from my program, Claire, and I decided pretty early in the semester that we both wanted to use the Italian holiday that was last Thursday and make a trip to the Czech Republic to see Prague. I had also gotten the great idea from one of my friends that studied abroad last semester that it would be possible to throw in Budapest as well. Both of these countries intrigued me and I wasn't quite sure what to expect from central/eastern Europe but I wanted to see what they had to offer. And here I am, still exhausted a day later but I came home with only happy memories which makes the long train & bus ride as well as spending the night in the airport and flying, yet another, Ryanair flight all worth it! 

The plane tickets to Prague were pretty pricey, so we went the cheaper route and took a 14 hour train ride. Sounds horrible, I know. I thought it would be horrible too but we trained through Switzerland and had a quick "layover" in Zurich for about an hour. The ride through Switzerland was absolutely beautiful! We also had some entertainment in our cabin, a Turkish guy was telling anybody who would listen how much he disliked Italian trains, and basically Italy in general because of their lack of organization of well... anything, which I agree with. He had some valid points, which made his monologue very funny. To top it all off his use of curse words in English sentences didn't always make sense and were absolutely hilarious. 

Looking back i'm really glad that we were able to train instead of fly because I was able to see so much of the Swiss countryside as well as spend  a teeny bit of time in Zurich. We got to Zurich around 6 pm and walked around until we found a lovely little river with a path alongside where we ate some snacks that we had brought along. We had beautiful weather and it was nice to stretch our legs and  relax before our next leg of the journey.
Our Swiss train ride consisted of mountain landscapes, waterfalls,
lakes, and all things beautiful as far as nature goes.
Claire & I riverside in Zurich!
 The next train was an overnight train that continued through Switzerland and Germany. I didn't get to see much of Germany since I was sleeping but I am seriously regretting that I won't be able to get to Germany until the next time that I come to Europe. No matter how many places I see in Europe there just seems to be more places that I want to go, and I have loved every place i've been so far and could revisit. The world is huge, and i'm realizing that the more I travel. 

Claire and I get on the train and we are trying to find our seats. She finds her seat and settles in, and I couldn't find my number near her, which makes sense since we booked separately. So I wander around for a bit and finally find it, and it's in a sleeper cabin with a bed! I was pretty stoked, and so I go and tell her and there is only one other person in my cabin so she came to hang out with me and see if she could get by in the cabin without the ticket guy kicking her out. So once we get all settled the ticket guy comes in and proceeds to tell me, as well as Claire, that we are in the wrong cabin... Whoops. He then pointed me in the direction of my seat in the very back corner of the cabin with the reclining chairs. No sleeper beds for us. It was fun while it lasted though.
Excited about the sleeper car
Really, the only picture that I got of German
countryside along with the full moon.
The reclining seats weren't bad, I've gotten pretty good at knocking out in any situation by now. I did have two Swiss boys who had seats in front of me that I talked to for awhile, they were going to a slack lining (when you tie a rope between a tree and walk on it) festival in Germany. They were really nice, and one of them had actually been to Utah so it was nice not spending half of our conversation telling him where Utah is in relationship to California, which is how most conversations go over here when they ask where i'm from. 

By 10 pm I was asleep, but a paranoid sleep because I was worried about someone stealing my bag. At one point in the night I feel that someone is moving around the chair where my bag is next to me and I wake up worried that someone is trying to steal my bag. Fortunately, no one was trying to steal my bag it was one of the Swiss boys jungle gym climbing on the seat next to me to get up into the luggage rack above my head to sleep. My sleepy brain didn't even think this the least bit odd. I was actually thinking, "Hey, that's a great idea. I should have done that!", it wasn't until I woke up the next morning that I started laughing and thinking how weird it is to sleep in a sleeping bag in a luggage rack. But hey, i'm sure he was more comfortable than I was! 

