Saturday May 12, 2018
I had this trip planned for about 3 weeks. So before my mom and Katie came, they made their arrangements and decided to go with me!! Megan Ditore, a friend of mine from high school and basketball teammate, met me in Prague as she was traveling around Europe after studying abroad in Ireland. Our morning began in Wr. Neustadt at a deserted train station. About 6 stops and 4.5 hours later, we arrived in Prague!
For some reason, my phones data didn’t work in The Czech Republic. Which meant that I couldn’t look things up or even get directions. Luckily I looked up the hostel address on the train where I had WiFi. I used a REAL map to find our way, my dad would be proud. It took us a while to get from the train station to the hostel because we had to stop and take pictures of the beautiful sights. I could tell it was going to be an amazing city just from the first half hour in walking around. It’s also interesting that the roads are like cobblestone everywhere you go. I don’t think I ever saw a smooth surface. We met Megan at the hostel and they didn’t have my mom and Katie’s reservation. Apparently, thy ended up booking a different one in Poland on accident. Oops…a couple hours later it was all settled and they found a hotel just across the street from us. But, “just across the street” also meant cross the road and walk around a giant building. It worked out though, they were still very close.
Our first order of business was to get some food. We started walking towards Old Town to find something along the way. After a late lunch, it was time to wander the city a little bit. There were tons of people everywhere. Going from calm Salzburg to hectic Prague was quite the difference! Some of the places in Europe are under construction because they are getting ready for tourist season in the summer. There was quite a bit in Salzburg and Vienna. The Prague Astronomical Clock was one of those. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see any of the real thing, but everything else was available to the eyes! We walked across the Charles Bridge a few times. I swear it takes about 10 minutes just to walk across. It’s huge! The first time it was more like 30-45 minutes because of the vendors. Standing on that gigantic bridge was so cool. As the saying goes, pictures don’t do it justice. But this, wow. Prague is stunning in every direction. I can’t say enough about it. I see pictures of the city and it’s almost like they get better every time. Again, forever amazed. Before I visited, every person I talked to said that Prague was beautiful and boy were they right.
One of my Czech friends that plays for the Chicklets, Natalie, gave me some suggestions for a bunch of things to see, places to eat, where to get good pictures, all that good stuff. We found one of the ice cream shops (of course :)) and they formed the ice cream into roses on the cones. Next, we set off to find the John Lennon Wall that was so colorful and just full of graffiti. The John Lennon Pub reeled us in for a little drink before heading back to the hotel and hostel. Again, it took us quite a while because we decided to get the shopping done the first day and leave most of the sightseeing for the second day. We walked quite far, but everything was so cool to see that I didn’t mind it at all. When we were at Old Town Square in the afternoon, I remember saying that I wanted to see it at night. Well, fast forward six hours and there we were again! Time flies when you’re havin’ a good time with good company.
It was my first time staying in a hostel and it wasn’t too bad! I slept pretty good. We had a snorer in our room who also decided to show up in the room with his friends at 5am after a night out. Other than that night one was good!
Sunday May 13, 2018
Megan and I woke up and had a little breakfast at the hostel before going to meet my mom and Katie at their hotel. It was really cool to be able to spend Mother’s Day with them. I never thought that it would even be a possibility. First, we found a free walking tour. Originally we weren’t going to stay for the whole thing, but 3 hours passed and we were still with the group. It was very interesting to learn about the history of the city while learning some tips and tricks about it. Sometimes it’s cool to just listen as you walk along the street. There’s so many people and so many different languages that people speak. At home, it’s always English. In Austria, it’s usually German. But there, it could have been anything. It’s kind of a fun little game to play in trying to figure out what language you just heard.
In the states, we build things in a few years and they aren’t even half the size of a European building. Everything in Europe is so old and took hundreds to thousands of years to complete. One of the Roman Catholic Churches took 150 years. Our tour guide, Lyle, took us around Old Town, New Town, and the Jewish Quarter. He had a very strong tourist voice as he explained things. He also told us about the astronomical clock that is hidden because it’s under construction as I mentioned before. It looks amazing, we’re going to have to come back sometime and see it! Next was a building in Charles University. Albert Einstein spent time there and was a professor for one year in Prague. Only one year because his wife hated Prague, fun fact. Around this same area was the Estates theatre where the Czech National Anthem was debuted. Mozart also performed there and once received a 30 minute standing ovation. We weren’t able to go inside of it, but it was still so special to just see it and know what had happened years ago. Past the buildings and through the streets that Mozart and Einstein once roamed, we came to the Powder Tower. It got its name because it used to hold gun powder. Wenceslas Square was just around the corner with the National Museum standing at the very end of the street. A street that Hitler walked on many years ago. It was one of the buildings under construction so we couldn’t really see the front of it. Lyle told us that you can see little white marks along the front face. Those would be bullet holes, so crazy. There were shops and restaurants in the area but we just learned a little bit about them and continued on. We had walked most of the city the day before the tour, but didn’t know much history about it. It’s very interesting to learn about what happened centuries ago in the same city, street, or spot that you are standing on. For instance, another one of the streets we took to get to the old site of a coal market used to be a jousting street.
