BUDAPEST TO PRAGUE
06.08.2012 - 09.08.2012 25 °C
After an uneventful drive from Hungary into the Czech Republic, we arrived at our chosen campsite, Prager Camping, early on the Sunday afternoon. It was a cute little site, run by a husband and wife couple, basically in their large backyard but with lots of shade, peace and quiet (complete with foosball and ping-pong tables!). We had access to a cheap Asian market just up the road, and regular buses went past just up the road in the direction of the closest Metro station.
We had previously decided that after being robbed of the chance for a good night out in Santorini (thanks to my suspected food poisoning), there was going to be no better option for getting out amongst the crazy youth of Europe and testing some good Czech beers than Prague. We ruled out the Sunday night as I’d just started to feel a bit under the weather, and Roxy, the club we wanted to check out had free entry on Monday nights, so we just chilled with a some pilsner and TV shows on the laptop.
The next morning we headed out for our first taste of Prague – we found their public transport system is fast, modern, clean and cheap and we were able to fairly quickly navigate through the city. We at first wanted to have a look at the National Museum, it was apparently free but we lost our bearings a bit when we first got off the Metro and ended up walking about 10min in the wrong direction! These things happen ☺ When we eventually got ourselves going the right way, we found the museum, which is actually 2 buildings, one a clean, modern giant and the other a massive Gothic period masterpiece. Saddly we found the museum had a small entrance fee which we hadn’t really budgeted for at the time, but it was also getting close to meeting time for our free walking tour down in the Old Town Square so we ended up giving it a miss. It did mean we could amble down the main tourist drag if we wanted… we realised how spoilt we’d been in Budapest by having room to move and not really encountering any crowding, this main drag in Prague was filled to the brim with a very eclectic bunch of people… everyone from crackheads to socialites! We made it to the beautiful Old Town Square, filled with both amazing arcitecture and of course billions of tourists. We could tell there were people waiting for the walking tours to kick off, but there were also young ones spruiking pub crawls and a lot of people watching the clock as it was near the hour (which we found out a bit more about later on) and taking up a lot of room.
Old Town Square
I decided I needed to have something to eat before the tour started and left Paul along with the group while I ended up getting massively ripped off by a gyros stall – sneaky bastards advertise gyros for 79kc in big fluro writing, with a small and not very visible “per 100g” sort of underneath it, then they shave off a bunch of meat and ask you if it looks alright… you say yes, and they keep you chatting while they weigh it, he mumbled a price of 195kc whilst almost whipping my 200kc note out of my hand before I had the chance to convert in my head and say” hang on, that’s EUR8… I’m not paying that, it says 79kc on the sign!” By then, he’s already given you the tiny amount of change and says too bad, it’s already been made, you said it was Ok, and I’ve already put the sale through. After having a couple of heated exchanges with this guy, I ended up taking it (running out of time, you see, and really really hungry) and telling them I’m not rich and you should be ashamed of yourselves before running back to Paul and sharing it with him (I chose not to tell him how much it cost at that time, he would have ended up making me take him to the guy for some more words). Then we got to start the tour ☺
Our guide for this one run by a company called Sandeman’s was John Paul, or JP as he asked to be called - he had lived in Europe for most of his life with his German/American parents and spoke perfect english with a very American twang. He started by showing us around the Old Town and gave us a compacted history lesson covering about 2000 years. He then took us over to the clock we’d seen people gawking up at before and found out it’s called the Astronomical Clock. I hadn’t actually heard of it before. He described it as the 2nd most disappointing major tourist attraction in Europe, with the 1st being the Mona Lisa at the Louvre (no arguments there!). Essentially it tells the time, date, moon phase and it has some great little characters adorning it, representing the most despised things of that era– Greed, Vanity, Heresy, and Death. They all come alive when the clock strike the hour. So crowds gather on the hour to watch bits and pieces move in and around the clock, over time it seems like it’s been built up to be this really cool, almost magical show, but when it starts most people put their cameras away and say “uh… that’s it?”
After checking out some other sights in the Old Town, we had a lunch break where a sister company were trying to enlist people for their pub-crawl that night. It was EUR15 per person and included entry into 4 bars or clubs, t-shirts and free drinks for 2 hours at the first pub – beer, wine, spirits, shots etc. Seeing as we were going to go out anyway, it seemed like a good deal and we paid a deposit and started looking forward to coming back in and getting our drink on.
The lunch break was over and JP took us into the Jewish Quarter, explaining that it used to be the ghetto of the city but is now one of the most sought after and expensive locations. He pointed out a couple of important synagouges and memorials to holocaust victims before taking us down to the river and telling us how we can get over to Prague Castle, then finishing off the tour. We had learnt a lot on this one as well and looked forward to more valuable free walking tours with Sandemans in other cities – but we couldn’t hang around, we had to head back to the van so we could have dinner and get ready to come back out again.
A few hours later, we were just about ready to leave the van again and it started raining cats and dogs – that would be right! Armed with our only remaining umbrella out of the 3 we started with, and knowing we’d end up losing it not too far into the night, we tried to find the meeting point at a pub called Revolution. We must not have been very in-tune with Prague as we got ourselves very, very lost in the old town. Luckily, we came across it before we got too soaked. We gave out tickets to the girl at the desk and asked about our free t-shirts (I was so excited about getting a tacky commemorative t-shirt, something new to wear to bed), but she said that it was only free for girls, guys had to pay EUR2, and the only size they had was extra large… um, tell me how that works then?? I let Paulie have it and he tucked it into the back of his shorts.
We obtained our first free beers (they said the other free drinks didn’t kick off for another half an hour – Paul wasn’t too impressed at this point) and got chatting to a group of American guys who had been living in Prague for the last few years and therefore not part of the pub crawl (just out drinking on a Monday night). It didn’t seem like long before Paul was able to get his vodka, I was on another free beer, then another, then Paul turned up with a round of Absinthe shots…
I will take this opportunity to apologise – from here, the night gets very, very, very hazy and I’m doing my best to recall the events of the evening ☺
We made a lot of pub crawl friends from here on out… Paul a bunch of Italian guys, I got chatting to a Welsh couple and their friends, shared a hooka with banana flavoured shisha (I regretted this the next day), we met some young blokes from Manchester, one of which has family in Penrith back home, whilst waiting in the bathroom line at one of the clubs I met a lovely Indian girl who had studied at the University of Wollongong (it’s such a freaking small world), I think I chatted with a Slovakian girl who Paul thinks was trying to hit on me… before we knew it we were at Roxy, the club we were going to go to originally, and it was 5am. We had somehow managed to keep hold of the umbrella, but lost the t-shirt.
We made it back to the van safe and sound and wrote the rest of the day off.
The day after though, we did think we’d better get back into Prague and do a couple of the things we didn’t get to on our first day. Still recovering from many, many beers earlier in the week, we checked out Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge, also stumbling across the Czech Senate as we strolled. Unfortunately, we both started getting a slight niggling cough and the sniffles and headed back to the van for more sleep.
View from The Castle
We both woke up the next morning feeling like we’d been hit by a truck. This is what happens when you’re over 25 and try to stay out all night – it ends up taking you a week to recover. Either that, or we’d both picked up a bug from somewhere and it hadn’t shown until our immune systems were weakened by lack of sleep. We gathered all the energy we could, packed ourselves up and began driving towards Berlin.