Czech people are not Prague-matic

Trip Start Nov 18, 2013
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Where I stayed

Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Saturday, December 7, 2013

We went down to a very hearty (free!) breakfast of bread, yoghurt, cereal, juice, coffee, hot chocolate and apples.

The bathrooms here are pretty inconvenient because there's no area to get dressed inside the shower cubicle. You either have to get all your clothes wet and dress inside, or take the chance of being walked in on! Thank goodness it’s a ladies only bathroom.

We had to make it to the walking tour by 11am, so we took the number 22 train towards town. The tram didn’t stop where we thought it would, so we ended up running a long way to get there in time.

We met our tour guide Jana and group at the astronomical clock. She had the funniest accent ever, which made it quite hard to understand at the start. She loved to extenuate random words, as if to be comical, for example, 'Ere you can ziiiiiii the church of saint jaaaaaamessss.’ She was a fantastic guide though, and a lovely lady.

She taught us how to read the astronomical clock, and showed us around the Old Town Square. We saw the Town Hall building which was bombed during World War II and never rebuilt, so it is much smaller now.

Over in a courtyard near the main square, Jana told us about a Turkish man who visited Prague and fell in love with a blonde beauty. He had to go back to his home town, but they both agreed to wait for each other until he returned. However, he was gone for a long time, and another romantic man proposed to the blonde girl. On her wedding day, the Turkish man returned, and was devastated to see his lover in a wedding dress. He snuck a note to her, asking her to meet him one last time in their special spot. She agreed, and then went missing. A few years later, a lady went down to the girl’s family restaurant cellar for some vintage wine, and found a skeleton in a wedding dress. The legend is if you walk in that courtyard at night, the Turkish man will be there, approaching girls with long blonde hair (as Jana would say, ‘looooongg bloooonnt haaaaaarrreee’). Creepy thing is, a couple of nights later, Joanna and I were walking around Prague and a man stopped us and said to Joanna, ‘Excuse me, can I get a photo with you? I am a Turkish man.’ We promptly said ‘No!’ and ran away.

We also visited the Church of St. James the Greater, and heard another good story. There is a famous statue of the Virgin Mary above the main alter. Apparently people used to adorn her with expensive necklaces. One night, a thief tried to steal the jewels from around Mary’s neck, but the statue reached out and grabbed his arm. The thief tried and tried to pull his hand free, but to no avail. He waited there all night, and in the morning, a parishioner came in and tried to help free his hand. It was no use, so the parishioner took out their sword, to cut the man free. Just as the sword was swung, the statue let go! The 400 year old hand of the man still hangs in the church to this day. It looks all black and mummified. So interesting and gross! It definitely looks like a real hand though.

Next stop, the Powder Tower and Municipal House, and the entrance of the Communist Museum to warm up a bit. Here Jana told us about her childhood under the communist regime, and how it changed when a new government came to power. We saw the Don Giovanni statue, as Mozart’s opera first premiered in the nearby theatre, and another statue called Hang In There by David Cherny. Cherny is a modern statement artist, whose works are displayed all around Prague. For example, the babies climbing up the Zizkov Television Tower, and the two men urinating on a bronze Czech Republic. The Jewish Quarter was very interesting, and we saw the oldest active Synagogue in Europe called the Old New Synagogue. Gawking in the shops on Parizska Street was nice, even though we could never afford it and the Franz Khafka statue was very strange but symbolic of his stories and life. Something we found very sobering was visiting Wenceslas Square (which we saw the night before), but we learnt that 21 year old Jan Palach had committed suicide there by self-immolation as a protest to the communist regime.

The walking tour went for a good couple of hours, and afterwards we went to the Mucha museum. Alphonse Mucha was an Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He created a lot of famous advertisements, paintings and architecture. It is rare that someone likes everything in an exhibition, but I LOVED all of his work and ideals. His art is so beautiful and meaningful. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photographs in the museum. My Dad has also told me about a serious of 20 huge paintings he did called the Slav Epic, which depicts the history of Czechs and other Slavic peoples. They just so happened to be on temporary exhibition in Prague while we were there.

It was a bit out of the way on the tram, and we supposed they needed somewhere a bit more warehouse-like to hang such large canvases. The sheer size, detail, colour and emotion portrayed in the Slav Epic was incredible. Mucha worked on completing them for 18 years.

