Montag, 3. März 2008


I recently booked a last-minute trip to Prague to meet up with Sarah Dupee (one of my roommates from UVA, who is currently teaching English in a small town in eastern France). And by last-minute I mean very last-minute. I bought my ticket on Friday night and left Monday morning. We figured out accommodations at some point over the weekend. When I arrived in the Prague Airport and checked the status of the arriving flights I was shocked to find that Sarah’s flight had been canceled!!! And this was after she took a five-hour train ride to Geneva to catch the flight in the first place. Luckily she was able to get on other flights to get to Prague – it would have been awful if she had gotten stuck. So I hung around the airport for several hours until her new flight came in and we hopped the bus and metro into the city. We got to the center of Prague as it was getting dark and all of the lights were coming on – the Old Town Square looked very impressive as we walked through to get to our hostel. We attempted to navigate our way to the hostel with the poor directions I had printed from the website, but eventually had to resort to asking in shops before we stumbled upon it. We checked-in, dropped our bags, and went back out into the city to find an ATM and dinner. We went to a traditional Czech restaurant, tried the variety of meat and dumplings that are so popular in the Czech Republic, as well as some of their famous beers, before heading back to the hostel to get some sleep.

On Tuesday we woke up, ate breakfast at the hostel, and took a 3.5 hour walking tour of Prague. We were out for 3.5 hours straight and while we saw a lot, we only scratched the surface of all there is to do and see in Prague. We started in the Old Town Square, saw the astronomical clock (which reminds me a lot of the Glockenspiel in Münich) and various churches before moving into the old Jewish Quarter. We had a quick break, during which Sarah and I got extremely good spinach and cheese pancakes/crepes and warm drinks, before crossing the Charles Bridge to the Lesser Quarter and Castle Hill. The Charles Bridge is very impressive and OLD – it dates back to 1357. It holds more than 30 statues across its length. Once in the Lesser Quarter we saw the Lennon Wall – a wall with a bust of John Lennon and an enormous amount of graffiti. It was used to present grievances and to protest the government under communist rule, but people still decorate it today. We then moved towards Castle Hill, passing MANY cafes before climbing several hundred stairs to get to the castle. The Guinness Book of Records names the Prague Castle as the largest ancient castle in the world. It is 570 meters long and an average of 130 meters wide. Maybe a better idea of size and scale is given by the fact that a gigantic cathedral sits comfortably in one of the many courtyards within the castle walls. The tour ended at the castle with views across the city. Sarah and I took some pictures before heading back down the hill towards the cafes we had seen before to warm up with some hot chocolate and tea. The weather wasn’t great at any point while we were in Prague, but it wasn’t raining, so we were happy. We just had to make frequent café stops to warm up. We ducked into a classical music shop to find out about concerts in the city. If you want to see classical music in Prague you will have no trouble finding a concert. We were told that we could find a concert at virtually any church (and as with most European cities, Prague has a bunch of ‘em). We wound up taking the store owner’s suggestion and trekking over to the Municipal Hall, the premier venue in the city, to see if they had cheap tickets for that night. Luckily, they did! We bought tickets to see the Prague Symphony Orchestra in Smetana Hall, the largest and most beautiful hall in all of Prague, for roughly 10 euro. Not bad.

We had a little time before the concert started, so went back to the hostel to relax and stopped at Bohemia Bagel to grab a bite to eat before the concert. I had read about Bohemia Bagel (a bagel café/restaurant aptly named for the region that Prague is located in) before getting to Prague and was excited to go there, mainly because I have yet to find bagels in Germany. Once we got to Prague we discovered that Bohemia Bagel was about two blocks away from the hostel, so very convenient. We ordered, went to find a table, and when we sat down we spotted Emily and Lee, people we had gone to school with at UVA, at the table next to us!! Talk about a small world! As soon as we saw Emily we remembered that she had mentioned she was getting married and moving to Prague after graduation. But the fact that the four of us wound up in the exact same place at the same time in Prague was pretty crazy. We caught up quickly and made plans to meet up the following morning since Sarah and I had to eat and run. We made it to Smetana Hall just in time and listened to the Prague Symphony Orchestra play Suk, Kabalevsky, and Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.” The concert lasted for about two hours, but it went by really quickly for me, meaning it was a good concert. After the concert we decided to walk around the city to see it at night. We went to Charles Bridge and were slightly underwhelmed – not much was lit up, but it was still nice to be out. We wanted to hang out somewhere for a little bit before going to bed and settled on a Moroccan Café near the hostel – we had mint tea, which was great!

The next morning I woke up early to get a training run in before we met Emily and Lee. I crossed the river and went up a large hill (it didn’t seems very big until I started running it) to find a park and great views over the city. Afterwards, Sarah and I met Emily and Lee and we took the tram south to Vysehrad Castle and the Church of St. Paul and Peter. Here's a view from Vysehrad. It was really nice to get out of the city center and the touristy areas. The Church was beautifully painted and decorated inside. A woman who worked there told us stories about the Church in Czech and luckily Lee was able to translate them for us. When we left the Church we walked through the adjacent cemetery where most of the well-known Czech people have been buried (i.e. Franz Kafka and Antonin Dvorak, the composer). We stopped at a café on the castle hill to warm up before taking the metro back into New Town Prague. We arrived in Wenceslas Square, where Prague Spring took place, and Emily and Lee took us to one of their favorite lunch spots. It was a small sandwich/deli shop with open-faced sandwiches of all varieties. Sarah and I never would have found it on our own. We each got three sandwiches and a beer for less than 4€!! That’s amazing! Emily had to run as soon as we finished to get back to school to teach and Lee pointed Sarah and me in the direction of the best places to shop. Sarah and I went into one shop before we decided we were already tired and needed another café break. Afterwards, we went in a few more shops, with very little luck, before heading back to the hostel for a nap.

After our much-needed nap we decided to walk back over towards Prague Castle for dinner. We found another Czech-style restaurant, ate some good warm food, and then went back over to Old Town Square to find some live jazz. We went to a place called Ungelt Jazz & Blues Club, which we had found on the internet, and the music was great. But by 11pm, as most of our nights went in Prague, we were tired and ready for bed.

The next day was Valentines’ Day, and also our last day in Prague, so Sarah and I checked out of the hostel and went out for breakfast/brunch at Bohemia Bagel (you have to get bagels while you can over here). We had egg bagels, which reminded me soooo much of Bodo’s! We went on a quick postcard search afterwards, got some chocolate croissants for later, and then I had to get my bags and head to the airport. It was a short visit, but really nice to see Sarah! Hopefully she made it safely back to France after the rest of her travels!

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