Praha

Trip Start Oct 04, 2007
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Trip End Nov 23, 2007


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Monday, October 22, 2007

This weekend I went and visited Praha (Prague).  It was quite an experience getting there.  I made no arrangements and decided I would just wing the entire trip.  I had a map, a tourism book, and some cash; I figured the rest would fall into place.  I hopped on a train towards Praha but I didn't know where to get off.  There were multiple stops in Prague (I didn't know this before hand) so I just got off at the second stop.  When I go out of the station I look around and I don't see any cool buildings or noteworthy architecture.  There went my first plan - I was kind of hoping I would walk off the train and instantly know where to go.  In retrospect that was probably a poor choice, but it all worked out. 
 
I looked at my map and tried to decipher where I was, but I couldn't find my location.  I later would realize I was completely off the map.  So now I was kind of stuck.  My options were to either take a taxi or find someone who could help me.  There was no way I was going to take a taxi.  The UOP advisors and my customer contact told me to make sure I do not take a taxi in Praha. 
 
I guess the last years it has gotten better, but before it Praha was notorious for being the worst city in the world to catch a cab in.  I guess there was a rogue group of big taxi drivers who decided to start a monopoly in Prague.  They would pick up foreigners and drive them where they wanted, but once they got to the final destination they would charge exorbitant prices - like hundreds of USD.  If you didn't pay you got the shit kicked out of you.  It was a serious problem and there used to be undercover stings all the time.  My chief told me that last year he and another advisor took a taxi across Prague and it cost approximately 200 USD.  So taking a taxi was definitely out of the question.  Later I would see Audi A6, Lexus, and Mercedes taxis driving around.  I guess if you are making hundreds of dollars per fare you can afford a taxi like that... Once I was in central Prague I saw taxis with prices listed on the door they seemed high for Prague but weren't too exorbitant.  There was an opening the door fee of approximately 1 USD and then they charged about 35 cents per minute you were in the car.  With some of the traffic in Prague that could add up really quickly. 
 
But anyways, back to getting into central Prague.  I didn't see anyway I was going to get into the city by myself so I decided to enlist the help of a stranger.  I looked around and found the most apt candidate - a young famished street bum with a partial Mohawk.  He clearly had not showered in months.   The only thing more memorable than his appearance was his odor.  This guy was rank.  I mean his "fragrance" was so pungent it really zinged the nostrils.  It made my nose hair stand on ends.  His smell reminded me of a mixture of tobacco mixed with vodka all over the body odor of a manual laborer working in 100 deg. F weather, the day he ran out of deodorant.  I asked him if he spoke English and he did, a bit.  You could smell the liquor on his breath (keep in mind it is about noon).  I pointed to a map where I wanted to go and was asking him how I can find a metro station.  He said that the metro was a rip off and I should take a series of trams.  I argued it was too complicated and just wanted him to tell me where the metro is.  In the end, I was forced to follow his advice and saved $0.35 USD by taking 2 trams.  I had no idea where I was going and had to count stops and remember what the next tram number I had to take was.  As I pulled out my money to buy a tram ticket his eyes glistened so I gave him some spare change. 
 
I finally made it to my first stop Prague Castle.  I walked around here for about 5 hours.  The coolest thing about Prague castle is that it houses St. Vitus's Cathedral.  This cathedral is massive.   The architecture was astounding. Every time the beast came into my view I was astounded.  The photos do not do justice because the cathedral is so big you really need to see it in its fullness to appreciate it.  The flying buttresses just make it look unbelievable.  

One special point of interest on St. Vitus Cathedral was the gargoyles.  They were all over the sides of the cathedral and were used to hide gutters.  

Other stuff I saw at Prague Castle was:
The golden lane - a series of old shops in old style buildings.   The coolest part here was a museum containing all different styles of armor and weapons.  I did get to go into Dalibor Tower which was the prison at Prague Castle, named after the first prisoner Dalibor.  It had some pretty neat torture stuff in it.     
 
St. George's Basilica and Convent - a really old looking basilica with fresco paintings all along the ceiling.  

The Old Royal Palace - a huge palace built in the 1100's which was full of neat corridors and huge vaulted ceilings.  

