Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Side Note: Prague

Prague is one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring cities I've ever seen. It's old city is gigantic, covering both sides of the river. It's a city where one can easily imagine the times of old.
I was fortunate enough to spend New Years 2006-2007 in Prague. I was living in Karlsruhe, Germany at the time and wanted a little adventure. A classmate, who had been to Prague for New Years the previous year, found out my plans and suggested the Hostel AZ, but warned that I ought to book a room soon because the beds filled up fast. AZ was full, but their sister hostel, Aldivia, wasn't. I booked a bed in the dorm and got my bus ticket: KA-PR.
Now, my bus left Karlsruhe at around six, and I was thinking it would roll into Prague around 11:00 PM that same night or midnight, on what would be New Years Eve. I was extremely close to missing the bus (the bus driver said, "Arrive one minute later and you would not be on here.") I got a seat to myself and settled in for a nice ride to Prague. There were stops in Stuttgart, in München at the Allianz Stadium (we stopped for a pee break there. The bathrooms were a ways away from the bus station) and and the Czech border (pre-Schengen) for ninety minutes because some loaf forget his passport.
Eleven hours after departing Karlsruhe we rolled into Prague, not at the Hauptbahnhof (which I was expecting) but in some bus station in the seediest part of the city. Getting off the bus in the very early morning, being very dark, and trying to find my way to the train station, of which I had no idea where it was, was going to be a challenge. Luckily, a homeless looking fellow also got off the bus and started to talk to me. I tried to tell him I was trying to go to the train station, and he pointed in some direction. I walked a little ways down the street, and was thinking, "You… are… fucked." The man, who turned out to be rather nice, suggested that I come with him. He too was going in the direction. Not knowing anything better to do, I agreed.
This guy kept on repeating how he had been up for three days straight. He was heading home after spending a lot of time in Frankfurt or something like that, I kind of forget. Anyway, he wasn't staying in Prague, but going even further south. We went into the subway, which had no turnstiles, and caught the next train. The subway in Prague is the best I have ever ridden, hands down. We took one stop, walked up to the train station where we parted ways, but not before the inevitable asking of money (I think I gave him five Euros. Hey, he kept his word and lead me to the Hauptbahnhof and hadn't tried to rob me of all my possessions.)
I finally made my way to the hostel, which is right in the middle of the city. There was a fussy old man there, who didn't speak any English but apparently understood Polish (not that he had learned Polish, but that the languages are so similar that he understood.) I collapsed on my bed while dawn was beginning to break on New Years Eve.

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