Prague: En fait, we stayed in a four star hotel

A comedy of errors
Real- life Epcot
Prague castle in the distance. Charles Bridge to the right.
Come to think of it, the comedy of errors that themed our Prague trip began well before we even boarded our flight.

It was about a month ago that Erica, Gillian and I decided on a trip to Prague. Finding a time to Skype out the plans proved tricky given the scattered nature of our schedules, but 11 p.m. on a weeknight was finally agreed upon.

Except of course, that had to be the night my Internet chose to be choppy and the site we were looking at for tickets decided to crash.

We woke up the following morning at 7 to regroup and rebook. All seemed fine until Gillian’s reservation was canceled a few weeks later, and Erica’s followed suite two days prior to leaving. I, thankfully, left this one unscathed.

We had four days in Prague—four days with 2400 kerunas and an [unsuccessful] search for fried cheese (slightly disconcerting that we’d been told fried cheese was a Prague speciality, yet we received blank stares whenever we asked), a trek across the city limits, an overbooked hostel located in the city center to a four star hotel a tram ride away, an elevator without doors that got stuck mid floors, and our tour guide, Yana, who was convinced "you must" is a proper beginning to all English phrases.

It was a weekend of a comedy of errors, yet one unbelievably well spent in the stunning Czech capital city of Prague.

The early morning ride to Charles de Gaulle airport
The streets are dark at 5:50 a.m., shaded by the orange of the city lights, the gray of the early morning haze. The scatter of beggars that claim the streets by day are gone; the metro too is largely empty, merely the few on their way to work. 

A homeless man sat on the bench on the track opposite me. His whole body hung, lifeless in a way, as if the hope he once had, had been sucked out of him. He appeared to cry as he wiped his eyes, a haggard expression amid the creases of his aged face. The man closed his eyes gently as he bent to grab the wine bottle on the ground below, using his free hand to make a cross over his chest as he raised the bottle to his lips.

The metro arrived, whisking a force of wind that caught my thoughts as I lifted the metal handle to open the metro car's door. The view of the homeless man in front disappeared and the journey to the airport had begun.

Save Erica buzzing her way through the airport security and the trail of orange peel we left on the airport’s Tiffany blue seats, the flight, itself, was smooth.

I love takeoffs, the rush as the plane soars through gravity. I love the birds eye view the height provides, the eventual escape as the clouds shield the land beneath.

And I love landings. The power of the plane's force as you hit ground, once more a part of life below. 

We landed in Prague after an hour and a half of our necks slung in the most uncomfortable of positions in order to sleep. Although the neck ache, in retrospect, was absolutely worth it because the morning doze gave us just the right amount of energy for our first day in Prague.

Upon arrival:
  • sorted out our transportation (bus and transfer to a metro to get to our intended hostel)
  • exchanged our money ($150 = 2400 karunas. All should have the experience of holding an 1000 keruna note. Even if said note actually translates to nothing more than $50.)
  • bought a snack to tie me over (croissant, goodness far less tasty than what Paris has made me used to. Ugh, Paris has made me into such a food snob.)
  • And 30 min later arrived at Mala Strana, the main stop in Prague’s city center.
I put myself as the map reader, which obviously means I got us lost before finding our way up the Lesser Town's hill.

To clarify, Old Town and Lesser Town, connected by the famed Charles Bridge (Prague’s oldest bridge), make up Prague’s city center. While Old Town is largely leveled (besides the cobbled streets that scream sprained ankle), Lesser Town is set on a hill. But like hill, I really mean mountain. Or in gym terms: elliptical level 12.

Bless summer camp for teaching me the benefits of a white Hanes shirt in masking perspiration. My go to for flying, and in this case, hiking up the ridiculous hill. P
anting and shvitzing, we finally made it to our hostel.  

Relief. And what luck to have reserved a hostel smack dab in the center of the city.

That was, however, until the woman at the front desk scanned her list of names, shaking her head of hot pink hair. "It appears there is no room for you here," she said apologetically. "We’re forced to move you to a hotel. Four star hotel—hope that’ll be alright.” Slightly outside the city, but accessible by tram: Erica and I turned to look to each other, barely able to contain our laughter. A taxi came to collect us and 10 minutes later, we were back in search for our replacement lodging.

Old Town. Birds fly unreasonably low in Prague.
Old Town (Days 1 and 2)
Prague is a calm city, empty of people in some areas and bustling (with, what I sensed were largely tourists) in others. The patter of the pedestrian traffic signals (a slow dab for red, a fast beat for green) adds rhythm to those passing along.