At this point it started to get dark and I realized I didn't have a place to stay.  I walked across Charles Bridge, an old bridge full of copies of really cool sculptures.  This led me right to the center of the old town.  It is here that I found my resting place for my time in Prague - Ritchies Hotel and Hostel.  They had one hotel room available that costs about 65 bux a night.  This was a great deal, we are talking prime real estate here.  Hotels near by cost about 150-200 USD per night.  As I was about to book the hotel room, I noticed in the corner in small print that Dorm's were available for a fraction of the price.  I asked about the dorms and I was told that they were 10 beds in one room with a bathroom.  I quickly booked my bed for 22 USD per night and rented a locker for 1.5 USD per night as well.  I was set it seemed like the deal of a life time.  I ended up meeting my room mates 3 German kids and that was all.  It was pretty cool.    
 
I was given a set of linens and needed to dress my bed myself.  It was dark in the room so I really didn't notice the condition of the bed, I just quickly through my sheets on and dropped of my bag.  At this point I had not eaten or drank all day.  I was parched so I went over to the local watering hole and downed 4 beers totaling about 10 USD.  I was pretty buzzed and then had some pizza and beer for another 10 USD.  One thing that is different about Prague than the rest of Czech Republic is that everyone speaks English here, in the city center it was not hard at all to communicate.  It seemed that everyone was well versed in English.  In fact the worst thing about Prague was that there were way too many tourists there.  It made it kind of annoying to walk around the streets surrounded by English speakers!  So after dinner I walked around and saw a theater advertising this "Black light theater" production called Aspects of Alice. 
 
It was really neat.  It was a silent play but it was kind of magical as well.  The stage was dark except for some black lights in the front.  The stage hands all wore black velvet clothing so you couldn't see them.  They basically hid in the shadows and made black light reflective props appear and disappear and made the main characters fly.  I was pretty buzzed so I didn't really understand the plot that much but it was really cool.  In the end of the play Alice took off her clothes and was parading around topless.  There was an apple and snake floating around so I am assuming it had something to do with Adam and Eve, but I don't really know for sure.  All I know is that I decided it was pretty cool and I was really impressed, especially with the naked chick - that was a pleasant surprise.  It only cost about 20 USD.  As you can see Prague can be pretty cheap.  It was really cool to just be able to do what you wanted without thinking about the cost at all.
 
After the play it was like 11:30 and I was tired from walking around all night so I headed back to my room.  I woke up the next morning and went to take a shower.  They had given me a towel but no soap; I didn't want to seem like a scum bag, that doesn't shower, to my roommates so I just took a "soap-less" shower.  At this point I was lightly greasy.  I figured it will be fine; I will get soap somewhere later.  I packed up all my stuff but noticed I was one sock short.  I looked briefly but decided it wasn't important.  The hostel had a really good breakfast and I started my next day.
 
I decided I wouldn't do the straight up tourist thing and just go to the points of interest; instead I just walked around the city on my wind.  I ended up seeing most of the cool stuff anyways.  Some of the highlights were the Astronomical Clock this thing was fucked up. It had so much data on it, time, date, zodiac, etc. all kinds of stuff.  Every hour the clock would ring and saints were supposed to roll out of these doors and pass by.  I was nearby for 2 hours and each time the saints didn't disappear.  On Tuesday, I saw a newspaper with a picture of the clock and my chief translated the story for me.  Basically the clock has gotten too wet over the years and things are fucked with it.  I guess that is why none of the saint figures went on their parade for me and here I thought they were just upset that I had been desecrating so many places.    
 
I also went on a guided tour of this Jesuit school of study called the Klementine.  They tricked me hardcore into seeing this.  They had all these signs up to see the "Bible of the Devil" I was like sweet that could be interesting.  So I went on this tour and walked around listening to this Halfling of a man yap on and on about Jesuits.  I was bored out of my mind.  Then we get to this library and he tells us that it used to house this book known as the Devil's bible and that it was a normal bible with one page that had a picture of a devil.  That was it.  I was pretty pissed off.  Luckily I used a student discount to get in.  That is another thing, most of the historical sites that charge a fee to enter allow students who are 26 years old or less to have a 30-40% discount on the entrance fee.  I milked that discount every time I could.  I kind of felt like I was in college again trying to save money everywhere I could - for no reason...
 