The train ride for me went by really quickly and before I knew it we were in Prague! The first thing we did was change our money from Euros to Korunas. The Czech Republic has their own currency which is kind of cool, but mostly a pain. We got a great exchange rate though and I didn't end up spending hardly any money there. Our hostel was located right near the Prague Castle which is, according to Guinness book of world records, the largest castle in the world. The rooms were really nice, and I even laid down and took a cat nap for about 30 minutes before we set off to explore. We did a free walking tour which gave us a really great starting point for what we wanted to see, and a briefing of all of the history that the Czech's have. Our tour guide was one of the best that I've had so far, so it made all of the difference. 

Tallest man in the free tour HAD to stand in front of me,
 the shortest person in the group, the whole time.
A beautiful church that is also home to a really
old cut off arm... 
After the tour we headed up to the beer garden which was a park located on the top of a hill that overlooked the city and advertised really cheap beer as well as sausages! We relaxed and just took in the culture for a couple of hours before heading to the restaurant that the tour guide had recommended. 

Stunning views from the beer garden
Cute little pups taking in the view
Powder tower
All of the outdoor seating was taken which was a shame, because the weather was absolutely perfect! We still had a really great meal, seated near the doorway. I got lamb sausage in stewed tomatoes and onions with baked potatoes in homemade cottage cheese. The food is VERY heavy and I am quite certain I still have a food baby from all of the good eats. After dinner we meandered through town, and walking over the Charles Bridge at night was so beautiful that I didn't mind our long walk to the hostel. 

After dinner treat in Old Town Square, reminds
me of dutch-oven cooking from home.
St. Vitus Cathedral
Famous astronomical clock, whose inventor
got his eyes poked out because they didn't want
him to make any others to deter tourism to Prague.
View of Prague Castle from Charles Bridge
Charles Bridge by night
The next day we did some exploring of the castle on our own, it has some really great views of the city but to be honest we had no idea what we were looking at and what was important. We didn't spend too much time at the castle and then headed to the John Lennon wall, basically a wall of graffiti mostly having to do with the Beatles and John Lennon. After we had lunch in the beer garden, one big hearty sausage that kept me full for the entire day. 
Front gates of the Castle
How they cook my little treat I got the night before
The John Lennon wall. 
Nothing to do with John Lennon, but I still love Minions!
From my previous posts, Another Space invader!
Another "love lock" bridge
Yum, Yum sausage
We booked a guided tour of the castle which was really interesting. We had a younger tour guide with a quiet voice and a big group but in the end it was perfect, half of the group who were about my age got really excited about the brewery, St. Norberts, who professes to brew the best beer in the world, so they all were all about drinking and less about the tour. As the tour went on they migrated farther and farther back in the tour group and at the end weren't even paying attention to the tour. I'm not sure why they didn't just keep the money they spent on the tour and buy beer at the brewery, but whatever floats their boat. 

Really great blue grass band!
If you look closely you can see that the towers are different
sizes they say this is because it represents Adam & Eve or
like our tour guide pointed out, a mistake in calculations.
Absolutely beautiful architecture in Prague!
Yet again, another style of architecture
Cathedral inside of the castle
I think I can now make an album of people & their pets in Europe.
Charles bridge in tourist rush hour

It was amazing how fast time flew in Prague, after the tour we took a little downtime at the hostel and then headed out for one more night of sightseeing and dinner. I ordered a Czech dish of goulash and was able to get one little souvenir for myself and then it was off to bed because we had to be up at 6 am to catch our bus to Budapest. 

Municipal House: on whose balcony, the Czech Republic was
announced it's own country.

Prague is a storybook town. It is very clean and safe. It was nothing like I was expecting but then again I didn't do much research before going. The more trips that I go on, and especially because they are closely following each other, I have a really hard time doing the research besides a quick google search but sometimes it's nice to go to a place without any expectations. 

I loved Prague and I think if I would have had one or two more days there it would have been the perfect amount of time. Maybe one day i'll be able to visit again... which is ending up being my wish about every city so far. 

Finals are upon me, and while most of my friends at home are finishing up, i'm just beginning the studying which is why i'm splitting the long weekend up into two posts. Unfortunately, I do need to squeeze in a little time for studying.

Ciao, for now! 

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