Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Finally in Prague but with 75% of the group exhausted, we made our way to the hostel and crashed for about an hour. After a short power nap, we rose, rallied, and set out to explore a beautiful city lined with cobblestone streets and adorned by unique and distinctive buildings. Prague, as a former capitol to the Holy Roman Empire, has been physically spared the destruction we’ve heard about and seen rebuilt throughout our travels. It is a rare metropolis in the heart of Europe that, by and large, has avoided the kind of bombing so typical elsewhere on the continent during the last century of modern warfare. The architecture is an eclectic mix of Gothic, Neo Classical and Baroque styles among others…and I’d gladly explain to you the defining characteristics of each but in the name of brevity (and not a lack of education in art history, of course) I will spare you the pain and instead direct your attention to a forthcoming facebook album…

Prague, as did Vienna days later, proved a difficult city to establish one’s bearings. Tight streets and small alleyways labeled in a foreign and unfamiliar language displayed on a cluttered map resulted in many a 4-man conference at the intersection of an unexpected cross street. It was easy to get lost and such occurrences became routine when venturing “outside the wire” of our hostel. In most cases, we would (eventually) manage to find our way but it didn‘t come naturally. After some aimless wandering following that nap and shower, we settled in for dinner on our first night a bar not far from the hostel. It was a recommendation of our reception desk and after the “Tapas” disaster of Barcelona, we ate nary a meal without such a suggestion from a local. We asked for a place with authentic Czech food and instead received a rather Americanized sports-bar-esque joint with a menu listing palatable but mostly cross cultural mainstays - burgers, tandori chicken, spaghetti, etc. - and a couple of German dishes we’d become familiar with. The meal was satisfying enough and though not delivering the cultural experienced we’d hoped for, it was cheap which was a welcomed departure from the trend during our 2 day stay here.

Still fighting the lethargy of the day’s events but unable to justify an early surrender on a Saturday night in Prague, we walked off our meal along the Vltava river in the direction of Karlovy Lazne. Judging by the number of mid-20-something groups (mostly male) we saw strolling the streets throughout the afternoon in coordinated outfits and costumes, it appeared that what Atlantic City was to Vegas, in many ways Prague was to Amsterdam - the default for bachelor/bachelorette parties on the opposite side of a continent. A perfectly suitable, albeit second tier, alternative to Europe’s own Sin City. It became pretty blindingly obvious when some drunk dude in a costume resembling a uniquely male organ went singing through the streets of the city center with his boys hysterically laughing from close by. After having visited it for ourselves, we knew exactly where each of the bachelors/bachlorettes were destined - the bar/club of Karlovy Lazne located not far from the center of the city on a corner adjacent to the river. For all that we missed in culture at dinner we more than made up for at Karlovy Lazne. 5 stories each with a different theme. Techno, Classics, “Black Music” (political correctness clearly a priority…), Dancing, and finally, at the top - “Chill Out”. Some floors were completely dark; some lit from below with florescent tiles. Some floors had balconies to a lower level and some had stages. One floor had smoked pumped through the vents and another poles that served as props. In each, a DJ with a noise canceling headset worn on one ear; the other around his neck. It was extreme. It was intense. Too much for us to blend in. We settled on the Chill Out floor which proved an inaccurate name and instead should have been called something like, “Break Dance Innovation“… Nonetheless, we sipped our beers and took in the cultural experience from a seat on the couch. After an hour or two we worked our way back down to the ground level, stopping at each level to pass through. It was pretty f’in crazy but it was not for us. We exited at about 1am just as it started to really fill up and marveled at the line of hundreds waiting to get in…

The next morning we woke reasonably early and made it over to the Old Town Square for the free walking tour. Nothing, of course, comes free and though treated to a interesting and entertaining tour of the Old Town, the tour was not without a full slate of commercials for other tours (that weren’t free) put on by the hosting company. The weather that morning was miserable but tolerable and just as I was lamenting that the rain and clouds had followed me all over Europe, the clouds parted after lunch and produced a gorgeous afternoon. One that we used to visit the Prague castle on a hill overlooking the city from across the river. There were some neat views and it seemed to be an interesting - and still active - locale of city governing but we declined the paid tour. On the way back to town, we crossed the landmark Charles Bridge. The equivalent of Las Rambla in Barcelona, nothing but street vendors and tourists in the heart of the holiday season. We took in the crowds and watched the sun set from an outdoor bar just below the famous clock town in town…finally some nice weather.

Later that evening and acting on another recommendation from a different source, we had a good meal in town before detouring on the way home to an Irish Pub off the main town square - the Dubliner. Decent live music with a patron delivering the Don McLean encore - American Pie - just before the band shut it down and we walked it home from there.

Prague was an interesting city with a unique vibe and energy. We enjoyed our stay but I think it safe to say 2 days were plenty. In the morning, we’d be losing Matt to his return flight home and we’d continue south to Vienna - Home of the Weiner Schnitzel and Apple Strudel…

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