August 15, 2015
What an absolute pleasure Prague has been thus far. The time I went, I never experienced it like this. After arriving at Florenc Bus Station, I had to find my way to my host’s house. It was just one metro line away but I had to make sure I found the right line and then I had to buy a ticket which meant I had to carry my suitcase (the heavy one!) up the flight of stairs again to convert my Euros to CZK. My arm has a big bruise now – it was really red yesterday and now it is brown. Luckily when I arrived at the right stop some guy saw me struggling and offered to carry it for me. Thank God! I accepted without hesitation. Usually I am pretty good about carrying it (including my backpack and purse) but I was so tired. Lukas was waiting for me at the station and we stopped at a grocery store to get some food (he kept asking me what I wanted – do you want yogurt? What flavor?). It was so damn hot – I was a fountain of sweat!
We got to his place, a nice, comfortable flat, and then I got changed into my orange dress for the opera. He made me a banana smoothie and explained how to get there. I was a bit nervous because the show was at 8 and I didn’t want to miss it. I felt quite happy walking down the streets of Prague, banana smoothie in hand, on the way to the Opera. It was the loveliest feeling in the world. I’ve experienced it before – it’s when you are simply so happy, excited and at peace with the world and with yourself.
When I got to the bus stop, I panicked a little because the No. 6 wasn’t functioning and that was the bus I needed. So I had to take the No. 17 instead. Luckily this guy on the tram helped me. See, Czech people aren’t so scary after all. He was actually quite friendly. I don’t know why I am so scared of them. They are just people, after all. People with dreams and fears, just like me. Finding the estate theatre was a bit more challenging. Luckily I stopped at a hotel and the lady gave me a map. Still, a bit of a struggle but I managed to find it.
As I walked in the Prague heat, I got my first view (okay, second) of Prague’s beauty. It was breathtaking! The sun was shining on the river, music was playing, people were in Zorb balls, the bridge was alive – I was alive too. At the theatre, I saw the Don Giovanni statue that I remember from last time I was in Prague. It felt surreal to be there – to see the opera Mozart premiered in 1787!! He played the harpsichord for it and apparently it received a 30 minute standing ovation. The people loved him, and he loved them. I was initially sitting in the back row but was able to move two rows up to the front row of the balcony because there were empty seats. Leaning on my sweaty hands as I leaned over the rail, I watched transfixed. I was so fascinated by it – I even imagined Mozart in his white wig and all the sweaty bodies watching the opera for the first time. I’m glad I got to experience some of that history. The opera in Prague – oh, how lucky am I!?
I sat beside a little boy and his dad. The little boy was maybe 10 and he knew all about Mozart and music. Fun fact: he told me that Don Giovanni is featured in a scene in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. I did not know that. It ended around 11, and I was nervous about getting home. Didn’t have a transit ticket; didn’t exactly know how to get home either. I debated just taking a taxi but I was kinda scared to do that too because I heard stories about taxi drivers ripping you off. I ended up taking the tram. After leaving the theatre, I had to walk in the hot, hot night to find the tram station. Luckily I found it. Then I got off a stop too late and had to bus one more stop the other way. Then I couldn’t find the house. It was dark and basically midnight. Everything looked so different than it did during the day – I didn’t know which way to go. Why does this always happen to me! Stopped at a bar to ask for help – the worker grumbled something about not being a tourist shop so one of the customers helped me. Apparently I was really close to home – found it two minutes later, put my tired body to bed, and so ended my first night in Prague.
At the moment, I am sitting on the banks of the river. Live music is being played from one of the boats and I am sweaty, sticky and sunburnt but very happy. It is 9pm and I think I will go find a place to buy tickets for the tram (don’t want to risk it again) and then make my way home. I want to be at Charles Bridge pretty early tomorrow, so I need to get a good night’s sleep. Bye!
