The bus to Dresden was only about 3 hours, so when we got there we still had plenty of time to look around. Only a few people got off the bus in Dresden, as the next stop was Prague which everyone was pretty excited about. Luckily Bec, Heather and another Aussie Eddie got off with me, so I had people to hang out with for the next few days. Eddie and I dropped our bags off at our hostel in the Neustadt (New Town) then we had to catch a tram into the Aldstadt (Old Town) to drop the girls off. After getting ourselves organised, we walked down the road to "The Hygiene Museum", which is basically a museum about the human body, its functions and our interpretations of them through the ages. Some parts were interesting, however after doing a fair bit of research on the topic through University, I didn't really see anything I didn't know already. It would have been nice if it was a little more interactive
. Both of the girls got in trouble from the staff, one for taking photos and another for touching something! We had lunch at the museum and then next to the museum was a park which we went to have a lie down in the sun. The local soccer team (Dresden Dynamo) were playing at the brand new stadium just next to the park. They are in the German 3rd division, however the noise from the stadium was deafening! We separated and headed home to freshen up and before heading down to the edge of the River Elbe to have some take-away pizza and beers down by the water (along with the rest of Dresden!) We were going to meet at the tram station near the bridge, however somehow we each waited 25 minutes about 50m away from each other without noticing each other. Eventually Eddie and I split up and went to look for the girls, who did the same thing. We finally found each other and could only laugh about what happened. The girls were actually a few minutes late because after the soccer game there was a riot outside their hostel! Riot Police in full riot gear had to restrain a few lunatics! We eventually got down to the water with our food and drinks and they were delicious, well worth the wait. We went into the beer garden just next to the river to check out the open air dance floor that was quite popular with some of the Dresden locals. It was quite amusing to watch 2 older gentlemen in particular, as they were on the hunt for women, however the women weren't particularly interested. We also saw a 10 year old child serving beers
! Obviously they aren't too strict with their RSA qualifications in Dresden! We then separated and headed back to our respective hostels. Our room was a 6 person dorm, and when we got back there were 2 spare beds. After about an hour of sleeping, 2 middle aged German bikie-looking guys burst in the room, switched the light on and talked for a few minutes very loudly in German. They eventually realised there was 4 other people in the room, so they switched the light off and went to bed. Unfortunately though, this was worse as after about 10 minutes they both started snoring extremely loudly. I guess that's one of the risks you take when you stay in hostels! I eventually got back to sleep, however I had to be up at 7.20am for the Dockers game! (I actually thought it was 5.20am however after waking up and getting my laptop set up I realised this wasn't the case).
The next day We met up at about 11am (after I watched the Dockers have another good win against St Kilda) and hired some bikes from our hostel, then rode into the Old Town to check out all the nice buildings. I had prepared some information about the buildings for the other guys (they weren't particularly interested but they still humoured me) and we rode around checking out things like Zwinger (the old palace), Semperoper (Opera House), Furstenzug (World's longest porcelain mosaic) and the Frauenkirche (Lutheran Cathedral). All the buildings were pretty amazing, however a lot of them had been rebuilt after being destroyed in the war. We had lunch at a nice cafe in the old town then rode out to the big park (Großer Garten) that we were in the day before. The park was pretty nice and there were plenty of people around as it was a nice day
. We enjoyed a drink in the beer garden and then headed back to the hostel to drop the bikes off (via the girls hostel so they could get ready). We then headed down the road to a small open area bar/beer garden where we had a drink before heading to the Mexican restaurant next door for dinner. The restaurant was quite nice, then we decided to check out the "Bermuda Triangle" which is a few jazz clubs which are apparently very good. We checked one out for a drink and the band was quite good, despite being very young. I tried a "smoked beer" from a local craft brewery which tasted a lot like smoked ham (it was pretty delicious). Eventually we put the girls back on a tram and then headed home. The bus for Prague left at 11.30am, so we decided to just have a sleep in and meet up at the bus.
