Czech Mates

If I had to pick one word to describe how I felt about Prague, it would be BEAUTIFUL.

Let me clarify. Although most of the cities I visited had incredible sights and scenery, I was immediately struck by the grandness and magnificence of every inch (I’m sorry…centimeter) of Prague. Yes, the tourist-covered areas like the Old Town Square, Charles Bridge, and Prague Castle are stunning to look at, but even the less crowded neighborhoods are a feast for the eyes. 

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My adventure in the Czech Republic began when Dylan and I took another 15-hour train ride from Amsterdam, which thankfully was less torturous than the first one. I somehow managed to find an empty bed again and with the help of some friendly Germans, managed to get away with sleeping there without a ticket. After arriving, we dragged our luggage up a trillion hills through southeast Prague and arrived at our hostel, a place called Clown and Bard. This was definitely the most communal of the hostels we stayed at; a smokey hole-in-the-wall with a bar next to the reception where the staff hangs out and plays dice games with the guests every night. Dylan and I actually spent most of our nights hanging out with Greg, an American who’d worked at Clown and Bard since 1999. He was also a back-up singer for one of the famous singers in the Czech Republic and lived next to the Osbournes in Spain for a couple months. To say he was an interesting guy would be an understatement.

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But back to Prague. We started out by cutting through the massive Old Town Square to get the Jewish Town, one of the most vibrant and historically rich Jewish communities in Europe. Hitler wanted to preserve the area to turn it into a “museum of the dead”, but the Czech Jews have made it so much more. We bought a pass that gave us access to all of the synagogues (which we couldn’t take pictures of) and the Jewish cemetery. They were stunning examples of how beautiful a place can be despite all the tragedy that surrounds it, and you can see the spirit and resilience of the community. The cemetery, in particular, was shockingly aesthetically pleasing considering the fact that it contains 2,000 tombstones and 10,000 bodies. 

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We spent the rest of the day seeing the main hotspots, and while I could fill novels with cool things we saw, my favorite site was the Lennon Wall. Previously a normal wall, it has since become a graffiti-covered landmark after John Lennon’s death in 1980. Although people started off with Beatles-related lyrics and pictures, it now contains everything from signatures to “YOLO”.

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Some DIS friends I picked up along the way.

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Once the sun set and we started buying dinner and drinks, we were pleasantly surprised to see how inexpensive (apparently the Czechs don’t like calling their country “cheap”) everything was, at least compared to the US/Denmark. The conversion rate is approximately 18 Czech Koruna to 1 US dollar and if you’re anywhere but downtown, you can get a large meal with a beer (the best one being Gambrinus) for under 10 US dollars. One restaurant we went to even had entrees for 4 dollars! 

On day two, I met up with some of my DIS friends who were in Prague for the day through a school trip. I tagged along to their walking tour, which was a bit miserable due to the rain, wind, and my decision to wear shorts (note to self: ALWAYS check the weather in the morning). I did learn some interesting facts, like the fact that only 5% of the Czech population is religious, despite the fact that there are churches on every street corner. I also got to finally climb the enormous hill (seriously, touring this city was my workout of the year) to the Prague Castle that allowed me to see the view of the entire city, despite the grayness and grossness of the day. 

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That night, I took a cab up to a neighborhood in northeast Prague to visit my friends from school, James and Molly. Accompanied by some of their…interesting…friends, we took a tram back to the neighborhood my hostel was in to find a club called Bunker, which James described, and I’m paraphrasing, a “dubstep cave”. He mentioned it was a bit hidden and underground, but when we finally arrived at a giant rock covered with graffiti in the middle of a park and he announced that this was the infamous Bunker, I immediately understood what he meant. Unfortunately, it was closed so we headed a more swankier place called Akropolis. By “swankier”, I mean that this place (a) was an actual building and (b) displayed its name on the front. The place wasn’t too fancy and was rather empty, most likely because we were in a more residential area that probably doesn’t share our love for Thirsty Thursdays.

Everything was fine and good until I managed to end up in a fight with four guys who were all twice my size. At least, that’s one of many stories I’ve been telling people about how I ended up with a black eye that still hasn’t completely healed, nearly two weeks after I got it. What really happened was that as I left the bathroom and attempted to find my way back to where my friends were sitting, I turned a sharp corner and ran headfirst into a wall. You can’t see it too well with my glasses and the poor quality of my camera, but my left eye was basically closed for the next few days. As much as it sucked looking like a mugging victim in the rest of my trip pictures, I know that worse things could have happened and I’m glad they didn’t. Also, I’ve had fun emulating the Joker and telling a different story to everyone after growling “You want to know I got these scars?” 

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You know you’re in a great city when you have a fantastic time, despite atrocious weather and an embarrassing injury. I rank it as my third favorite location of my trip; the only reason it’s not closer to the top is because of how congested the touristy areas are. I would absolutely go back though…hopefully at a time when I can see the beautiful city with both of my eyes instead of just one. 

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About teecheng
Teach for China fellow in a small town called Hepingzhen, located in Shantou Prefecture of Guangdong Province. My interests change as quickly as China has in the past few decades, but I'm using this time to learn about education and the Middle Kingdom, explore my cultural heritage, and travel as much as possible. People say I have characteristics of both a middle-aged father and an 8-year-old boy.

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