August 16, 2015
I woke up to rain falling on the window sill and when I opened the window, it smelled so fresh! Yesterday was unbearably hot. I had to pin my bangs back because they were so sweaty. I think it was at least 38 degrees! In the morning, I got the metro No. 17 before 9:00 and ended up in the old town just in time for the astronomical clock. Everyone lines up for this and it’s the most disappointing…
August 17, 2015
My pen died yesterday – I think I need to invest in more pens. Right now, I am on the bus out of rainy Prague to Vienna. How fortunate that it’s raining on the day I’m leaving. It’s rather cozy on the bus. Listening to music, sleeping a bit: the rain falls persistently out the window. Ever since I missed the bus to Copenhagen, I’m always paranoid I’ll miss my bus so I get there super early. I woke up at around 7, and the rain was already falling outside. I left the window open last night and I can’t even describe how peaceful it was to lie in bed listening to it fall – it was like a melody I had heard a long time ago and forgotten what it sounded like. Then I stuck my head out the window and breathed it all in. The fresh Prague air on a Monday morning in the summer when the rest of Prague was still asleep. At one point, I saw a man run out of his house into the square to put away the recycling cans. Oh, the little everyday chores of life! Then I took a shower, ate some breakfast, and brought my suitcase downstairs (the big fat one that gives me bruises!). Thankfully it wasn’t raining on my walk to the bus station. I wasn’t sure of the way and I wasn’t able to google it because I had no internet so I asked a lady on the street. She tried explaining it to me in broken English, throwing in German words, so I said “Ich kann ein bisschen Deutsch sprechen.” She smiled all excitedly and began to give me directions in German instead. I loved the feeling that gave me. A feeling of independence and pride and just very connected to the people of this world.
I found Prague people to be quite pleasant, in general. A few weird, drunk guys, perhaps, but everyone else I spoke to was very willing to help me. I don’t know why I was so scared of them! Anyway, I got to the station two hours early but at least I had wifi! I was really struggling with my suitcase near the top of the stairs so this old man just grabbed it from me to give me a hand. Thank you kind and wonderful people of this world! At 11:15, I decided I better go find my bus stop and then I panicked because I didn’t see the terminal I was supposed to be at, so I had to ask a guard and FINALLY found it (station 12). I panicked for nothing because the bus ended up being an hour late! Apparently there was traffic coming from Berlin. While waiting, I befriended this French couple from Paris. The lady is an engineer and the husband does something with the internet. They have a 29 year old son named Frederick. I think the mom was half-hoping I’d fall in love with him because she kept showing me pictures of him and telling me he was single. French girls, apparently, only like dating guys for 2-3 months and then move on. (This is what she said). She also said that love is so hard to find these days because people only look with the eyes and not with the heart. Anyway, Rochelle (the mom) lives in an apartment on the Champs Elysees, and said I could come visit her there if I ever go to Paris. I would love to but I do not have her contact info. She is sitting in the seat in front of me so maybe I will summon up the courage to ask her at the end of the ride.
Anyway, I should tell you about my positive Prague experience. On my first full day, I went down to the old town square and saw everyone waiting in line to see the Astronomical clock, as I said. I stood there and watched it too. The skeleton pulled the string, out came the apostles, and the rooster gave its feeble cry. Then I decided to go up the tower to see the view. It was a rather long and hot climb but the view was worth it. It’s my favourite thing to see a city from above. Especially a city as beautiful and dream-like as Prague – the city of a hundred spires. So beautiful that even Hitler couldn’t bomb it, or so the story goes. After identifying the key landmarks, I went to join the free walking tour at 10:00. The guide told us about how Catholics used to throw heretics out of 1-story buildings and stand underneath holding spikes because obviously a person wouldn’t die from falling out of a 1-story building. How lovely…
On the tour, I became friends with a English guy living in Berlin called Ben, his friend living in Italy called Josh and his other friend from South Africa named Mike. We left the tour half way through and wandered down to the river, through the cobble stone lanes, and over the Charles Bridge. It was PACKED. Full of tourists, musicians, and artists. Mike (also 23) said we have to talk about our dreams so that we can clearly visualize them and make them come true. I thought that was pretty good advice. Then we all went for goulash at a restaurant near their hostel. There were two really annoying drunk guys sitting behind us – believe it or not, I ran into them later on in the day. They were still drunk and still annoying. Oh, I forgot to mention that all three guys are biking through Europe – from Berlin to Salzburg. How cool and adventurous! I think that is pretty amazing and interesting. After lunch, Mike continued on his biking journey, Ben and Josh went to their hostel to rest, and I went across the bridge to Letna Park. We agreed to meet at the hostel at 6:30 for dinner and then go watch the sunset.
