For me, night in Prague started as morning in Dresden. Still wasn’t feeling it when I left this morning. The guy in my room was odd and as I was leaving, he started talking politics and it felt like it was gonna get a bit anti-Semitic so I just walked away. I had about three hours to kill before my train left so I just wandered for a bit, had some breakfast then got my big bag and headed for the station. Got there with time to spare so I sat and filled out a few post cards and listened to my book on tape.
The train was uneventful, but crowded and I ended up sitting next to a Norwegian who teaches the language to Hungarians and Czechs. We had a little chat and I caught a bit of a nap and by then, we were in Prague.
I must admit, stepping off the platform, I thought I was going into a third world country. It was run down and kinda scary looking. Add to that it was pissing down rain and I mis-read the sign to the hostel and I was not off to a good start. But I finally found the place, the girl behind the desk was Canadian (from Winnipeg no less) so she spoke English and I started to feel better. I went to my room, which is rather nice, up two flights of spiral steps and I put my room key into the slot on the wall to make sure the electricity worked. It did. I picked a bed (I grabbed the one next to an outlet so I could type while reclining), dropped my bag off and decided to wander around.
I’ve gotten into this pattern, such as it is, that when I first get into town, after checking in, I take a look around, see what’s where and just generally breathe in the atmosphere. This time, I was settled around 4:15-4:20 so there was still plenty of light and time before retiring for the evening. I grabbed a map and started walking. The Hostel is a bit of a walk from the center of town (not far on the tram though) and after walking for a bit, I hopped on said tram to finish my journey. I missed the stop I was intending to get off at, so I jumped ship at the next one and knew if I kept heading towards the river, I’d be okay. See Prague is divided by a river (a lot of these European cities seem to be that way – coming from Vegas the thought of founding a city near a good supply of water is such a foreign concept to me). So I’ve got a general idea where the river is and I head that way. Now, I’m also hungry. Then I see a sign for McDonalds. I know, I know…you’re in Prague, biggest city in the Czech Republic, probably home to some great restaurants or at least some decent local cuisine, why would you even pay attention to McDonalds? Well I’ll tell you. But it starts with the refrigerator story.
See, a long time ago, when I was in college in Salt Lake City, my friend Lorin Nelson and I were at the zoo watching a sea lion show. As is my wont, I asked Lorin how many gallons of water he thought might have been in the tank. Lorin asked me how many refrigerators would fit in the tank.
Yes, I was as confused as you are now. Naturally, I asked him why? What did that have to do with anything. Lorin responded that his father had once built a 100 gallon aquarium out of an old refrigerator, so if we knew how many refrigerators would fit, all we’d have to do is multiply that number by 100 and we’d know how many gallons in the sea lion tank.
While not the most practical method, nevertheless it is interesting. If you have a common thing which you know and understand, you can then use that to measure everything else against it. So it is with McDonald’s. And not just the food, although it is interesting how different countries do burgers in different ways. No, it’s also a monetary thing. Prague is not on the Euro (at least not completely, most shops have both listed, but it’s not an exchange rate thing) they are on the Kronur. So… if I go to McDonald’s and see how much a Big Mac Meal is in local currency, I can judge, roughly, how much that is in American dollars and whether or not it’s expensive. So that’s what I did and yes it was.
Once I’d eaten, I mailed the post cards I’d written and just started strolling the cobblestone streets. I figured I was heading the right direction when I started passing souvenir shops…and more souvenir shops. Then there were some souvenir shops. It wouldn’t have been so bad except 90% of them sold the same stuff, and 90% of that stuff was Venice Beach-style t-shirts. Yes, I saw a Kurt Cobain shirt here!
Earlier, I had passed an information center and had stopped in to ask where the post office was (very friendly lady told me and guess what? Open until 7pm!). While there, I picked up tourist info flyers, like the kind I love to get from Motel lobbies. There was one for the Black Light Theatre, which looked interesting. I only mention this because as I’m skedaddling along what do I happen to see? Oh yes, the Black Light Theatre. And the show on at the moment? “Aspects of Alice,” an interpretation of Alice in Wonderland. I immediately queue up to buy a ticket!
Now I have an hour to kill before the show starts so I decide, maybe if I can find a souvenir shop I might take a look.I actually find one selling some cool Kafka and Golem paraphernalia and buy a couple of postcards, then I see a sign for The Godot Gallery. I figure I have a few minutes… So I go in and the art is fantastic! I’m not gonna say I made any purchases, but if I did, they were probably worth it.
Then I went to the play. It was an odd construction, kinda like Cirque light, with black art techniques. There was really no story-line and I’m still not sure what it had to do with Alice in Wonderland, but it was very cool. Wasn’t very long, either, an hour twenty-seven minuteswith a ten minute intermission. Still… worth it!
On the way back to the Hostel, the rain had stopped and there was a rainbow over the city. I hopped a tram, missed my stop, walked back, and then headed to the basement bar here to hop on line and watch Germany defeat Austria 1 nil.
And now, some random pictures… (the first one was teh first thing I saw upon leaving the hostel and the sign post? well that’s for Troy. Tomorrow’s entry should have more specific shots since I’ll know more of what I’m looking at.