Prague

Trip Start May 16, 2013
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21
Trip End Ongoing


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Where I stayed
Mosaic House Prague
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Wednesday, June 26, 2013

To get from Dresden to Prague, I used for the first time what would become a very valuable online tool for the next few weeks: a website called MitfahrgelegenheitThis is basically a carpooling network, where you search or post rides around Europe, and it's VERY used in central Europe, so finding a quick and cheap ride between the two cities was easy.

My driver was a sporty guy, semi-professional wakeboarder, very friendly and polite, who was going further inside Czech Republic to have a weekend at this big lake which according to him is the best place for wakeboarding in Europe. Sounded like a fun weekend.
In the meantime, I had failed to arrange a host on CS for Prague (or didn't even try enough), and considering my last minute hosting misadventures, I didn't want to risk going for an unknown hostel again. So I texted André, who had told me before I left he could probably hook me up with Jaroslav, a Czech colleague who was living in Prague.

Of course, texting your friends to see if they can get you a place to crash on the day of your arrival in a new city is not ideal, but "last minute" was now officially my modus operandi. I had come to terms with myself regarding the fact that I just couldn’t spend two hours or more online everyday trying to find hosts for the next weeks…I mean, I was spending enough time already in front of the computer because of Juicy, my writings and reports about the trip.
André was swift on the reply, I think it didn't take him more than half an hour to confirm Jaroslav had booked me a bed on their Prague hostel. They work for the St. Christopher’s Inn chain of hostels, which I had already used in Edinburgh and was more than happy to repeat the experience, as I know they have an above than average service and there wouldn't be crazy hippies partying inside the room till late hours in the night.

My ride dropped me on the outskirts of the city, just in front of the underground station.
One of my favourite things about a new city is the first few rides on public transport…it really appeals to your orientation instincts and traveller skills. You have to look at these diagrams, figure out where you are, figure out where you want to go, figure out what’s the right platform/train/bus, and then comes the tricky part of buying the right ticket on the machine, or communicating with the person in the ticket booth. And English isn't the standard, as I quickly realized in Prague.
But this was just the metro, and there weren't any barriers stopping people from going down to the platforms, so all I had to do was figure out the stations map. The ride was for free (and would continue to be during my stay there, on all public transports).

After a bit of free wi-fi on the local McDonalds to mark the hostel location on the tablet, I was off walking there. Thirty minutes walk, more or less. Prague has that old European trait that I really enjoy, that thing that makes you feel History all around, as if time just stopped there and everything was preserved, and you can touch the rust, the cracked stone walls…architecture is on another level...and the narrow streets that lead into big squares filled with statuses and monuments that impress if only for their audacity.

Arriving at the hostel, the first good surprise. André had mentioned the place was really cool, new and fancy, but damn, it was eye-candy for a traveller. The Mosaic House, as they call it, is a hostel-hotel hybrid in a refurbished building, everything still looks brand new and it does look way more like a proper hotel than anything else.
The lounge/bar area is very big, probably enough to fit 200 people there on a gig night, and they have a secondary seating area across the ground floor with glass doors that block the sound and big windows showing the street outside, so you can have a quiet drink/meal and watch sports while everyone is partying on the other side.

Jaroslav greeted me in the reception wearing a cool Madball t-shirt, informed me about my room and I promised to buy him a drink later to say thanks.
Nice spacious lift to get to the fourth floor where my room was, and second good surprise: although it was an eight bed dorm, it was quite spacious, there were separate lockers for everyone and the bathroom…wow. I have seen bathrooms in four star hotels with weaker design and dirtier aspect. 
If the hostel in Dresden was the coolest I've ever stayed in, this one was definitely the best in terms of conditions. It was neat, functional and it just felt amazingly good to have a shower in that fancy bathroom and do a bit of grooming. Oh and they cleaned it every single day. Awesome.

I took a rest for the day, napping, going to the hostel’s lounge to write and watch movies, chilling. Staying for four days in Prague allowed me to take it slow this time around.
Close to evening time, I started to get bored. Went online and checked the CS wall for Prague. I don’t remember if I posted something there or just replied to a post this guy Simon had written earlier, but the fact of the matter is that we linked up and decided to go out together.

There were these two Canadian girls in my room. Correction, there was a Canadian crazy woman who looked like she had been on crack for some time during her life, and a tall, super freckle faced girl who seemed cool. 
I thought they were travelling together, being from the same country and having popped in the room at the same time, but the girl actually had nothing to do with the crazy woman. I don’t remember her name. I told her about my plans to go hangout with Simon, she told me about some guys in a band that were playing for free in a venue nearby.
Simon was meeting me outside the hostel, but that wasn't until one hour later, so me and the Canadian chick decided to go look for the place where the band was playing, just to check if it was worth it.
She had already been drinking, so we got lost cause she had no idea where the place was. We got back to the hostel already late to meet my couchsurfing connection.
 
