Czech It Out!

We arrived in Prague after a long night of travel which included a bus to Golders Green in NorthEast London, a bus to Stansted airport and our last English breakfast at 5 in the morning, including a serious questioning of Ellie’s carry-on because of all the locks we were carrying for the hostel lockers. We were a little delirious and exhausted with all of our luggage but excited as our Easyjet flight touched down at the Prague airport around 9:30. During the landing we could see quaint Czech villages and towns and couldn’t wait to start exploring the Czech Republic. We changed out pounds to Krowns which is an entirely different form of money as 200 Krowns is merely 5 pounds so the conversion was a little tricky. We managed to buy a metro card for 24 hours to get to our Couchsurfing host’s house, a neighborhood near the centre of Old Town. We got a bus and then a metro with ease and that was about all that was easy as we struggled to find the house from the metro station, asking a man covered in paint who was working on sanding something on the sidewalk, who spoke no English whatsoever and could only grunt basic directions accompanied with hand signs at us, but eventually we found it and we were so happy we did because Alice and John, who are a young couple, both 26 have a very beautiful apartment. We had to wait for Alice to meet us from work and we were about 45 minutes early so we sat in a garden.

When we met her, she was rushing off back to school so she gave us a key and our own room, breathlessly excusing herself. Alice is apparently a working on her PHd in biology and very busy with thesis papers and experiments so we knew we wouldn’t see much of her or John, who just started a new job. Their flat was fantastic though, as it had been passed down through Alice’s family for years, sort of a living museum and our room was huge and even had a knight in full armor in it.

Our room..

Anxious to explore, we dropped our things off and headed to the Charles Bridge which separates Alice’s neighborhood from the Old Town and is a famous landmark.

We found a little outdoor café on the way and tried our first dark Czech beer, soaking up the sun and costing us a mere 29 Krowns = 1 pound or 2 dollars. At the restaurant there were these pretzels that hang on every table to entice you to eat them and then they charge you for them. It was a very sneaky trick which we were not hungry enough to fall for.

Ellie with our untouched pretzels

Stopping by the Kafka museum along the way to the bridge with this really cool statue that actually moved so the pee squirted around…

After walking across the bridge and commenting on how touristy Prague seemed to be and noting all of the jewelry, caricatures and other tourist trap stalls along the bridge, we decided to climb one of the towers that stand on either side of the bridge.

We climbed it and took some pictures of the pretty colors and architecture that is the Old Town of Prague.

The View of the Charles Bridge from the bridge tower.

Afterwards, we went to Tesco (a huge superstore with 5 departments) to get an adaptor for the camera and some picnic lunch for ourselves to enjoy. We found the adaptor very cheaply and then go some Czech cheese and bread for lunch. We walked to the main Old Town square to picnic. The Czech cheese was a nice smokey cheese, but the bleu cheese we got was salty and horrible. The Old Town Square has really gorgeous churches and clocks and architecture in it, but is slam packed with tourists everywhere. We were really amazed at how Prague has become this huge tourist destination to the point of losing a sense of authenticity that is supposed to accompany Eastern European countries, but it was beautiful nonetheless. Afterwards, we went back to Ines house for a nap since we were exhausted. We awoke refreshed and went to a veggie restaurant recommended by Lauren and our guidebook which was phenomenal.

On our way to the restaurant with the sun setting over the city.

We ate some of the best vegetarian food I have ever experienced and so cheap. We split two appetizers and then shared a platter of eggplant quesadillas, veggie skewers and some potato casserole thing and the whole bill was only 345 Krowns being about 12 pounds = 24 dollars.The restaurant was very modern for Prague and the owners had three artists come in to paint it. Our room was a private room with stripes and a cool light fixture and one room had twinkle lights built into the ceiling to make a star effect.

on our way to the metro, we saw Prague Castle, all lit up at night.

On our ride home, we met a funny family from Holland who thought we were Czech. The dad was hysterical and so happy and funny to talk to. He mentioned that there was a holiday in Prague the next day, the holiday of liberation but we weren’t sure of the details. This other American woman rushed over being a know-it-all and began chatting with us uninvited and was snobby and pretentious. Once on the train, we couldn’t read the sign telling us what stop we were at so she told us we were at Mustek and we thought we were going the wrong way so we got off. Turns out the annoying woman was wrong all along and we were going in the right direction, but had gotten off and had to wait a half hour for the next train all because the woman was a know-it-all who apparently knew nothing.

The next day, we slept in which was nice and with the weather being so hot and sunny, we decided to rent a row boat on the River Vlatva.

River Vlatva

First we went back to Tesco to get some more smoked cheese and some bread and tried to find hummus but resulted in actually buying French Onion dip which was really good. Rowing a boat is a little challenging and since we only had it for an hour, we didn’t get very far but it was a lot of fun to be on the river in a t-shirt, eating smoked cheese and admiring the Charles Bridge.

