Tonight at 11 PM, I’m boarding a night train from Prague, Czech Republic to Krakow, Poland. I have a “couchette” booked which is basically a fully reclining seat/bed you can sleep on in a compartment with a few other people. I’ll wake up around 7:30 AM in Krakow. It cost around $60 which isn’t so bad when you consider that I don’t need to pay for a hotel/hostel tonight. It also saves you an extra day of traveling because you travel while sleeping. I’m excited to try it. (I almost took one to Sicily but ended up flying because I rented a car and the pickup was at the airport.)
I’ve been in Prague for five days. Prague, in the Czech region known as Bohemia, has been an artistic and cultural capital in Europe for a thousand years. During WWII, it was one of the few cities in central and eastern Europe that escaped bombing, so it is one of the most preserved historical cities in Europe. This is obvious when you walk down the streets here – nearly every building has an ornate, elaborate, old-world facade, even random buildings in random neighborhoods.
During the Cold War, the city lost some of its relevance to westerners because it was behind the iron curtain. But after communism fell Prague quickly regained its relevance.
Today, Prague feels like one of the most touristy places I’ve been to in Europe. Visitors fell in love with the beautiful streets and haven’t ever left. I hear more English on the streets here than I did in Germany or Italy.
Prague is a bit cheaper than lots of European capitals as well. There are many (inexpensive) entertainment options in the city such as classical music, opera, theater, as well as modern music clubs. I decided I wanted to do something different while I was here so I found a group in my hostel and we went to the opera. I saw the opera “Don Giovanni” by Mozart in the exact theater where the opera had its original premier in 1787. We had crappy seats but it was only $12. The “expensive” seats on the floor were about $40 so not bad at all. The opera was fun. Something different than most of the cities I’ve been to and it was enjoyable and humorous on its own.
Speaking of money, another interesting thing was that this is the first country I’ve been to that doesn’t use the Euro currency. It uses the Czech “koruna” or “crown.” The Euro is almost equal to the dollar so you don’t have to think about it too much. The crown is very different though. One dollar buys about 24.45 crowns, so you have to constantly be doing math here when evaluating prices of things. Basically you can think of the 100 CZK as about a $5 bill, and so on.
Czech food is very heavy and consists of things like goulash and dumplings:
Some other highlights:
Synagouge from the Jewish Quarter (Before the Holocaust Prague was one of Europe’s most important Jewish cities)
John Lennon’s wall. This graffiti wall got started during communism and the police couldn’t stop people from spraying John Lennon quotes on it. It helped inspire the Czech nonviolent “velvet revolution” against communism 1989.
Tagging the wall. With some hostel friends we went on a guided tour and as part of the tour we made stencils and painted our own art. I, of course, had the idea to do a world map, because I like maps. We did North America, South America, and Europe (because our group came from the US, Argentina, and England) and didn’t have enough time for Asia, Africa, or Austrailia. It was a lot of fun and they turned out well but I really don’t like it with the other continents missing. We ran out of time.
Guards at Prague Castle, seat of the Czech government. They stand completely still and have a changing of the guard each hour.
View of the city.
Old Town Square
Until next time!