Simon was a very friendly Slovakian guy spending some days in Prague. He had studied in the city during the ongoing year but wasn't happy about the experience and was now just travelling during summer holidays, I guess trying to figure out what to do next.
Having some insider’s knowledge, he took us to the place that had the oldest self-brewed beer Prague. The beer garden was closed and all the indoors seating areas were completely crammed, but we managed to find a spot. It was an all oak wood place, very old school traditional Czech pub, tables and benches in a canteen style, meaning you’d seat next to strangers. The beer was amazing, it was strong, kinda like a mix between stout and ale, not very bitter. Probably one of the best beers I ever tried in my life, and I’m not really into beer to start with.
They also brought us some shots that were sweet but strong in alcohol. Things were starting to warm up.

Budget traveller that he was, Simon had bought this plum liquor bottle that was on sale in a Thai shop earlier (there’s a strong Thai community in Prague and most of them run convenience stores that are open almost 24H and restaurants), and was planning on getting hammered with it. We followed suit, sitting on a park near the river, talking about our countries and cultures and the differences between them. 
Our female companion was quite fond of Europe because she felt like her country had almost no History when compared to the countries of the Old Continent. It made sense in a way, and made me reflect on how old my own country is and how much stuff has happened there already, and how places like the USA and Canada had a completely different evolution as nations and even as cultures (some people would argue if there’s any true original culture in the US, but I won’t dwell into that).

After finishing the bottle and feeling the buzz, we went for another pub for a couple more beers, and then decided it was time to hit the clubbing scene.
Simon alerted us that the place he was taking us, although free entry, was quite lame, but we were drunk so we couldn't care less. It was indeed free but they wanted us to pay for putting our jackets in the cloakroom. The venue didn't allow people to wear jackets inside the dance floor, or carry them in their hands. What the fuck? I couldn't figure out if it was for security reasons or just for appearances, but they did have signs on the door saying hand guns weren't allowed inside, so I guess Czech Republic is a bit crazy when it comes to night life, or common sense for that matter.
I was only wearing a zipper hoodie and had no idea if we were going to stick around that long, so no way I was paying. Our Canadian friend still had some extra space on her handbag, so we threw our stuff inside, right in front of the security guy who blocked us before. The bag was bulkier than a football but she didn't care and so didn't we. 
 
The club itself was like a scene on those musical-dance movies where everyone looks super happy and everything is shiny and the worst commercial shitty music is blasting out of the speakers on full power. It was clearly a place were people went for one reason only. I could see hordes of testosterone-pumped guys preying on every girl. And majority of the girls were into it.
Now that I think of it I feel disgusted and reminds me of how much I hate mainstream music clubs, but at that very moment I wasn’t too bothered about it and even danced a bit. 
But my friends weren’t too happy about the place (which only makes them people with good taste in life, lol), so we got out of there as soon as we finished our beers (by this time I had completely lost track on how many beers were already sitting in my stomach).

The Canadian was very keen on finding this club that was supposed to be more underground in the sound but very renowned. Good electronic music? Yes please. 
But it wasn't an easy job, as people kept telling us different directions. The fact that she was pissed drunk and would approach any random person, from street sweepers to groups of horny guys trying to put her in unmarked taxis, also didn't help.
 
But we eventually found the place. The reception area was huge and completely empty apart from a desk and a couple of security guys, and we could hear the sound blasting from the basement floor. They made a bit of a fuzz about my pocket knife (which I always forget I have with me), so I just dropped it with them and we went down to check the dance floor.
It was desolated. Maybe some twenty people inside, which was like nothing because the place was quite spacious and square, so by natural behaviour people were standing around the corners, instantly making it awkward. 
The sound was actually decent and I was into dancing, but not alone, so we quickly went back up and I happily picked up my pocket knife under a grim look from the security guys (all the trouble keeping it away for only two minutes).

We ended up in another basement, this time in a place called “James Dean”, which looked very quiet on the ground floor but was actually good fun downstairs. For some reason I kept saying “this place is dead” because of its name. Idiotic, as any drunk guy is.
My last clear memory of the night was jumping around wildly to the sound of the cliché party song of…yes, you guessed it, “Jump Around” by House of Pain.
Eventually we got tired of that place too and Simon had to go back to his cousin’s place on the night tram, so we parted ways with him me and the representative of the maple leaf country went back to our room. The other maple leaf was snoring like a wreck train just under my bed, but I had my earplugs ready for that.