There's a pristine touch among the quaintness of the city. The pastel salmons, yellows, greens and blues of the buildings appear bright, the whites of the cram molding d├ęcor, clean. The buildings are beautiful, far from flamboyant or exaggerated as I've grown used to in Paris.

Familiar American chain restaurants are spread across the city center; why one would choose to dine at TGIF or McDs when in the Czech Republic boggles my mind.  

It's odd walking into a store without the expected bonjour, different to walk along cobbled stones without the traditional red covering of Paris's cafes. Here, y
ou’re not expected to know Czech; it's fine to speak English. People aren't dressed as finely as in Paris; it's ok to wear a baggy sweater and leggings. Resteraunt seating is largely indoors and you should expect to eat your meals in a haze of cigarette smoke; lung cancer warnings have, apparently, not quite hit Prague’s residents.

Prague’s Jewish Quarter tour does not run on Jewish time.
Hundreds meet in front of the Old Town's Astronomical Clock.  
Following a 150 keruna (6 euro) lunch aboard a boat docked in the Vltava river, Gillian, Erica and I made our way to the Old Town square. Our intent: to catch the 2:30 p.m. Jewish Quarter tour. Except, we got there at 2:33 and the black and white striped umbrella we had been told to seek out, proved absent among the slew of tourists waiting at the central tour- guide- pick- up- depot.

We came a tour guide standing alone, holding a lime green umbrella with bolded font reading “Free Tour.”

Jewish Quarter tour, a no go? Free tour: fine alternative. (Although, as Yana, our tour guide, made it clear within two seconds, free tour actually means mandatory tip. Suggested amount: the same price as a paid tour.)

Yana (or, as she said, Jane in America) is a Prague local, a middle- aged, friendly woman with an English accent reminiscent to that of Borat’s.
Old Town square at night. The clock is on the left.

Her tour was interesting, taking us on an hour and a half walk around the Old Town and providing a clearer picture of Prague’s medieval history. It was fine, just not the Jewish tour I wanted to do. The Jewish tour was not on offer on Shabbat, leaving that Friday my sole opportunity to explore the Jewish Quarter. 

Which is why at 4:45 I left Erica, Gillian and Yana as I rushed to get my entry ticket to tour the Jewish Quarter’s synagogues and cemetery. I’m grateful I chose to do it, although my self- guided tour turned into a mad rush as I had 45 minutes to visit six synagogues, one museum and a cemetery before they all closed for the evening.

We went to a violin concert inside of the Spanish Synagogue.
Of course, the Jewish connection
The presence of Jews in Prague dates back to the 1200s to a time when Jews were permitted to practice their religion freely, providing they paid steep taxes. Barred from owning land, Jews turned to professions as moneylenders-- a profession, no surprise, they apparently did well: the fuel to the rise of anti- Semitic sentiment. Also, no shocker.

The synagogues within the quarter are essentially museums retelling the story of Prague's Jews. It's special visiting museums that display the parts of your faith still applicable to the manner you practice it today; The Torah behind the glass, the explanation of “Lecha Dodi” (the prayer we sing to welcome the “Shabbat bride” on Friday night). For some, this is a museum to learn. For me, it's a museum of my people, my culture—my tradition. 

It’s amazing how throughout the course of history, Jews have been persecuted. Life would have been easier had the Jewish people just dropped their faith. And sometimes, I wonder why we didn’t.

Tradition, I believe, is the answer to that. 

A close friend, who is a practicing Christian, asked me what Judaism believes in terms of the afterlife.  And while I explained to her that Judaism does believe in a form of Christianity’s heaven and hell, Judaism focuses more on leading a holy and blessed life without much focus on the world to come.

Which is where tradition comes to play. While fear of the ephemerality of life may surely influence some to turn to Judaism, it’s tradition, rather, that binds our community throughout the course of our history. Tradition is what has continued our culture throughout history, and it’s tradition, I believe, that explains why Jews in Prague, and around the world, never did let go of their faith.  

Lesser Town (Day 3 aka scratch the gym membership and climb the Petrin hill)
Prague is gorgeous once you walk away from the Old Town’s central tourist area. Which we did, come day three. And it was then that I fell in love with the city.

I’d been fixated on getting to the Petrin Tower, Prague’s lookout tower (ehem, fake Eiffel Tower) built for the 1891 Jubilee Exhibition. Probably made to appear as large as the Eiffel Tower, it’s perched on top of the Petrin hill, overlooking the city below.

While I've never been a hiker, I have, over the years, grown to appreciate nature walks. That is, provided I’m not expected to carry a conversation, can walk on my own and that I don’t bother anyone as I wheeze, breathless as always.

The three of us made it up the hill, a steep climb that provided us with a stunning view as we made our way to the Petrin tower and then up its 299 spiraled steps.

