Sunday, October 19, 2008

Praha pirahnas.

Oh Prague.

How do I begin?

We started our journey on Wednesday afternoon to arrive at the Dublin airport at 11 pm for a 7 am flight because the first bus into the Dublin airport is at 7 am. And let me tell you, the phrase "this is a security warning. Do not leave your bags unattended. Unattended bags will be seized and may be destroyed" will haunt my dreams.

The Dublin airport at night is like a battlefield littered with the bodies of the casualties of inefficient planning and/or transportation systems. And in the true anarchical style of a battlefield, the hierarchy of comfy sleeping spots is based on time and experience. Though, it does depress me to see a 50+ year old man who is so used to traveling for business that he knows to bring a sleeping bag with him to the airport so he can hang his coat and shoes over the back of the chair that he has staked out since 9 pm. And the victorious authority stomps through the field in their garish vests and Doc Martins demanding passports of the huddled masses who are only desperate for sleep. And those Starbucks workers who can weasel bits of power for themselves abuse it and lord it over us lowly homeless. I mean, since when does he get to decide that everyone has to wake up at 4 am?

By the time we could check in and go through security, I almost understood the stupidity of whoever tried to bring the half-full bottle of Jack Daniels that was sitting on top of the security x-ray machine. I mean really, did they think they could get that through? And yet, and yet...

By the time our plane took off for Prague, we had been traveling for 12 hours, and had slept for a sporadic 3. Little did we know that this would be a pattern for the weekend.

Day 1 was spent checking into our quintessential YOUTH hostel, getting our bearings, eating and napping.
Night 1 consisted of learning the extent of the quintessentialness of said YOUTH hostel which put on a pub crawl. Imagine a group of youth travelers, mostly Australian and American (including Canadian) carousing through the streets of Prague under the direction of the hostel's management, who were of the exact same mind. Let's just say that the description of what the pub crawl's cost included the word "unlimited."

And oh the stars did converge and conspire against me that night.
Mostly, I blame Absinthe, which is a fascination for many, even a "jaded" bartender like myself who hates licorice and only tasted it for the shock value.

For Prague, I can say this: considering how absolutely awful I felt the next day, and I'm talking full-day recovery feeling sick, tired, mortified (the last mainly when I realized how much the taxi driver had charged me/ripped me off) and just generally shitty, I still loved Prague.

We spent Day 2 seeing the city, and literally traveling. We walked. A lot.
The girls I traveled with were all nice, but I do believe that a big part of the experience depends on who you are with. Lets put it this way: without any self-pity, I was always the one on the far side of the picture. We were all just different kinds of people and travel differently. We saw everything on the Prague to-do list, but it was in a markedly different way than I would have under other circumstances. For example, I'm not big on shopping and spending money, but we stopped at -literally- every store that sold pashminas. By the end of the 2nd day we knew which stores had the cheapest ones. And by the end of our last day there, the shopkeepers were saying "oh! back again?!" I mean, between 6 girls we bought 59 pashminas. (I did not buy 59 pashminas, I bought significantly less. I didn't even buy the average 9.83 pashminas. But I did contribute to the number...) An experience I never thought I'd have, but I did. And it was fun.

But it was fantastic traveling in Prague with them because they have friends studying in Prague, and as a group we had a fantastic time going out at night.
Prague nightlife is amazing, even when you decide that it's going to be significantly more tame than your first night there was. I think at one point the plan was to stay up to see the sunrise over the Charles Bridge on Sunday night, but we accidentally almost did that on Saturday night instead when one girl (who had to leave a day early) looked at her watch and went "hey, guys, can we go now? It's like 5 am, and I have to be at the airport in 2 hours."

We never actually saw the sunrise in Prague, that'll be on my list for next time I'm in Prague (because I am definitely going back.)

On our final day, we realized that we'd already covered all the big Prague things: the castle, the cathedral, a couple of old famous squares, the Charles bridge, the big tower, eaten a sausage from a sausage cart, bought pashminas, etc. All that was left was the Jewish cemetery (which was closed because it was Sunday), a little craft market and the Communist museum. Which, by the way, the Communist museum, though fascinating, seemed to be sending mixed messages to my sleep-deprived brain. Pro-communist propaganda from back in the day sat alongside descriptions and explanations that had a very blatantly anti-communist slant. But the poster was of one of those nesting dolls, except it has fangs, which is just awesome!

Dinner was... well, hilarious. First we went to this place where the waiter was so outright rude and hostile, that we got up an left right after he took our order. But then we ended up in it's polar opposite where all the wait staff joked with us and teased us in a friendly way, calling us their "angels" and bringing us complementary appetizers. At one point I asked for ketchup for my fries and they brought me mustard, which I meekly accepted until one of the other girls, called the waiter over and asked for the "red one." So he brought over Tabasco sauce. Finally, with most of the wait staff and some of the kitchen staff poking their heads around the corner and trying to stifle giggles, he triumphantly brought over a dinner plate with a small dollop of ketchup in the middle. Oh they were so nice.

It was interesting going to a country that I knew next to nothing about (except that it is "an amazing city" which everyone seems to have to say when they refer to Prague). I had few expectations, and had no idea what I wanted to see. But with everything bad that happened, over spending, horrible hangovers, I still loved Prague. I still had a fantastic time. And I want to go back. Well, really I need to go back now that I know what I really want to do and see and how I want to experience the city. It was an amazing city.

And coming from me? That's saying something.


The Monster said...

"the red one!" heehee!
so it everything they say it is? in the good or bad way.
and what are pashminas? im lost here...

Beverly said...

Cool story. Were you describing the airport or a train station? I remember train stations being really shady sometimes when my family traveled through Europe. In Brussels, Belgium my brother almost got beat-up by a druggie... freaky. Yeah, what are pashminas :)? Some sort of garment? I hope someday you Laurel, Carrie, and I can rummage around the world crazy girl style :)))!

Magpie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Magpie said...

oh! pashminas are like big scarves. They're sorta rectangular and really soft and usually have fringe. kinda shawl-y scarves.
In the states they can be up to like $70, but in Prague they were like $10. so OF COURSE we had to go to EVERY STORE that sold pashminas.

I only know this because of Prague and because of an episode of Friends.