It was getting dark (at 4.30pm!), and time to go home to get ready for the Pub Crawl that night. We had to walk down some shady streets to get to the closest Metro, and we both agreed it wouldn’t be fun to be in that area late at night.

We got ready at hostel and then took a tram into town, where we were meeting Joanna’s medical friends (also holidaying) at a restaurant called Svejk. They were late and we were confused by how big the place was, but we finally found them and went downstairs out of the smoking area. I met Sasha, Pariza, Mohit, Amanda and Nara. They were all lovely, and we talked about everyone’s medical placements in Vietnam, Africa, Nepal and Hungary. The service was absolutely appalling. We were in shock at how badly we were treated at the restaurant. A waiter came down, and looked shocked to see us sitting at the table. He asked if we had a reservation (the bottom floor was empty). When we said no, he replied with ‘You need to make a reservation, this isn’t MacDonald’s you know.’ We said ‘Well can we eat here or not?’ He said yes haughtily and stomped off to get menus. When he came back, he asked if we wanted drinks, and we said ‘No thank you.’ He looked at us as if we’d slapped him in the face. ‘What? No drinks?’ We told him we were just after main meals, and asked if we could order. He huffed and puffed and took our orders as if they were insults. A couple of minutes later, two more of Joanna’s friends arrived, Dom and Bassem. They were just dropping by to say hello and sit with us, but when the waiter saw them, he marched over angrily. ‘How many more of you is there? You just walk in, you don’t have a reservation, you don’t order drinks. How many more?’ We told him no one else was coming, and pointed out that no one offered to seat us or stopped us when we walked in. He just kept saying the same thing over and over, and then stared at us indignantly. He finally left, but then the food then took AGES to come. We even considered walking out because of how awful the waiter had been. We had to be at the Pub Crawl in fifteen minutes, so I went to find someone to ask. The grumpy guy was the only one around, and when I asked how long the food would be, he replied ‘How am I supposed to know? I take your order, I give it to the chef. It may be 5, 10, 15 minutes, how am I to know? What is the problem huh?’ I was really pissed off by his attitude at this stage, and asked to speak with his manager. He didn’t understand, so I said ‘I want to talk to your boss, your manager, the owner. About the service. The way we have been treated.’ He walked me on a wild goose chase. Upstairs, downstairs, outside and in another part of the restaurant. We reached a kitchen and he went inside alone. He emerged saying the food would be out in two minutes. I said ‘Great, but can I still talk to your manager please?’ He replied with ‘What is your problem, your food is coming, I can do nothing more, you do not need to speak to anyone.’ His black and gold front tooth gleemed at me as he sneered. I asked ‘Is there anyone here who speaks better English?’ ‘Better English, hah,’ he scoffed. I decided to give up and go back to the table. Everyone congratulated me for trying, and we marvelled over how awful he was. The food did come very quickly after that, and it was pretty tasty, I just hope he didn’t add any ‘special’ ingredients to it…
To add insult to injury, as we were leaving, he sprung us with 15 kroners per person extra for some imaginary ‘salad’ that we never had. We were so late that we just paid it.

After this incident, I also noticed that other Czech people weren’t keen to help us or be kind. We asked one stall holder for directions, and he just replied with ‘I am busy’ and turned his back on us. Another person in the street just shook their hand at us and walked away when we asked them something. I have never experienced such rudeness in other countries, even if there is a language barrier, people are still usually willing to help with hand directions and broken English. Granted, we did meet some nice Czech’s, but most of them were in the tourism industry.

We all rushed to the pub crawl, getting a little lost in the middle, but arriving there in time for the 10pm session. A guide took us to our first pub, where we had one hour of free drinks, including absinthe, beer, wine and vodka shots. We played a game…if you said ‘like’ you had to do a vodka shot. Deadly! At the next pub we had lovely elderflower ciders and busted some moves on the dance floor. The finally stop was the ‘biggest music club in Central Europe.’ There were five floors with different themed music, and the top floor even had dancers. Sasha showed us a dance move where you hang your head, shoulders and arms and basically give yourself whip lash! We all looked like idiots. We left at around 3am, Joanna and I on foot, and the others in a taxi. We really underestimated how far it was back to the hostel, so it was only natural to have a MacDonald’s stop halfway (free wifi, chyeah!)

Back at home, I talked to people in Australia via Viber until 5.30am. Needless to say, I was tired the next morning.
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