Did you know Americans are some of the only ones to come up with “new names” for cities? This can make for a VERY confused traveler. (Praha is Prague, Wien is Vienna.) All I needed was more confusion, I was already pretty nervous about planning my first week of independent travel….hostel hopping throughout Europe. However I had some great friends to help, and we took off last week for Prague, Salzburg, and Vienna…with no idea of how many adventures there were in store!
Here are some excerpts and random thoughts from our fabulous time in Praha:
Tara, Amelia, and I started things off right with Czech Airlines… our complimentary wine made us feel so adult. Also, most legroom in a flight that I’ve EVER had. This was definitely a pleasant surprise. Once we arrived to the Czech Republic, we realized we were not in Denmark anymore. People talk on public transportation? There aren’t blonde Barbie dolls running around everywhere? Also…Prague has scary escalators! They are about four stories tall and go so fast. Something you can’t even explain without seeing them.
Prague is a fairy tale city. Literally…I learned that lots of Disney World was based off Prague’s atmosphere and unreal architecture. I kind of felt like I was wondering around Bush Gardens. At night the bridge, castle, and city lights lit up over the water has been ranked one of the top most romantic places to go in the world. Now I can understand why the Czechs PDA like animals. One of the most romantic things I’ve ever seen was on Prague’s Charles Bridge, where couples monogram their initials onto a locket and leave it on the bridge. They then throw the key into the water, symbolizing that their love can never be broken. It was an amazing thing to see.
Hostel hopping is an experience…(emphasis on the experience). Didn’t think I would ever be able to handle sharing bathrooms…and even bedrooms…with strangers. But it’s actually a really unique concept that somehow just kind of works. Our first night in Prague we had a middle aged couple as roommates. Caught us off guard at first but they were so nice and you have to give them props for traveling around Europe together at this point of their life, especially in hostels. I can only hope my future husband and I are as cool!
I miss traveling with my parents. Ok, ok I said it. I’d have them take care of money conversions, finding things on the map, figuring out a place to stay, and more any day. Amelia and I entered complete culture shock while trying to figure out buying a transportation pass for the Czech metro. You can only use coins? The machine doesn’t work? No one speaks English? Oh and not to mention the drama we had trying to purchase a train ticket to Salzburg thanks to the language barrier. Even though it was difficult we always figured it out every time, and it was obviously a great learning experience. And anyways, it was nothing a Starbucks couldn’t cure! (Yes Prague has Starbucks THANK GOD.)
The best news ever: The Czech Republic’s liquor prohibition ended literally JUST in time for our arrival. Shots all around! The restaurants were also making their drinks extra strong out of celebration. You know we weren’t complaining!
One of my favorite things about Prague…we felt like we could afford things for once! No more expensive Copenhagen. We spoiled ourselves with delicious food…and basically ate like kings all weekend. Beer was cheaper than water. Water was cheap in general. And we could eat something more delicious than an eight-dollar sandwich (no offense Copenhagen). One night we spent around $15 American dollars each for two cosmopolitans, a traditional and delicious Czech dinner (Goulash- meat stew and potatoes, also known as the “Czech Big Mac”), and dessert. In addition we were in a beautiful candle lit dungeon restaurant. Don’t mind if I do!
During our time in Prague we were lucky enough to meet up with some of Tara’s friends who were studying abroad in the city. They showed us to the best restaurants and bars, and gave us a glimpse of Czech culture. Czechs are always late, which is SO unlike the Danes. Similar to the Danes, Czechs are very reserved until you meet them. However in my opinion, Danes in general are a lot warmer people. I missed my Danes!
A few things about the first bar we went to: I had the best beer in my life, which was grapefruit flavored. They constantly played Aerosmith, which really excited me, made me feel at home, and also made me really miss my mom.
One day we headed to the Czech suburbs to watch our friend Tara’s cousin play on Prague’s baseball league. Talk about going back in time…all of the neighborhoods looked like they were stuck about 20 years ago. It was an experience for sure. However being at the game was great, and we had the greatest meal ever with beer and the best chicken I’ve had in Europe for a whopping four dollars. And our team won so we got to celebrate their championship status! We were lucky to be able to see a different side to Prague.
Thanks to Tara’s cousin we were able to have our own personal tour guide while exploring the city. He showed us the Absinthe Museum, where I got a delicious Absinthe smoothie (flashback to my favorite movie Moulin Rouge). We saw the John Lennon expression wall, which was used for Czechs to express themselves during the communism period. Even though it was painted over every morning back then, people kept returning with beautiful artwork. Amelia wrote a great quote: “The shadow proves the sunshine”. With traveling Europe after her second torn ACL surgery, along with more I’ve learned as I’ve gotten to know her better, this quote really reflected how strong of a person she is. I can definitely live by this quote! She really is an inspiration…you just have got to love her (#thuglife). Lets not forget Kate, who you’ll hear more about it later post. She met us towards the end of our time in Prague and made our adventures even that much more amazing. I’ve been so lucky to be making such great friends.
At night we went to the biggest club in central Europe, complete with 5 dance floors all bearing different themes (house music, radio hits, oldies, disco, ice bar, etc). It was like a Chuck E. Cheese for drunken adults. We obviously spent all of our time on the oldies floor. Even met some people that went to Chapel Hill! Can’t get over how small our world can be…
My new mission: to find a Mexican restaurant in every European country I travel to. I know its pathetic but if you knew me and how much I love Mexican food, you’d understand. Thanks to my lonely planet travel guide I was able to find the BEST Mexican place, finally got my fix for some chicken enchiladas, and I was the happiest girl in the world.
I had some time to catch up with my Jewish heritage while in Prague. Prague has a whole “Jewish Quarter” section with some extremely interesting history that I was not aware of. The oldest Jewish cemetery exist here because during WWII, Hitler ordered for nothing to be bombed there in plans to turn it into a Jewish museum after his planned domination. It was great of my friends Kate and Amelia to come with me to check everything out.
Some things we missed about Copenhagen: quiet metro systems that don’t make you feel like your ear is about to burst, bikes, blondes, and fashion (bless their hearts but Czechs don’t compare to the fashionable Danes. It’s not the 80s anymore). Copenhagen has seriously become a security blanket, and with all of this traveling all of us realized just how much we consider it home.
Our motto for the trip, created by the one and only Amelia: YOPO! (Your only in Prague once). However, I mistakenly said POLO once…so that was kind of what we stuck to for the rest of the trip. Either way, we were only in Prague once and we defiantly made the most of our time there!
Keep an eye out for future posts on our time in Salzburg and Vienna…