I also visited a museum of torture and I wanted to visit sex machine museum but I didn't have time.   The bulk of the day I spent wandering in and out of pubs.  I would walk a little find an interesting pub and drink a couple beers.  I was in a state of bliss the entire day.  Although I may not have seen as much historical places as I did the day before, this day was much more enjoyable and fun! 
 
At one bar where I was drinking this 18 degree beer called Masters Choice I realized I was not buzzed but getting drunk.  I had an itch on my right ankle so I brought my ankle to my left knee.  I started scratching my ankle and all of a sudden a sock fell out of my pants.  I was confused at first, wondering how my sock could come off my foot but then I realized it was a dirty sock, perhaps the one I was missing! I am not sure if anyone noticed me picking up the excess sock but I was cautious not to draw attention to myself. 
 
Later at the same bar, I was eating some free giant pretzels, when I don't know how I did this, but I missed my mouth.  I jammed the pretzel right into my face and it broke falling to pieces everywhere.  I looked up and this one lady was staring at me, at this point I wasn't embarrassed but decided it was time to stumble my way to another bar with patrons who hadn't seen my awkwardness.         
 
Later that night, I ended up going to another black light theater called Faust.  I was flying high, but this time I got the plot entirely.  It was basically about this old man who falls in love with a beautiful bar maid.  The devil makes a pact with the old man to help him win the love of the bar maid.  The old man agrees and the devil makes him young.  The now young man and bar maid fall in love.  However, at this point the devil comes and takes away the man and shows him the rest of the world and eventually takes him to hell to be tortured.  In the end the bar maid comes and her love for the young man was so angelic that the devil is forced to break his pact and the young man and bar maid fall back in love.  I thought it was pretty cool to be able to interpret all that without hearing one word, just music.  I never would have gone to a silent play before, I still probably wouldn't but this was different.  It was so cool the way the colors appeared and disappeared and how people would randomly start flying or scenery would appear.  It was a really cool experience.  Plus once again being buzzed doesn't hurt. 
 
I ended the night by going on a walking ghost tour.  This was such a huge rip off.  I paid 20 bux for an hour tour with 2 other Americans.  The stories were really lame and they tried to scare us by having people in costumes jump out and scare us.  At some points I was embarrassed to actually be on the tour.  That's how lame it was.  If anyone ever goes to Prague do not take the ghost tour, if you want to be terrified go stay in a youth hostel and here is why. 
 
After the ghost tour I went and grabbed a couple more beers and then headed home at like midnight.  When I got home, I heard talking in some language; I couldn't decipher what it was.  When I entered my room the lights were off and there were only 2 men present, one of which was sleeping.  The other guy was a drunk bum just talking to himself.  Holy shit, it was just like Al Jurkunas.  He stayed up the entire night mumbling and talking to himself loud, I could barely sleep.  Every 10 minutes he would end up waking me up.  He came over to me and tried to bum cigarettes and he didn't understand that I didn't smoke.  This guy had me freaked out.  I thought I would end up getting shanked or at least robbed for sure.  I ended up locking all my shit in my locker (my t shirt, pants, room key, shoes, socks).  I slept in a pair of boxers with my locker key tied around my neck.  That is all for fear that I was going to be robbed. 
 
When it was morning, I realized this guy didn't even have bed linens - meaning he wasn't supposed to be there and just snuck in.  Furthermore I started to undress my linens when I got a good look at the soiled/stained/blood soaked mattress I was using.  I was grossed out as hell.  I guess you get what you paid for.  All in all, I have no regrets and would probably do it again.  It was a good experience and I don't know how I am better for it, but I sure I am.  I will never forget Prague that's for sure. 
 
Also, in my all my buzzed stupor I forgot to buy soap and shampoo.  I took another water shower, but the results of which left me extremely greasy.  I can't remember a time when I was so greasy.  I assume the greasiness is mainly due to minoxidil use, for trying to curb hairloss, but I was still a huge grease ball.  On the train home I figured I would fit in well with the locals after having brewed myself without soap for 48 hours and having sweat a lot, but I still used deodorant.  Unfortunately, deodorant/Antiperspirant made me too clean and fresh smelling to pass as a local!      

Prague was a really cool city.  There were just so many random things that really added character to the city.  It was definitely worth a visit!
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