For the college student abroad who is worried about gaining weight, don't splurge on gym membership. Really, just come to Prague.
From the top of the Petrin Tower
View while climbing the Petrin hill

Petrin tower from Prague Castle

The continuation (and conclusion) of the comedy of errors
We came across the King Solomon restaurant, a kosher restaurant in the Jewish Quarter, during Yana’s Friday afternoon tour.  We entered, intending to make a reservation. But the host disappeared and after five minutes of waiting around, we shrugged off the idea, deciding to return that evening for dinner.

Chicken thigh was all I could think about on our walk back to Old Town for dinner that night—how perfect it would be to eat a kosher meal, and my favorite dish, for our Shabbat in Prague.

Right, Friday night. Shabbat. As we stood outside the restaurant watching orthodox Jews serve themselves matzah ball soup, the writing on the door came into focus: open Fridays upon reservation. 

Which you know, we would have had, had we waited a few minutes longer earlier that day.

Nonetheless we agreed to return Saturday evening, sure it would be fine to appear without reservation. But come Saturday evening, and we were greeted by the metal gate barring the windowed door. Closed Saturday's. Of course, Shabbat. 

A tout a l’heure, j’espere.
It's strange leaving a city, wondering when, if ever, I'll be back. The opportunity to see and experience such different parts of the world—it’s incredible. Yet it’s merely a snippet you gain—a small take given you’re just passing through. 

It's funny landing back in Paris, funny because the last time I landed in Paris had been the end of January, the start of my experience abroad. I had landed unsure of the months ahead, hesitant of my ability to converse in French. 

Two months later, I land with a home to return to and a life to get back to. 
At the Lennon Wall
Prague Castle taken from the Petrin Tower 
The Dancing House

No Response to "Prague: En fait, we stayed in a four star hotel"

Post a Comment




100th blog post 762 curves Alice Springs Alipura Amsterdam Anne Frank House Art Fair attractions August vacation Australia Ayers rock Ayuttahaya backpacker backpacking bamboo rafting Bangkok Bangkok hospital of Phuket Barcelona Bastille Day beaches beggars Berlin Berlin Wall Blue Mountains blue shoes Bondi Beach bucket list camp Cathedrale Notre- Dame cemetery Chabad Chabad Champs Elysees Chabad of Bangkok Charles Bridge Chartres Chartres Chathedral Chateau de Vincenne Chiang Mai Chiang Saen chicken thigh Christo Claude Francois Cloclo Cold War Cultural differences Czech Republic day trek day trip DC travel definition Dengue Fever developing connection East Side Gallery Eiffel Tower light show elephant ride elephant trek England Festival Fnac Live Florence FOAM Museum Fragonard France French culture French friends French presidential inauguration GAdventures Germany ghats Giambologna Giverny Golden Triangle graduation graduation travel Grand Temple guesthouse hairdresser Hales St. Pierre Hall of Opium heritage Hinduism Holocaust homestay hundred step staircase identity India internship introduction Israel Italy Jardin de Tuilleries Jardin du Luxembourg Jeanne- Claude Jewish Quarter Jewish travel Jubilee Judaism Khao San Road King Solomon restaurant ko phi phi koi samui kosher Krabi La Defense La Grande Arche Lesser Town Lido life thrill London Louis XIV Louvre Mae Salong Marmottan Monet Melbourne metro Milan Munich Murano Nazi Germany New York City northern Thailand Oktoberfest Old Town Orchha Overnight train Pai Palazzo Grassi Palermo Parc Montsouris Paris Paris Statue of Liberty Paris summer sales Passover seder people watching Petrin Tower Photography Phuket Piazza San Marco post-graduation Prague Prague castle President Francois Hollande publication Ram Raja Rape of the Sabine Woman Ray Caesar returning abroad Rome Rouen San Spirito school Seine Shabbat Shavuot Siam capital Siam capital city solo travel Spring break St. Chapelle studies study abroad study abroad program summer friends Sydney Thailand Thailand elephant Thailand historic capital Thailand hospital Thais The Pont Neuf Wrapped thrill of life Tiger Airways time off from work toilet Tordi Sagar Tour de France transportation travel travel alone travel blog travel essay Trocadero tuk tuk USA TODAY College Varanasi Venetian Jewish Ghetto Venice Versailles Versailles Light and Sound show Vincenne white water rafting Yoga Jardin du Luxembourg Yom Kippur in Berlin zip line

All Rights Reserved © 2011 The Girl with the Traveling Blue Shoes All rights reserved.
Converted To Blogger Template by Anshul Theme By- WooThemes
This template is brought to you by : | Blogger Templates