Czeching out Prague

A horrible, overused pun. Great way to start a post, right?

Anyways.  I turned 20 on the 18th, so I figured a good way to spend my birthday would be in Prague, the capital of cool, as one might say (though the only person that would say that is me as a joke).

Unfortunately, our trip to the capital of cool went totally awry and was definitely not cool.  But a misfortune ended up being a really good time anyways, but I’ll get to that shortly.

I was going to Prague with 5 other people, but we bought tickets in two groups: group one was Caitlin, Max, and Kate, and group two was Olivia, Alexis, and me.  Group one was supposed to leave 30-ish minutes before us.  They were going to have a 30 minute change in Linz, and both groups would be on the same second leg.  Since we were on two different trains, our layover in Linz was only 7 minutes.  And our train left the train station 4 minutes late.

You can probably see where this is going, but I’ll continue if you can’t.

So our train kept getting slowed down, until we arrived in Linz at 6:36 (our train was supposed to be leaving at 6:35).  Despite that, we were at the door, ready to book it across the train station to hop on our train, hoping that it was delayed by 4 minutes like our train to Linz.

As you probably guessed, we missed our train.

So we went to the ÖBB (Österreichische Bundesbahnen, or the Austrian Federal Railway) office, all of us exhausted, beaten down, and frankly pissed off.  The guy working was very friendly and very helpful though, and he booked us a hotel for the night, free of charge, and we each got pretty spacious single rooms (although they were smoker rooms, but it’s better than sleeping in Linz Hauptbahnhof):

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My hotel room in Linz

I was pretty proud of myself travelling in this situation.  Sure things went totally wrong but it ended up being a good experience with good company, and we learned not to book trains with such small change times.  I was even more happy that I wasn’t as stressed as I expected to be.  There’s something about being in a shitty situation with very little control over it and making it turn out alright, and being in a foreign city with no knowledge of where things are that is just exhilarating to me.  Is that a bad thing that I almost enjoy when things go wrong?  Probably.  Maybe it’s the problem solving that goes into it that I enjoy, and the fact that it forces me to step out of my comfort zone and interact with other people.  I think the “foreign city with no knowledge of where things are” isn’t necessarily bad, because I love exploring and finding little nooks and crannies (which is why I loved Nürnberg so much), and by the end of the trip (if I explore enough) I know my way around fairly well.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to explore Linz all that much, but I might just book a train with another 7 minute transfer time so that I’m forced to.

(Just kidding.)

Anyways, back to the story.

We got into our hotel rooms and all congregated in my room (pretty much the only one that didn’t smell like smoke).  We had a really nice conversation over a lot of stuff – we vented/aired out our feelings, told our life stories, talked about faith, and more.  Hearing them talk about various things, and especially faith, was really inspiring.  It made me take a step back and think, and I honestly totally forgot that we were in a shitty predicament.  So that’s what I meant when I said that the misfortune turning out really well.  It was a phenomenally good night.  It was a night of bonding and judgement-free conversation, and it was really nice to get to know the people that live next door/a few doors down from me.  It was definitely one of, if not the best, nights I’ve had so far.  It was totally needed, and that night totally turned my mood around, and I came out of this week happier than I have in a long time.  So, Olivia and Alexis, if you’re reading this, thank you guys (and thank you for the note and gift!  I already explained how much it meant to me but I truly do appreciate it).

So after the talk, we headed to get food, since all of us were pretty hungry.  We found this little food vendor thing right next to our hotel, and I had Käsekrainer, which is basically a roasted sausage that’s filled with cheese (I hadn’t had it before but it was delicious).  After eating, we headed back to our hotel and talked for a little while longer, but realized that we needed to be up at 5 am for our 6:30 am train the next morning, so we headed to bed pretty soon after.

In the morning, we got to the train station on time and found our train pretty quickly, but we realized that there was a group coming from Salzburg to Prague, that would be on our train, and they had the 7 minute transfer that we did, plus none of our tickets said the platform, so everyone had to figure it out as they were running across the train station.  So we texted them and told them where it was, and I waited outside to make sure they got on the train in time (I didn’t want the same thing happening to them that happened to us).  So the one-and-a-half groups of UP students headed to Prague!

We got in around 11, and were totally exhausted.  Apparently missing a train and the stress of everything, plus waking up really early takes a lot out of you.  Who would have guessed.

Naturally, all we wanted to do was drop off our bags and check into our hostel.  So we headed to the hostel, but also found a really cool Synagogue on the way over!

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The Temple/Synagogue.  It’s the biggest in the Czech Republic!

Once we got to the hostel, we threw our stuff down and charged up a little bit, then headed out to get food in the Old Town Prague square, next to the astronomical clock:

So the other group (Caitlin, Kate, and Max) had already eaten, so we split up and they headed up to the Prague Castle, while we ate.  Honestly, it was pretty nice being in such a small group, and although it would have been nice to have everyone together, it was a really fun time nonetheless.  So after eating, we headed across Charles Bridge, which was absolutely packed.  I’d seen pictures of it but I definitely didn’t expect it to be as packed as it was.

That being said, it was beautiful.  There were art stands, jewelry stands, and musicians (really good ones at that).  From the Charles Bridge, we headed up to the Prague Castle, which was also really cool, despite the huge amount of stairs we had to climb.

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The view from the top of the stairs

The Prague Castle was really cool.  It was basically its own little town up at the top, and it was very quaint, beautiful, and just fun to explore.

