Our Day in Czech Hell

By day 3 Mikey and I were bored of Prague’s lame-o pajame-o nonsense so we decided to make a run for Berlin. When I had booked all of our flights the Prague to Berlin ticket was too expensive, so we decided to wait and book a train once we were in the city. No problem right? I’ll just go online and find the train time table right? Czech transport workers will be helpful and send us on our way, right? NOPE! WRONG!

WORST F*CKING DAY EVER!

I don’t want to entirely discourage my blog readers from taking the train between these two cities, because it could be a possibly decent 4 hour train ride with all the necessary information – which no one who works for the Prague Train stations will give you, so pay close attention not to make the mistakes Mikey and I made.

The website I found with the train information for our Prague to Berlin trip said that there was one train at 2pm daily from the main train station, Hlavní nádraÏí. We asked our friendly Elf receptionist for directions and he circled it on the map for us. It was only about a 10-minute walk from the hostel so we said our goodbyes and made our way into town by foot.

Inside the station was hell. It was like a David has-hoff.jpeg Hasselhoff concert in Germany; people viciously pushing their way through the crowds, cutting each other in ticket lines, and fighting for a place to stand with a view of the confusing “now approaching” screen.

Mikey and I had a few hours to waste (we thought) until our 2 O’clock train so we thought we’d put our bags in the lockers and roam the city for a bit. Once again the CHANGE booth was no help in providing change and this time the guy screamed in my face “NO!” when I tried to ask him where else I might be able to get coins. My patience was already thinning at this point so I screamed back at him and stormed off. “So now I’m just another asshole American and he’s another asshole Czech,” I thought. I didn’t care at that point.

I ended up buying a bottle of water to get change for the lockers.  Give some to get some I guess. Mikey locked everything up while I bought our train tickets. I asked the women for ticket to Berlin and she silently printed them out, I paid, and we headed into cold, rainy mist that is Prague in December.

We didn’t do much in those 2 hours so I’ll skip straight to the part where we headed back to the station to catch out train. Mikey collected our bags and I waited by the departure screen to see which track our train would be approaching at. After a while of waiting I still hadn’t seen anything that said Berlin and I was getting pretty worried. Our tickets didn’t have any information on them other than the destination, date, and price so we waited in line at the ticket counter to ask the woman which track we should go to. The line was long and it was almost 2 so we were getting nervous. We really didn’t want to be stuck in Prague another night.

Once at the front of the line the woman told us we were at the wrong train station and told us to take the subway 3 stops to another station where the train departs. The Czech names for stations are pretty confusing to someone who only speaks English and they all sound alike, but before we could ask her to repeat herself she threw up a “Closed” sign on her window and walked off. As far as we knew there was only one train a day that went to Berlin and there was no way we would make it to another station before 2. We were furious that she hadn’t mentioned this when we bought the ticket and couldn’t understand why we would have to buy the ticket at one station, but depart from another one.

We made our way to the information desk after failing to gain any help from other station employees due to our language differences. Once we made it to the front of the line we tried asking where to go for the Berlin train. The lady printed out a paper that had the departure times, which was a relief since it looked like there were still 3 more trains leaving that day. Before we could ask her which station to go to the man behind us tapped me on the shoulder and made a motion that seemed to be saying “get the fuck out of the way, its my turn.” He didn’t speak English, but mikey and I were obviously angry and told him to fuck off. ‘We waited in line and you will too.” We turned back to the lady and asked where to go. She said the station name but we couldn’t understand. We asked her to write it down for us, but she didn’t have a pen. The information window doesn’t have a pen. Brilliant. Of course she doesn’t have a pen! She is only supposed to be giving people directions all day, why the hell would she think to ever write anything down for tourists in a city like Prague where no one ever visits… I was so so so so so mad at the employees of the Hlavní nádraÏí train station and their lack of helpfulness. As we walked down the stairs towards the Metro (with out paying. Take that Prague) I was furious, screaming and cursing the whole city. Mikey said it was the angriest he has ever seen me. I think it was the most annoying day of my life.

We arrived at the smaller Holešovice Station where the train to Berlin actually does depart from, more than once daily. We waited a while for the 4 O’clock train. A crazy crack-head girl was laughing hysterically all alone. She though whatever it was that she was imagining was so funny that she was falling on the floor and rolling around. I had seen her at the main station too. She was one of the youngest and scariest crazy people I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen my fair share of crazies (I’ve lived in Allston long enough to see it all).

The shit show didn’t end there. We boarded the train, and no sooner did we sit down, a woman got on and, through hand motions she angrily explained we were in her seat. We then realized that all of the seats were reserved and we didn’t have a reservation. Thanks for the warning, station employees. We tried to get out of the woman’s way, but were surrounded by an angry mob of elderly people looking for their seats. It was utter chaos. People were trying to walk in every direction, but no one was getting anywhere since no one would let anyone by. They were all just pushing each other and speaking in angry Czech, but it felt like they were all ganging up on Mikey and I, pushing us and pulling our bags off our shoulders. I wanted to scream.

It took about 15 minutes for us to get out of the lion pit and into another cart. We found two seats in an enclosed area of 8 seats and asked an Italian girl if the seats were taken. She spoke English and German and told us we should just take the seats unless someone came and claimed them. We thanked her while the German guy next to her seemed to be telling her that we couldn’t sit there unless we had seat tickets. I don’t know what he was really saying, but I didn’t like him and I could tell he was the kind of person who sticks to the rules and likes to act as an authority figure without having any authority.  It’s funny how much we can understand people without understanding their spoken language. Body language goes a long way.

Luckily, no one claimed the seats and Mikey and I slept off our frustration over the course of the 4-hour ride to Berlin. I don’t think I’ll be going back to Prague for a long, long time, if ever at all.