When I got to the other side of the bridge, it was still just as boiling hot. I had to sit in the shade for a bit to try and cool down. Drank all my water – I was parched! It was also the gay pride parade so everyone was dressed up in rainbow colors. I took some pictures of the stunning scenery and then walked over to the castle. On the way, I stopped to talk to a boy reading a book. He had crutches and was resting his leg. The book he was reading was Moby Dick and his name was Ales, pronounced Alesh. With a bit of white hair by his ear, he was a regular Holden Caulfield! Then I went on my way to the castle, found some water coming out of a fountain shaped like a lion’s mouth, and greedily drank that. I actually don’t know if it was clean or not…but I drank it anyway. In any case, I’m still alive so it must have been okay.
After the castle, I made my way down to the city again to give myself enough time to find the hostel because directions are always a struggle for me. Plus street signs are hard to see because they are hidden on the sides of houses. When I walked through the old town, lo and behold! There were the hundreds of people waiting in line to see the astronomical clock do its thing. Pretty hilarious. A musician was playing Let Her Go. Why does this song keep coming back to me!? It’s either this song or What a Wonderful World.
I found the hostel. Ben met me outside and we had pasta prepared by Josh. After dinner, Josh decided he was too tired to go down to see the sunset since they have a big biking day tomorrow, so just Ben and I went. We climbed to the top of the Letna and sat on the edge. Unfortunately the sun set on the other side, but it was still beautiful. Every time I meet random people, I always wonder who is meant to stay in your life and who is just passing through to teach you a lesson, offer a bit of friendship, or give you a little bit of hope. I really do wonder about that. And I wonder how much of it is in your hands to control and how much is in the hands of fate. I think, perhaps, that might be one of the biggest mysteries of all time.
On my last day in Prague, I woke up early to visit the Charles Bridge for sunrise as it wouldn’t be very busy then. The only thing is, there wasn’t much of a sunrise because it was too cloudy. Still hot, but cloudy. Then I found the John Lennon wall, and crossed back over the bridge to attend mass. It was a long mass. 1.5 hours! We had to do the sign of the cross so many times. After mass, I sat in the Old Town Square for a bit, tried to find the Jewish Quarter but failed, walked to St. Wenceslas Square and as a result, had really tired feet. Still, I decided to make my way up Petrin Hill so that I could catch the sunset from the Eiffel Tower look-alike. I had to stop and rest along the way because it was too hot. While siting on a bench, I heard these boys trying to decide which person they should ask to take their picture. They asked some lady and when she left, I heard them complaining about how she got a tree in the background and completely missed the view. I offered to re-take it for them and they said they weren’t sure if I spoke English or not. After I took the photo, we kept talking and I discovered they are from the outskirts of New York! We were walking down the hill to go for a drink when it started to downpour – really downpour! – so we ran into the nearest pub for a beer. (Yes, I had beer!) It was kind of funny actually – just like a movie. When the rain eventually stopped, we walked through the city a bit and then went for a glass of wine in the evening. Oh guess what – Gareth showed me a picture of his brother and Niall Horan – ha!
It’s about 4pm now. Supposed to have been in Vienna already. Driving through Prague countryside was so beautiful. I saw ducks in ponds, chickens in pens, houses clad in flowers and ivy, old red roofs, and crumbling rocks. It’s like a completely different life than Vancouver, or New York or even the city life of Prague. I just looked out the window and saw these kids and grandparents at the park. In this little European town, that I don’t even know the name of, it astonishes me somewhat that lives are being lead. I wonder what will become of these kid one day. I wonder if they will ever wander through Times Square feeling amazed or jump on a plane to go thousands of miles away from home to discover just how big the world is. I hope so, I really truly hope so. But I hope they never forget home either. Anyway, I better give this pen back to the girl behind me on the bus. I’ve written so much and I’m afraid the pen might die. It’s not raining anymore; the sun is starting to peak its head out behind the clouds. We are driving past vineyards and big open fields. Is this what happiness feels like? I think so!!