We walked around for a little bit and headed further up the hill, which had this little walkway, palace, and a garden thing.  Olivia and I both took a lot of videos (mostly just videos of the other taking videos and “vlogceptioning”), which meant that I didn’t take a lot of pictures.  But I’m pretty happy with the videos I got, because they were pretty funny.

Anyways, after that, we headed down the hill, where we did some souvenir shopping and actually bumped into the other group of UP students that we had travelled with in the morning.  It was totally unplanned, but I was wearing a mustard yellow sweatshirt that gave me away, apparently.  Anyways, the walk down the hill was gorgeous.  Prague, I found, is one of those cities that even the blandest streets is just absolutely stunning.  The architecture and the cobblestone streets really just made me feel like I was in a quintessential European city (which Prague is):

So after that, we stopped for some dinner with the other group (Caitlin, Kate, and Max).  Everyone wanted to go on a bar crawl thing that ended up at this famous 5 or 6 story club, but Lexi and I both weren’t really feeling it so we took the night to just relax, talk, and adventure around the city.  We went down to this little island thing and saw the John Lennon Wall (and signed it!).  We also walked along the river and explored that, which was a lot of fun.  Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my camera (the quality would have been bad anyways because it’s night photography), so here are some lower-quality phone shots I took:

So after exploring for a little while, we headed back to the hostel and passed out.  Since we weren’t hungover and we got to bed early enough, Lexi and I went out in the morning to check out the Jewish Quarter of the city, which was really fascinating and beautiful.  We started off at the Spanish Synagogue, which was gorgeous, and we bought tickets for both of us to see the other sites in the Jewish Quarter, which included some other synagogues and a cemetery, as well as memorials and exhibitions of Jewish art.  (Funnily enough, I actually ordered in German because the lady didn’t speak much English, and she understood German but I didn’t understand Czech, so we just both spoke in German.)

Anyways, the sites were equally gorgeous, interesting, heartbreaking, but also hopeful.  There were the names of victims of the Holocaust (I’m not sure if they were all Czech or what, but it went on for three floors in tiny writing), as well as art from children who had been killed during the Holocaust, showing what they felt when they were forced out of schools, what they drew about the trains, what they pictured Palestine to look like, and much more, including a child’s depiction of a public execution of a Jew.  It was so heartbreaking to know that these children spent most of their lives, up until their deaths, under horrific circumstances – I can’t even begin to imagine what growing up under such persecution would have been like.  Seeing the art from the children was really, really emotional.

Outside was a cemetery; Lexi and I weren’t sure if it was victims of the Holocaust or prominent Jewish figures in the Czech Republic, but I unfortunately didn’t get any pictures, so here’s a screengrab of a short video I took:

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The cemetery left open a lot of questions for me, but Lexi did a lot of teaching nonetheless.  The main questions that persisted were, why was the cemetery so clustered and angular, and who was buried there.  Neither of us could really answer them, but regardless, Lexi taught me so much about Hebrew, Judaism, and history, and it was absolutely fascinating – it was so informative, and despite all of the emotions that I felt, I came out of it very fulfilled.  Some of the stuff she taught me, like about the Hebrew language, is stuff that I never would have learned otherwise.  It was so inspiring to see how the Jewish community has survived and thrived despite such horrendous circumstances.  Having not had much experience with Judaism outside of going to a Bat Mitzvah and learning about Judaism in comparative religion classes, it was such a good experience.  Lexi, if you’re reading this, thank you so much for your time and helpfulness, as well as being willing to answer questions and whatnot.  Your openmindedness was really, really appreciated!  I really enjoyed checking out all of these sites with you, and sorry that we had to cut it a bit short to get to the train station!

So after the cemetery and the other sites, we pretty much booked it to the train station, because the rest of the group had already gotten to the train station and Lexi and I still had go from the cemetery, to Old Town, to our hostel (to pick up bags), and then to the train station; according to Google, we would be there 5 minutes before the train left, but we still had to find our platform and everything else.

Thankfully, after speed-walking/jogging, we made it and got to our train in time, and our train back (thankfully) was much smoother than our train to.  When we got into Linz, Olivia was joking about “déjà vu;” honestly, despite being there literally only a day prior, so much happened in Prague that it seemed ages away, at least to me.

Also, a HUGE thank you to Olivia and Lexi for being such great travel partners.  I really enjoyed getting closer to you guys and really enjoyed exploring the city with you two!  Your kindness, generosity, and overall genuine goodness was, and is, much appreciated.

 

Anyways, I’ll include what’s coming up in the next couple of weeks.  I’m not sure if it’s going to happen, but there was talk of a day trip to somewhere in Bavaria next weekend, and we’re going up to the biggest ice caves in the world as well.  Then we’re heading to Florence, and also to London, so that’ll be a lot of fun.  I might take another solo trip or a small-group trip at some point in the coming weeks, but we’ll see.

That’s all for now, I guess.  There are more pictures and a little new thing I’m doing under the P.S section.

S láskou z Prahy/Mit Liebe aus Prag/With love from Prague,

Cal

 

P.S: I’ve decided to add a little thing at the bottom of my new posts, which is some bit of vocabulary from whatever language I’m experiencing, something new that I learn in German or something that’d be useful (a phrase or a term, etc.), and then a song that got me through the trip.

So:

PHRASES:

Czech: Děkuji = English: Thank you

German Phrase: Könnten Sie uns helfen? (Could you help us?)

SONG:

“These Old Shoes” by Deer Tick.  Really good song about going any lengths to get somewhere, even if things have gone totally wrong.

And here are the pictures!  It’s more of a photo dump than anything, so some of the pictures might appear twice in the post (as in down at the bottom and somewhere else):

 

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