europe: prague

Monday, August 16, 1999

Returning to the saga that is my life…. (I guess my friends will have a chance to vicariously live through me for a while.)

We left Amsterdam at 6pm and jumped on an overnight train to Prague, Czech Republic. In the train there are 3 sleeping classes: beds, couchettes, and chairs. Being the frugal type, we picked the chairs for $3/person. The ride was from hell. It was impossible to get comfortable in the seat, and even when you did get comfortable a conductor or police would bang on the door to check passports and tickets, about once every hour, usually when you’ve just managed to doze off.

We did meet two interesting people in the car (there are 6 seats which are 3 facing, 3 in a closeable compartment). The first was Derek, an American from Nebraska. He started the trip with us and hung out with us when we visited the castle and had lunch today. The other was interesting German woman—around our age and studying to be a pharmacist. It’s amazing how everyone in Europe is at least bilingual, and usually can speak 3 or more languages. The German girl gave us a running commentary on tourists and her country, which was rather interesting; especially on American movies.

The meeting people on the train was nice, but the poor sleeping arrangements convinced us to pay the extra $40/person from now on for beds.

Once again, as soon as I arrived in Prague, I hated it. I was tired after sleeping only around 2 hours and I just wanted to rest. We booked a hotel and then arduously attempted to get there. After 3 failed haggling attempts with cab drivers and a miserable attempt to use the train, we finally caught a cab to the hotel, which is a nice, quiet, clean, and comfortable location.

The locals that we’ve spoken to have come across as rather rude, especially the information people at the train station. I have a feeling, however, that the rudeness stems from their insecurity in our language and inability to understand us—either that, or they’re just plain rude.

After dropping our stuff off at the hotel, we met up with Derek to explore the cathedral and castle. The cathedral is incredible. Part of it was built in the 900s, and the main part was started in 1100 and took 500 years to complete. It’s quite an amazing architectural achievement. The main hall tower you can climb up a spiral staircase to the very top, about a 20 minute climb. It’s quite nerve-racking because there are no landings, just continuous stairs—I’d hate to see what would happen after a misstep….

The view from the top was incredible. The entire city can be seen, along with the fabulous architecture of the rest of the cathedral and castle. After exploring the cathedral and parts of the castle, we were awfully hurting for sleep and a shower, so we had a quick bite (scratch that—that bite was had before we explored. We paid $30 for a 4 person meal with desserts. Wait till you hear what dinner cost us). We returned to the hotel for rest.

At around 6:45pm, we headed to find a restaurant for dinner, and what a dinner it was! Hard liquor to prepare the stomach, a pre-appetizer ham, ostrich, and cream roll, frogs legs appetizer, a duck dish, and desert (not to mention beer, water, and sodas) for 1000kc, or $10/person. During the dinner, Greg and I got into a heated debate about Genius (as applied to painters like Van Gogh) and objectivity. The debate quickly became a silly argument that had more the feel of an abortion debate than a true, philosophical discussion, which is sad. I haven’t had a good philosophical debate in a while.

We’re off to the hotel for my well-deserved rest before I pass out right here.