Prague. Praha. The city happened to me in bitter cold. 3 am in Prague was more fascinating to me than Amsterdam. The Bohemian dream, a city of glass and crystal, a city where the metro took me back to Kolkata and the history threw me straight into the heart of my European experience and I knew even before I could leave that I had to come back.
After a 17-hour bus journey all I wanted to do was to get into a warm bed and sleep. We knew that 3 am was an unearthly time to land up at any city, but we took a chance. We had expected some cafe, some bar to be open that could house us till morning. Who were we kidding?
No hostel had rooms free, one of my travel companions refused to sit in a bar, the other tried to navigate the way around the city while I had other problems. I could not feel my hands. A problem that has plagued me all over Europe this winter. No gloves, no hand warmers could rescue me ever from my strange problem of icy hands. With the odds stacking up it was time for a tantrum. I threw one and dragged my travel companions to the next hotel that crossed our path. “I don’t care if I have to pay 60 Euros. I can’t feel my fingers!” I screamed.
Now. Czech Republic deals in Korunas, not Euros. Just when we were getting a little comfortable with the INR and Euro exchange, the Koruna reared its confusing head. We weren’t carrying enough of it. Something as basic as a daily train pass in Prague costs 110 Korunas as compared to a 7 Euro in Amsterdam. Go figure! Extremely pretty currency – such odd rates! One Euro is about 27 Korunas. I officially gave up trying to calculate.
Our first day in Prague had us travelling across the city to our hostel, getting our room and heading out almost instantly. Playing perfect tourists we headed to the museums first and found them closed for renovation. Wow! We clearly had to find something else to do on a Saturday. So. We headed to Charles Bridge.
This bridge has been listed as one of the most romantic places in Europe and a stroll across it, hand in hand, with your love is supposed to be one of the most incredible experiences ever. One look at the bridge and a look at my friends and I guffawed out loud. Romance has left the city! You possibly cannot take a step on that bridge without bumping into people or trying to avoid bumping into people. It is beautiful, I will never tell you otherwise. Stretching majestically over the Vltava River, the bridge seems to be connecting the old and the new of Prague like a dream. We took our slow time across it and breathed in the chilly air and the sights.
As the historical capital of Bohemia, Prague has an incredible number of sights to offer. Ideally, if I had it my way, I would have dedicated at least three days to the city and one day to party and recover. We did it in two days.
For those willing to live up the night, I present to you the Prague Pub Crawl. You can sign up online or pay them at the starting point (500 Korunas which is about 20 Euros) and these guys in their trademark t-shirts take you through five of the coolest watering holes of the city ending the night at a five-storey night club for the mother of all parties. They start at 8 pm with an aim to party till 5 am and what begins slow with small groups ends up in bunch of more than 150 people, who don’t know each other, just living it up, together. Whether you drink or you don’t – do not miss this.
We ticked off the Prague Castle off the to-do list and the Saint Vitus Cathedral sealed my case of ‘Do-I-Like-Gothic-Architecture-More –Than-Others?’. Give me Gothic any day over the gold-leafed classics. Gothic is so much more romantic.
Had we carried on exploring the city by ourselves we would have surely missed out on a lot – so here’s what one should do. Head to the Old Town Square and join one of the bands of the free walking tours. These very well-informed and fun tour guides will take you around the main sites like Franz Kafka’s house, the Jewish Quarter, the allegedly haunted Church of St James, the Powder Tower and entertain you with some incredible anecdotes that no guide-book can offer. The only reason we did survive our walk through a -8 degrees is because our tour guide made it worth the while.
My last evening in Prague was spent watching a show of Black Light Theatre (or simply Black Theatre) which is also something one must watch if they are in the city. The story goes that it all started in Prague and well…when in Praha…
Our last few hours in Prague was covered in snow. And I loved it – here I am being touristy again because I had never really seen snow or walked through it before. My heart went out to those tourists who would have chosen that snowy day to see the city. But if I survived the cold – maybe so would they.
Prague is not an expensive city, the exchange rates might confuse you a bit but that’s about it. Make sure you change money only at registered outlets and you are safe to go. Prague has ample hostels to offer for cheap accommodation – we paid a little more than 50 Euros for two night for three people in a mixed dorm room. A night in a hotel would set you back by 60 Euros for sure.
If you are in Europe – you cannot NOT do Prague. I know I am going to go back in Summer and take that damn romantic walk down the bridge. I promise.