Praha

Mikey and I flew into Prague on Dec 6th. I was whining the whole way about how we should have stayed in Morocco and my experience in the Prague didn’t make me whine any less while there.

Of course we were unorganized and hadn’t booked a hostel previous to arriving. I plugged my computer on and paid some ridiculous price for 30 minutes of internet while Mikey collected our bags. We wrote the number down to a few hostels that looked cheap but comfortable and headed out through customs.

We took money out of the ATM, but had a really hard time finding anywhere to get change for a pay phone. Even the guy working at the money CHANGE counter didn’t want to hook us up. After 10 minutes or so of frustratingly lugging our bags around to all the airport bars, we finally found another CHANGE counter that did give us some coins. I know, its a big favor to ask some one to actually do their job, right?

We rang Hostel Elf – lucky for us they had a double room open. The receptionist was extremely helpful and had the cutest Czech accent. He gave us perfect directions from the airport so we stepped out side into the freezing Eastern European night.

As we were getting on the bus for the city, I overheard two guys trying to decided if they should get on or not.

“I don’t know man, everyone else is getting on this one.”

“Do you think its going into the city? oh man”

I decided to help them out and told them it was the right bus for central Prague. They laughed and after thanking me and paying their fare they asked us if we had a place to stay. They seemed embarrassed that they were so unorganized, but i assured them that we weren’t much better. They followed us to The Elf and had no problem booking a room. Mikey and I finished watching our pirated Moroccan dvd from the night before and called it a night.

The next morning we moved into a dorm room to start budgeting since we were soon moving onto more expensive countries. This made me think about how I wished we hadn’t left Morocco – That we were still in our own big affordable room with an ocean view and warm breeze. I’m a spoiled brat, I know this.

prague city view

We started the day off at Charles Bridge and headed up to the top of Castle Hill to check out the Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral before it started to rain. I was not in the mood to be hiking up a very, very steep hill and was grumpy for most of the torturous walk. Once at the top we just took a few photos and walked back down to get some food. We weren’t interested enough to go inside any of the buildings and check them out but we did get some beautiful photos of the city from such a high view.

prague view

We walked over what seemed like most of the central part of the city in one day. It’s a small city and easy to navigate. We also rode all the trams and buses with out paying, which is easy to do, but the fine for being caught can be up to 900czk (about 25 GBP). We met a few people that had been caught and didn’t recommend shirking the responsibility, but we kept taking the chance, probably stupid, but we weren’t ever caught.

That night we went to see an Ozzy Osbourne Revival show at Kain the rock pub next door to the Elf. We dragged our Californian/Pennsylvanian roommate Ben with us. He seemed entertained and a little scared while Mikey and I head banged in the front row. The singer let me sing into the mic when they played War Pigs as the final song and I think it was the highlight of my visit to Prague (not too many exciting things happened in our short stay, so yes, I’m serious, it was the highlight). We stayed in the bar for a while after the gig, just talking shit about our life theories, and Mikey was annihilated by the end of the night so we took him home to bed.

Day 3 started with breakfast for me, and a big old hangover for Watkins. I made him take me to a vegan restaurant I had read about, Albio. There are a few Albio joints in the city and this one was only about a 10 minute walk from the Elf. A health food store in the front with a cute cafe area in the back and killer vegan treats. I highly recommend eating at this place even if you’re not a vegan nerd. I had the chili in a bread bowl and Mikey had pumpkin soup in a normal bowl. I ate the entire bread bowl while Mikey looked at me with a hangover disgust. Sorry honey, I’m a fat ass.

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After stuffing my face, Mikey took me shopping in the center of town near the Christmas markets and endless malls. All we could afford were some mittens at H & M (thank you, little underpaid child laborers…) and afterwards we checked out the big (dumb) astronomical clock. We were both a little confused as to why the clock is such a huge tourist sight, other than the fact that it’s huge and ancient and little things dance out of it on the hour (every hour). I don’t know if its just us, but those things aren’t all that exciting to me. I guess some people really love old architecture and monuments, and maybe if I had read more about the history of the clock I would have been more interested…or maybe not. It’s just a damn clock…oh well. We were bored and made our way back to the Elf.

We started a game of scrabble in the lounge at the hostel and soon enough Ben came and joined us. I lost and Mikey won. I was pissed. Soon we were distracted by a couple from Holland who came to sit with us. They were friends with one of the hostel workers and more of their friends piled in after them. One of their friends, Amy, was this 21 year old going on 45 Australian chic. she was friendly enough and kept Mikey, Ben and I entertained with her current experiences teaching English in Prague. After a few hours of chatting, everyone started getting ready to head to Cross Club, a place I had heard a lot about since we had arrived at the Elf. We didn’t really feel like dancing the night into oblivion via techno beats so instead Amy offered to take the 3 of us to a bar she knew.

The first bar had really loud house music on and none of us could hear each other – prrretty awkward. We finished our drinks and let our Australian tour guide take us to another bar just up the road. This new pub had table football – but more importantly it had strawberry scented & decorated toilet paper! I wanted to take the whole roll, but decided on just a small slice. Wrong choice – the bitch lost its smell by the end of the night after being crumpled up in my stinky pocket all night. Oh well, so we played a few games of girls vs boys foosball before we sat down for a little more dry and dwindling conversation. Amy and Ben seemed pretty tired or maybe just bored, but Mikey and I were getting sick of making pointless small talk. We called it a night and thanked Amy for [nothing.] taking us out.

I forgot my favorite scarf once the boys and I had already walked down the hill the bar was on and had to fun back up by myself. On my way up I watched a drunk boy trip over himself and roll down the hill a little while his friend looked really annoyed and walked off. He then proceeded to ask for my phone number when he caught me laughing. “No you little Czech idiot, I’m laughing at you not with you.”