04/22/2014 - 04/26/2014
Prague! Oh beautiful lovely Prague. Home of 13th century buildings, a great and wild nightlife, and 1 euro beers . In my mind, this will be a short blog entry, because I’m anxious to write about Berlin and try to catch up on this blog, but I’ve thought that before, and several pages later, I realize how much I had to talk about.
One of my highlights of Prague this time around was actually the hostel that I stayed in - Sir Toby’s. Not situated in Old Town, the location is the only thing that I can knock on it. The staff was great, rooms and facilities were very nice, but it truly shined in the atmosphere and freebies (always big in my book). They had the best breakfast offering I've seen at hostels (though not free), with burners to cook up your own omelettes and/or pancakes and fixins already chopped up and ready to go. Every night they had something going on, either a pub crawl, board game night, or free food. Tuesday was free crepes/pancakes and Friday was an AWESOME free BBQ. The BBQ hit the spot after a day of hiking around Prachovské Skaly, which was perfect, but I’ll get to that.
One of the common rooms near the bar in Sir Toby's
With the breakfast in the morning and the small bar open at night, I had the most luck thus far meeting some great people - not just for the night but throughout my stay. The biggest challenge traveling alone is not meeting people in general - that’s real easy if you’re not afraid to talk to others - but instead getting lucky enough to meet people whose travel plans overlap yours for more than 24 or 48 hours. That way you don’t have to repeat the same intro conversations every day and can build an actual relationship. I also observed what I’ve yearned for on this trip, though I haven’t truly found it yet, and that’s a traveling companion that I can stick with for more than 1 city. The first night at Sir Toby’s, I met Phil and Steve, a Canadian and American who originally met in Turkey and were celebrating their 2 week anniversary of traveling together. Their rapport and recollections of wild times in Budapest made me envious, and anxious to either find my own companion or start having friends come over to do some traveling with.
I had been to Prague once before, almost 4 years ago with Schunk, so I had seen many of the main attractions. Although I did head back to the old town, which is beautiful, I focused on the things we missed last time thru.
Old Jewish Cemetary
Lennon Wall (screamed new FB profile pic, haha)
Originally a wall that started as a form of protest against Communism, it is ever evolving with people adding to the wall continuously
Great tidbit about Petrin Tower: The tower design was based off the Eiffel Tower, which was built in Paris for the World Fair in some year. The Petrin Tower was also built for a world fair later on, and despite it being ⅕ the size of the Eiffel Tower, because it is up on a hill, the top of the Petrin Tower is at the exact same altitude as the top of the Eiffel Tower. That was the Czech telling the French to “Suck It”, haha
The walk up to Petrin Tower from the Lennon Wall was great - a solid, steep uphill hike through the woods. On the way, I stumbled onto a university strangely situated in the middle of a small forest atop this hill. Later learning that the other friends from the hostel took the tram up and down the hill to go to Petrin Tower, I was reminded of why solo travel can be so great. For me, the hike up and trek down the hill (during which time I found a few different solid climbing trees and played myself in some improvised disc golf) was the best part of my day. This was a lovely estate and garden that I literally stumbled onto:
The views from the tower were magnificent and I spent at least 20 minutes up on the 2 levels just drinking in the cool breeze and the wonderful views:
Since I had already seen many of the sites in Prague, I also made an effort to find some solid day trips outside the city. One of the popular ones is out to Kutna Hora, home of the infamous “bone chapel”. I had actually envisioned that this was a church made entirely out of bones, but thinking back to that thought, I’m not sure how that possibly would have worked. Unless you’ve got gigantic elephant bones, a la the Lion King elephant graveyard, there’s no way to make an entire stable structure just from bones. Initially disappointed by this, I really did enjoy the inside of this place. We spent a good deal of time in there, partially in awe of the macabre atmosphere that can only be created by being surrounded by the bones of 40,000 actual human skeletons, and partially cracking childish bone(r) jokes with a few of the people who came with me from the hostel. I’m such a grown up.
Outside the bone chapel, many people spoke about the fact that there’s a number of other things to see and do in the small, quaint town. There was a nice cathedral, unfortunately I am beginning to get “cathedraled out” and numb to what are some incredible structures, because in most cases I’ve seen very similar but slightly more impressive cathedrals in other areas. To be fair, this was a very impressive and nice one:
The town is a nice place to wander around for a little while, but overall nothing blew me away outside of the bone chapel. I’d still recommend this as a day trip for anyone with more than 3 days in Prague.
One morning I was down eating breakfast in Sir Toby’s, and was “scolded” (not seriously) by Sarah (see the picture) about being on my computer instead of out and about. I’ve heard that sort of thing occasionally while traveling, but unless you do a crazy amount of research beforehand, you need to figure out and discover activities as you go with a trip this size. Sarah ate her words after I discovered Prachovské Skaly, described as a “rock city” a little more than an hour outside of Prague, and she decided to tag along when I set out the next day.
Hoping to get a full day of hiking in before the afternoon rains came in, we hopped on an early morning bus from Prague headed out to Jicin, from which we knew we could take a regional bus to the rock city. We got to Jicin, but had a lot of trouble finding any discernible bus schedules or anyone who worked there that spoke English. We eventually got thru to the information woman with a combination of gesturing and broken German, complements of Sarah, and found out that the next bus out there didn’t leave for almost 3 hours. WTF? Knowing that it was only about 5 km out to the park, I would have immediately just started hoofing it towards the ark, but I was afraid that Sarah be too excited about that. She pleasantly surprised me by being totally down! It took us about an hour, but we went past some nice scenery and the time flew by.
After making sure we noted the return bus times, we hit the true trail. Armed with a good map of the trails, we were on top of these awesome rock formations in no time. After taking a close look at the scale in the corner of the map, we realized that the park was actually quite small, and we were both glad about the extra 5 km we walked, because otherwise it would have been a very short day of hiking. Though short on the hiking, the park boasted a few great views, a number of fun detours to climb around the rocks, and there was actually some great top roping that I could see evidence of (can you find the Czech flag?). I wish I had brought my rock climbing shoes, haha:
The day ended up being pretty light on the hiking, but overall a good day trip to some unique natural features. There are other tougher hikes in the area with some small castles in the forest, so look into that if you travel to the area.
This ended up being a full day the whole way thru - we got back to the hostel with a perfect amount of time to shower and then head outside for the FREE BBQ! This was no joke either - piles of chicken, brats, and burgers, plus salad, chips and cookies. Sir Toby does it right. With pretty much everyone going to the BBQ, it was easy to join forces with some of the people I had already met in the hostel and plan our own private bar crawl. The most interesting place we went to was the Cross Club - a metal/steam-punk themed club with multiple dance floors and bar areas with various types of music.
It is nice making the last night in a city the rough one, because in the morning I dragged myself out of bed and to the bus, and had a nice nap on the way to my next destination - BERLIN!
Also some more great pictures from Prague. Many of these were taken from a park atop a hill north of the Old Town, which conveniently has a wonderful beer garden!