Overall I really enjoyed Dresden. I know good weather and good company make a big difference, but the old town was very scenic and the new town was buzzing for the 2 nights we were there (Saturday and Sunday). Now I'm off to Prague to see what all the fuss is about! Prague
We arrived in Prague in the afternoon and after Eddie and I checked in at PLUS Prague (Bec and Heather stayed in a different hostel down the road) we met up to have some dinner and then head into town. There was a restaurant around the corner from the hostel called "7 Tacos Steak & Grill" which I thought was both intriguing and confusing. We decided to give it a go so we sat down and placed our orders. Eddie, Bec and Heather all ordered Mexican (as I think it was a Mexican restaurant), however I decided to try a traditional Czech dish, which is a few beef medallions in gravy with dumplings (like sweet bread) with a topping of jam and cream
! It's as if one day they were having beef and gravy and then someone tripped over and spilt their jam and cream scones all over the meal, but because they were hungry they just ate it anyway! The beef, gravy and dumplings were quite nice but I wasn't a big fan of the jam and cream. An acquired taste I guess.
Our hostel was quite far away from the town so we had to catch a tram for about 20 minutes (with a changeover). The boys we spent time with in Berlin (Ilias, Keanu and Adam) had been in Prague for the last few days so we got in touch with them and went to meet them at their hostel as it was close to the town square. We had some difficulty with the trams however we eventually found their hostel and headed to the town square as that was the meeting point for the famous "Prague Pub Crawl". We made our way there and were quite shocked as there was a few different pub crawl companies, all very intent on gaining our business. At one point they were both talking to our group and arguing with each other at the same time, saying how their pub crawls were the better one and ragging out the other ones. We decided to do the "Clock-tower" pub crawl, as apparently it went to more authentic Czech bars and the free drinks went for a bit longer. The first bar was in a dungeon-type place and was quite cool, however smelt a bit musty. We got there quite early so it was very empty. The guy who was selling us the ticket said that we could go in and "czech" out the bar before we decided if we wanted to pay for the ticket
. Despite the 7 of us walking down into a dark, smelly dungeon with only about 10 weird-looking Czech guys in it (no girls), we somehow decided that this is where we wanted to be! Don't ask me how (I think the sales technique is called the "Puppy dog technique")! Anyway we found a little area and grabbed some drinks and had a chat. The drinks options were beer, wine or sangria for the first hour, however the sangria tasted like blackcurrant juice. They then allowed you to have shots after an hour, but the shots tasted like lime cordial. We were starting to realise that it was a bit of a scam. Anyway we moved on to another few bars and ended up at a nightclub, however none of the places seemed very authentically Czech, mostly just full of tourists. In the end we all had a good night so I guess we can't complain too much.
The next day it was quite hot so we decided to try and find a pool or a lake to go for a swim. The boys and Heather were a little under the weather so Eddie, Bec and I managed to find a swimming pool complex at Podoli which wasn't too far from the town centre. We contacted the other guys and said we would meet them in the town centre so we could all go to the pool together. Unfortunately due to communication issues and the square being very busy, we eventually just went to the pool and sent a message to them saying to meet us there if they wanted to. We caught the tram down to the pool and were a little bit confused when after you buy your tickets, you have to split up into male and female areas
. We walked into the male area which was the change-rooms, where we discovered an excessive amount of old, naked men. Unfortunately, we literally had to walk through the showers to get to the pool. It was a very scarring experience. There are some things that you just can't un-see. Anyway we exited the tunnel of testicles and made it out to the pool area, which was quite amazing. It was quite busy, however not too packed. We had a swim and then decided to give the water slide a try. Unfortunately there wasn't enough gradient or water on the slide so we ended up going extremely slowly and even stopping at one point (which I found strange as usually in Europe everything is a little dangerous)! After a bit more of a swim we headed over to the beer garden and had some refreshments as well as a kebab. We caught the tram back to the hostel and freshened up before meeting the rest of the guys at their hostel. We wandered into town again and had a look around for somewhere to eat that looked nice. We found a small restaurant which was quiet but was cheap so we went in and had a look. I decided to stick with the traditional Czech meals, so I ordered the beef goulash. It was extremely salty and a very intense flavour, however it was quite nice. You just can't eat very much of it because it's so rich. After dinner we moved on to another bar and had a couple of drinks and a chat (less than $2 AUD for a nice beer). I suggested we should try a traditional Czech liqueur called Slivovica. Eventually everyone gave in and we all tried it, I thought it was quite tasty however the general consensus was that it was no good
. Bec, Eddie and I called it quits after the bar, whereas the other 4 decided to go to the big nightclub with 5 different levels, each with a different theme. I was a little disappointed I didn't get to go and check it out but there's always next time!
