Former Communism at it's finest

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Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What's up ladies and gents? I’m writing to you from Munich, but will be updating you 3 cities back in Prague because we were lazy. And drunk. Well, lazy-drunk. Let’s get started!

Coming from Berlin we had a 5-hour train ride to the Eastern bloc of Europe, and the first of the tour of our heritage countries, the Czech Republic! Formerly Czechoslovakia for those of you born after 1993, at which point this country decided communism just wasn’t fun anymore.

Em and I, having agreed that our train rides could not possibly get any worse, left Berlin with high hopes and level heads. Turns out things can get worse! Indeed, much worse. Our train’s air conditioning was malfunctioning, and our fellow travelers (mainly an old Czech man who spoke no English) decided it would be a fantastic idea to cut off all air circulation by closing the door to our semiprivate corridor. Nothing like 5 hours in 95 degree heat with stale air! Oh, and children in their underwear were still running up and down the train screaming per usual.

Arriving at the train station all hot and bothered we were rather agitated and had no idea how far we were from our hostel. A very nice young woman in the corridor of our train who spoke English told us exactly which subway to take, truly an angel. Em and I each took out 1000 CZK (about $50) and promptly received a 1000 CZK bill. Damn. The ticket counters were closed in the metro and the machines only accepted coins. Ten agonizing minutes (and one very angry convenience store lady) later we found ourselves on the metro heading to our hostel.

I had no idea what to expect in Prague and its beauty blew me away.  Prague was one of the few capital cities that escaped the allied bombings in WWII, so unlike Berlin where everything was neoclassical, Prague was the real deal.  All the buildings that looked old were genuinely old.

We did a LOT in Prague and I’ll touch on the highlights so you don’t get too bored.  First, Prague is inexpensive, very very inexpensive. The exchange rate is very favorable. They make fantastic beer, and you can purchase 0.5L of their fantastic beer at a bar or restaurant for 22 CZK. That means a liter of beer will run you just over $2. Liter for liter, beer is cheaper than water!! Miracles do come true! Czech’s are very proud of their beer, which is one reason why it is so cheap.  It’s an important part of their culture and if you ask a citizen what’s the best beer in the Czech Republic, every individual will give you a different answer. They don’t make one good beer, they make many.

One of the first things Em and I saw was the oldest astronomical clock in the world that is still functional. Functional is a very relative term. You see, it gives the time very well. It has two hands just like a watch! And those two hands read just like a watch too! Oh wow! So it’s functional in respect to telling time. What are less functional are all the doo-dads on the other clock face that apparently no one understands the meanings of. It chimes every hour, and like a cuckoo clock, has doors that open to let figures appear.  On all accounts it is wholly unspectacular, but hey, it’s old and part of the fun for the crowd is looking around at each other after the chiming with dazed looks asking, "Sooo, is that it?"

After the clock we visited Charles Bridge, which is a pedestrian bridge full of religious statues each with a story to tell. If you ever want a sketch drawing of yourself you’ll have over 50 different vendors to choose from. You can also touch the bronze dog on the bridge and the Loyalty Fairy will fly down from the clouds and grant you an abundance of…loyalty? Apparently Emily from the Bachelorette did it, so of course we had to.

Enough of the Bachelorette. From the Charles Bridge we went to the Lennon Wall. Got ya! Emily went there too. This wall is quite an experience.  It’s about 15 feet high and 100 feet long and every inch of it is covered in freelance spray paint. The paint must be an inch thick by now because it is constantly evolving. What was painted a week ago is most assuredly gone by now. Spray paint bottles are left all along the base of the wall from former artists encouraging the constant reshaping of their very own artwork.  Messages of Peace, Love, and Happiness abound and it’s all too easy to get lost reading messages for an hour in every language imaginable. And no, Emily and Wolf’s picture was nowhere to be found.

A 30 second walk later we found the Love Lock Bridge. Legend has it, you put the lock on the bridge and throw the key into the water forever losing the ability to open your lock. Hence, your love will last forever. Love was certainly in the air, but not everyone was feelin’it. There were quite a number of combination locks…just in case.

That night we had dinner at a traditional Czech beer hall with schnitzels and beers.  Prague is renowned for their beer, not so much for their food. While it was decent, Czech food is not necessarily the shining embodiment of culinary excellence. Nonetheless, it was a great city to celebrate my birthday with Emily and some hostel friends. Prague was our first taste of the eastern bloc and it was magnificent. Emily will be updating you on our next city, Budapest!

Cheers!

David 
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