After rowing we had a beer outside, next to the river

and then walked to the park right near where we were staying.

A sculpture series in the park, very nice as you notice the man tapers off at the top.

It’s a huge park where the Prague castle sits on and is quite hilly. People were just sitting outside soaking up the sunshine, since they all had the day off for the holiday.

We sat for a while enjoying the view

and then headed home to pack and get to bed early for the next day when our Eastern European tour would begin. When we arrived home, Alice and John were home finally, after not seeing them for the 2 whole days we had been there.

They invited us to share some conversation and white wine with them in the dining room which was really nice learning more about them. They told us funny stories about their neighbors and answered some of our questions about the Czech Republic. They mentioned that we were the second people they have hosted and that they hardly ever do it so we felt really happy that they chose to host us. They were really kind to us and obviously raised the bar for other couchsurfing hosts. They spoiled us basically with our own room and key and privacy.

Our thoughts on Prague were mixed. It is a really beautiful place, but so overrun with tourists that you can honestly tell that the Czech people who live in Prague are completely over it and can be quite cold. Prague at night is something that is stunning with the castle all lit up over the bridge and we heard from other people that the nightlife was fantastic, but we didn’t really participate in it very much. I don’t think I would ever want to live in Prague, although the more time we spent the better it did get. We just weren’t taken with it immediately. Too many English menus, not enough time to explore everything.

The next morning we awoke in Prague very early to get to the hostel where the tour would start. We took the number 15 tram in hopes of getting to the correct stop but apparently we got on it going the wrong way and were put far behind schedule. It’s very hard to ride a tram when you don’t underatnd the names of the stops that the woman is calling over the loud speaker. After we got off and back on going the right direction, we rode the tram for ½ hour until we got to Prague Plus, the hostel where the tour was meeting.
Upon arriving at the hostel, we were instantly confused as we couldn’t figure out where the group after asking the very clueless front desk clerk, we realized that the whole group was out back and on the bus already. We climbed aboard and headed off towards Kutna Hora, a little town in the Czech Republic. We began to meet our group mates which were 24 other people with pretty much everyone under the age of 30 except one older dad guy. On the entire tour, there are only 3 Americans(including us), 2 UK people, 1 Irish girl, and the rest are Australian. I have never been around so many Australians in my whole life. Our tour guide, Carlos is an amazing South African guy who is full of energy and so fun and easygoing. He made us all get to know each other with games on the way to Kutna Hora.
Kutna Hora is a small town that literally has two streets and is most famous for a special church. Why is this church special, you may ask? Well, the interior is completely made out of human bones. In the center, there is a chandelier that is made up of every single bone in the human body.
The Sedlec Ossuary is a small Roman Catholic chapel, located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints. The ossuary contains approximately 40,000-70,000 human skeletons which have been artistically arranged to form decorations and furnishings for the chapel.

looks normal from the outside

the entrance way

the chandelier

We got a pizza at a restaurant after viewing the church and then headed to Olomouc, which is a small university town in the region of the Czech Republic called Moravia.

our view of beautiful rape seed fields from the bus

The view of Olomouc from our hotel window

hotel room… better accommodation than expected.

Upon arriving and checking into our hotel, we went on an orientation walk with Carlos and he told us about the main sights of the little town.

Ellie was especially excited, being a huge fan of Mozart, that he was born in Olomouc and actually composed his first symphony here at 9 years old.

Then we went to dinner, but because it was some sort of religious holiday, most of the Moravian restaurants were shut down so we ate more Italian with the group. We got some weird and watery pasta, some Czech beer(which is delightful) and some pizza bread. The group then decided to continue on with some bar hopping. Carlos took us to this small bar that only had 2 patrons drinking and watching a hockey game on the television and the bartender, eyeing us warily. We had some really funny smelling beer and then Carlos took us the best bar ever. An airplane bar! An old airplane in this weird parking lot next to this defunct carnival. It was an actual airplane on cinder blocks and the inside was fantastic with airplane seats and a little dance floor. An aged bartender in a fancy coat giving us cans of Staropramen for only 2 dollars each. It was a perfect way to get to know everyone and we stayed until the bar closed.

The next morning, we hurriedly packed our things and headed down to the bus as we were heading off to Poland next!
We loved Olomouc much more than Prague as it had the same lovely architecture but more local character and the people were friendlier. Next time we will be in the land of Pierogi and sour soup, Poland!

2 Responses to “Czech It Out!”

  1. 1 cor May 15, 2008 at 1:25 am

    i’m super excited to hear how poland is. ask them if i’m famous!

  2. 2 sosarasaid May 25, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    we have so many of the same pictures! but yours are better. and i can’t tell whether it’s because you are in them or your camera is so much better.

    i miss you.

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