We met up a bit earlier the next day as we decided to make it a "tourist day" involving a free tour, a bit of exploring and lots of photos. Again it was Bec, Eddie and I as the other 4 were a little worse for wear after the club. We caught the tram into the town square again where we met up with the tour guide who was running the free tour. It was a different company to the other one I had been doing, but it was still quite good. The tour guide was named Chris, and he was a young guy from Germany who was now living in Prague. He told us a few stories about Prague's gruesome history and it didn't drag on past the standard 2.5 hours (unlike Nigel)! I found the most interesting part to be about the young man (Jan Palach) who set himself on fire to protest against the government. I find it interesting that not that long ago people believed in a cause enough to sacrifice their life for something, whether or not it makes a difference to the cause, whereas nowadays it seems people just protest about getting a bit of a pay rise. I guess we just take it for granted how good we really have it in Australia. It would be interesting to see what people in Australia would do if we really had some major problems like a dictator or something that significantly impacted on a lot of lives. After the tour we decided to head across the river (over Charles Bridge) to the Prague Castle. The Castle is not really one big castle, but a large district with many different architecture styles (every King wanted to add something of his own so he would be remembered). We walked up the hill and then up PLENTY of stairs, before finally making it to the main entrance part
. The whole area was pretty amazing, and there were great views of the city as it was up quite high. After a quick ice-cream stop (our second of the day), we headed back down to the town square to meet up with the party animals. After a quick lunch (traditional Czech KFC), we decided to go down to the Vltava River and rent a couple of paddle boats and see the city from on the river. We bought some drinks and took them out onto the river with us, Bec, Eddie and I in one boat, and Ilias, Keanu, Adam and Heather in the other. As it was quite a hot day, we decided to risk catching whatever diseases the Vltava had to offer and jump in for a quick dip. It was very cold but also very refreshing. We paddled around for about an hour and all had a great time. After the boats, we headed back to freshen up before trekking back into the boys hostel again. We thought we had time to do some washing (and drying) before heading out to dinner, however we realised that we would be extremely late to meet up with the boys. We accidentally caught the wrong tram (well the right tram but it took the wrong route) so by the time we made it to their hostel it was nearly 10pm (we told them we would meet at 8.30pm) The boys said they were about to leave, but luckily they waited and we walked down the road to have some dinner and a drink. Unfortunately we were too late for dinner service, but they were able to offer us a plate with a few sausages, some coleslaw salad and some bread, which was actually quite good (especially when you are very hungry)
. We had a couple of drinks there and then headed a bit further into town and found another bar, as this was the last time that I would be able to go out with this group (they were moving on to Vienna or Cesky Krumlov and I am starting my Classoc Rhapsody trek through Eastern Europe on Friday). It was a good send off as we had a fun night, however it was a little sad that my new friends were leaving. I have promised to visit them in Sydney and Newcastle when I am back in Australia!The next day I met them at the bus in the morning to say my last goodbyes, before I headed back for a bit more of a sleep in. When I woke up, another girl (Reen) had moved into my dorm room and I found out that she would be on my next trek through Eastern Europe. She was only in Prague for an afternoon and was quite keen to see the sights so I said I would show her around (as I was now an expert at catching the trams…not). Somehow I managed to take her into the town square, up to the castle district and then back home again using only 2 trams and not getting lost once! Maybe I was
getting the hang of it! The Busabout website has an online forum where you can chat to the people who are on your tour, and my group for the next tour had organised to meet up at our hostel for a drink at 8.30pm, so I headed downstairs to meet my new friends. The group that met was slightly older, however all seem very nice. We had a few drinks at the hostel and then decided to call it an early night as we had to be up at 7am to meet for the bus to start to tour
I remember when I was planning my trip I decided to spend only a few nights in each place so that I could get a taste of each place and then revisit the places that I liked. I think that idea has failed, as so far there hasn't been anywhere I haven't liked! Prague is no exception to that! As I said in Dresden, Having nice weather and great company is integral to enjoying a place, and I really feel as though I have made some great friends out of the last few stops on my trip. Prague is a really beautiful city, and I had a great time, so Prague definitely gets one "Bing", not two (inside joke, it means it's good). So now I'm off a bit further east through Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Croatia on the Busabout "Classic Rhapsody Trek". Stay tuned!