We had about a 30-45 minute break and our guide took us to a restaurant where we got a tradition Czech dish, so he said. Fried cheese AKA a giant mozzarella sick and it was SO good. Europe doesn’t know how to do lemonade though. Every “lemonade” you get tastes like sprite with lemon juice. Two girls in their early 20s sat at the same table as us and one of them knows a girl I went to Spain with last year. They go to school together and she even said they have a class together. Small world once again.
I thought for sure we’d ditch the tour by then, but our guide did a good job and kept us hooked for the whole thing! We headed to the Jewish Quarter after lunch and went through the wealthiest street in the city. Go back thousands of years and it used to be the poorest street. The only thing we really saw was the Cemetery in the Jewish Quarter, which you cant really even see that well. Here’s why…it’s kind of tucked behind buildings, but it’s not on ground level. You can’t just walk through it like any other cemetery. There wasn’t enough space for the bodies once the area started filling up and they didn’t want to start digging up bodies. The solution? Bury one body on top of an area where another body is already buried. Supposedly it is about 14 bodies deep and there are over 150,000 in that cemetery.
The tour ended shortly after we went through the Jewish Quarter and then we took a tram up to the Prague Castle. It’s an old medieval castle where presidents still live. St. Vitus’s Cathedral stands in the middle of it and it is so beautiful. Cathedrals are so amazing to see no matter what it’s called or where it is in the world. This one had amazing stained glass windows. However, none of the ones I see can really compare to La Sagrada Familia that I saw in Barcelona in the summer of 2017. But, they are still incredible! We purchased a ticket that got us into a few of the buildings at the castle including the Old Royal Palace with amazing city views and the Basilica of St. George. By this time, we were getting soooo tired. My feet were pretty sore and I just wanted some food. All of us were kind of wilting and moving quite a bit slower than normal. One of our Prague tour guide books said there was a good Mexican restaurant. Mexican food in Czech Republic seems very odd, but it was really good! We were all from Duvall so we love our Ixtapa and decided to try it. We were on the other side of the river as we headed back to the hotel and hostel. Moving as slow as ever, Megan told us about these baby statues. Not just small statues, literal babies. They are so weird but so funny. We found the crawling baby statues, took a few pictures, and crossed Charles Bridge one last time.
Megan and I spent a couple hours at the hotel in the lobby with my mom and Katie. A couple refreshments, cookies, and chocolate got us on our feet again. A lot of hostel goers like to go out to the clubs and bars, but once we laid down I could tell ya right then that we were not getting up. My legs were exhausted. It felt like one of those days back in select ball where you play 5 games in one day. Yikes those were long days.
Hostel life day two: slept like a rock again but some of our roommates decided to come in at 1am and turn the light on when 4 people were sleeping. That was lovely. Some people were also really loud with the lockers. Just turn the key, open it, get your stuff out, close it, and turn the key. I guess it’s not that easy and it took everyone about 10 minutes to fiddle with their locks. But, it was a pretty good experience overall!
Monday May 14, 2018
It was departure day for all of us. Megan had to make her way to the airport to fly back to Ireland around 12 and we went to the train station just after 3. We entered St. Nicholas Church in Old Town Square and wandered around that for a little while. Again, beautiful as ever. There was a Hard Rock Cafe where we had lunch just past the square by a couple more shops. If you didn’t figure it out already, we did lots of shopping in the past week or so. So fun!
I’ve been getting pretty good at navigating transportation systems and cities that I’ve never been in. Using real maps and not getting lost. Pretty good for a millennial😉 It’s fun to know where you’re going and to be able to lead other people along with you. I looked at the map once before we left the hotel and got us to the train station in 20 minutes. The train ride was about the same length as the first time, 4.5 hours. We got to Wr. Neustadt a little before 10, so I just decided to stay at the hotel again since my mom and Katie had to pack up and everything. I was starting to feel the sadness come on the train when I was thinking that I only had a few hours before they took off. I cherished every moment for sure.
Tuesday May 15, 2018
They had an early flight and dropped me off at the field before going to the airport. A day or two after they arrived after the shock cleared, I knew that them coming meant that I had to say goodbye again. It doesn’t get easier the second time. Tears once again and less than two months until I see my mom again. Some people can go a really long time without seeing their family and I could do it too, but I just miss them so much. The initial days after the separation are the worst. After that, everything is pretty good. I’m lucky enough to have such an amazing support system and that I didn’t have to wait the whole six months to see at least my mom. Right after she leaves, I always seem to find a card. I’m a softie when it comes to that stuff so I’d probably cry even if I read it at home. They are definitely things that I will keep forever. They mean so much to me.