Next morning, big hangover. Looked over to the other side of the room, my Canadian friend was gone. I think she had super powers. She had been drinking since the afternoon on the day before, had as much drinks as us, and never showed any signs of weakness. I mean she was a big girl, taller than me, but still…I was expecting at least a hangover as big as mine.

Sightseeing was to take place, so I packed a water bottle and went for a walk.
Now, instead of describing the remaining days in Prague in detail, I’ll just give you a brief comment on the city itself and the occurrences, as we all know you read this blog for the crazy stories and adventures and not for the historical and sightseeing descriptions which you can find on any guidebook.
 
Prague is the city of cathedrals. According to what I heard, when the Nazis took over during WWII, Hitler decided to spare the city of any destruction, declaring it a “protectorate”, like a city-museum. But this didn’t save the Jewish community of course.
Curious fact: the Czech people took their own city back against the Nazis, three years after the Nazi Governor of Czechoslovakia was assassinated by British trained Czech paratroopers, and one day before the Russians got there. So during communism they celebrated their “Liberation Day” on May the 9th, and nowadays it’s the real date, 8th of May.
And indeed the city feels like a museum. Every corner of the centre of Prague is adorned by some impressive architecture, from Gothic to Renaissance and other styles, and the castle itself (the biggest in terms of stone-wall fortified complex area in Europe I think) is probably the most beautiful I ever visited. The city is famous for Kafka also, one of my favourite authors, but I didn't explore any references or visited his museum because I'm more of a walk-the-streets guy.
 
Oh and I walked…it’s one of the best cities to visit on foot, give yourself a full day and you can cover all the main historical sights. There’s also many cool parks, even one with a mini-Eiffel Tower, but I didn’t get to visit.
Now, bare in mind, this is a VERY touristy place, and as you probably know me from previous posts, I don’t like that. The main squares and streets are always crowded with tourists and tour guides, everything is adapted to fit the typical tourist needs, and the prices of meals and basic stuff around what’s called the Old Town are absurd when compared to stuff from the supermarket.
But that’s the way it is. I actually did research some good restaurants and ended up having a super tasty schnitzel with butter potatoes. Unfortunately the quantity on the plate wasn’t enough to kill my hunger, but the place was quite slick and for the price it was reasonable enough.
 
After the first two days and a half I started to feel there was nothing left for me in Prague. I knew there was an alternative Punk venue but couldn't find it, and any alternative life the city might have was completely out of my reach, so I kinda got bored of seeing beautiful buildings and monuments.
 
I did get a glimpse of a different night life, meeting Simon once again for a couple of drinks…I had researched a bit online to know what was happening on my last night in town, it was a Friday and there was this event with live bands on a venue a bit distant from the touristy area.
We met for some quick and fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls (I had like three of them, delicious) and went there, but there were no live bands, only another basement type of venue with multiple corridors and two dancefloors: one completely empty with a sad-looking DJ playing what seemed like Acid House, and another one showing signs of life, with teenagers dancing to the sound of this crazy Afro-beat meets Bass sound. It was alright, I was digging it, but Simon said he wasn't the dancing type of dude, and all of a sudden the teens just evacuated the place and left to some other unknown place, so we just went back to the centre, where a waiter refused to serve me a half-pint of beer in the most rude way possible. He simply said they wouldn't serve half-pints, and when I asked “But what’s the problem, don’t you have hal-pint glasses?” he turned his back on me. Whatever.
Me and Simon were on a chilled night out so we said goodbye shortly after that episode.
 
I ended up not paying the drink to Jaroslav, my bad, missed my chance on the night before going out with Simon again…maybe next time.
I also met more people who moved into the room during my stay in the hostel. There was this Australian crazy character, absolute player/ladies’ man, who in one single evening came back to the room more than FIVE times to change his clothes, because, according to him, the chicks he was hooking up with couldn't decide if they were going out or not, and he didn't want to mess his “go out clothes” – yeah dude, it looks much better if you keep popping down to the lounge to meet your girls in a different costume every 10 minutes.

Also met a Dutch guy who was doing a big trip like mine, freshly started a couple of days before. He seemed like a really nice guy, a bit older and therefore wiser and kinda in the same mindset as me. We got to chat only for an hour or so in the room and then I only saw him again before leaving, but I wish I had kept his contacts or so.
 
And that was it. After booking my bus to Vienna I left Prague around lunch time on Saturday the 29th of June. This one kept me wondering how different my experience would have been if I had stayed with a CS host or maybe even if I had hooked up with friends of friends, people with similar tastes that would know where to take me. No doubt the city fell short on my expectations, but then again it was some lovely sunny days and I still ended up making new friends, covering all the sightseeing by myself; walking around with my earphones, taking breaks to read in small parks and eating great food…what’s not to love about that?

My Review Of The Place I Stayed



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