Sitting on a cornflake Sunday, Jul 12 2009 

Saturday morning I think we did the best at waking up and getting around. We didn’t have any definite plans so we were a bit more relaxed and able to take our time getting ready before heading out to our last day in Prague.

After breakfast we made a short list of the things we wanted to see in Prague before leaving. Re-visiting the Prague gardens around the castle, the John Lennon wall and the Petrin Tower were all on the list. By consulting the map we decided to start with the wall and then visit the other sites. We were a little off in how far the wall was from the Metro stop so we actually started at the gardens. They were beautiful and we took about 60 more pictures of the same view of the city. Granted, it is a beautiful view of a beautiful city but I think we just might have a few too many pictures (I’ll have some up as soon as I get home!). The gardens were so pretty and really fun to explore, but the Czech weather got the better of us and it started to rain after about 45 minutes. This time we only had 2 umbrellas so we left pretty quick. Czech weather is pretty tricky and by the time we made it down the hill to the street the rain had stopped.

Prague Castle sitting on top of the hill overlooking the city.

Prague Castle sitting on top of the hill overlooking the city.

The view of the city from Prague Castle.

The view of the city from Prague Castle.

Since we were pretty close we went to the Lennon wall. I had seen a little picture in the guide book and immediately decided I had to see it. The wall is a continually changing memorial to John Lennon and the Beatles and the impact/change they had on the world. After Lennon’s assassination, Czech citizens began leaving favorite quotes and other tributes on the wall. Today it is still possible to visit the wall and write something special to you. Seeing that wall was my favorite part of Prague and I never cease to be amazed by the impact those men had on the world. Their songs were a little glimmer of hope in a very scary and dark time. They were so diverse in their music and managed to touch so many people in so many countries in so many generations all over the world. It’s amazing to me.

One of the many elaborate tributes to the Beatles on the Lennon Wall.

One of the many elaborate tributes to the Beatles on the Lennon Wall.

I left my mark on Prague.

I left my mark on Prague.

When we left the wall we went to find some lunch. Choosing an eating place is always a little tricky because we all have different wants in a restaurant. We finally found one and all had goulash… again. It was good as usual but it was still goulash. From lunch we went on to Henry’s Bell Tower, the last major Prague monument to see (other than Petrin Tower, which we skipped because of the rain)  but it wasn’t really anything special. The best part of the bell tower was it’s proximity to our apartment so it was easy to hop on the tram and go home for a bit. Jaclyn, Katie and Andres ran to the grocery store for a few things while Sarah and I just chilled in the apartment and did some packing before dinner.

The others came back and we all headed out for dinner. Because the Czech food is pretty heavy and we’d been having a lot of it we decided to go to a pizza place pretty close to the apartment and we were all glad we did. The pizza was delicious, I got jalapenos on mine and it was amazing, I’ve really been missing spicy food! The others all got genuine Budweiser beer, which actually originated in the Czech Republic. I never knew that it wasn’t an American beer, I guess you learn something new every day.

Originally we’d planned on going out for our last night in Prague but instead we decided to stay in and hang-out because we didn’t want to risk missing our flight in the morning. We all just drank some wine and goofed around, definitely having a good time. Prague has been a blast and I’m a little sad to leave but Ireland is going to be just as much fun!

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Have you seen snow? It’s white Friday, Jul 10 2009 

Friday morning we all managed to wake up at a decent hour despite hitting snooze about 30 times. We’d decided to go on “The Ultimate Tour of Prague” we’d seen in a pamphlet so we ate breakfast really quick and set off.

The tour met in King Wenceslas Square and the ticket man was very impressed with Andres for traveling with 4 girls alone. We all just laughed because he’s been getting that a lot. The tour was totally worth the money and we got it at half price! Our guide was incredible and he really knew his stuff about Prague, but then again he was a native Czech. I loved seeing all the architecture and learning all the history. I now know why it was called the Velvet Revolution again the Communists (because it went smoothly and no blood was shed) and why the metronome is on such a giant platform (it used to be the site of the world’s largest statue of Stalin before it was torn down after he was declared a war criminal). Every day I’m hear I just learn more about this city and love it a little more. The tour included a boat tour on the Volta River and a traditional Czech meal, as well as seeing the Prague Castle from the outside. We didn’t get to go in the castle but we got to go in the chapel and I think it easily rivals many of the ones we saw in France. Because it took over 600 years to build (thanks to a long break during the switch from Catholicism to Protestantism) it has many modern touches from the 1920s when it was completed, including Art Deco stained glass windows.

After the tour we came back to the apartment to relax for a little bit before going on the Ghost Tour that was included with our ticket for the Ultimate. As great as the Ultimate was is as horrible as the Ghost tour was. Our guide was a moron and couldn’t tell a single story without making all of us bust out laughing. Everywhere we went she stammered and stalled, attempting to make the stories longer, we soon realized this was so her accomplice could change into costume to jump out and scare us. I swear at one point we were standing in a passage way and she was describing the “cold, dark winter” to us and asked us if we’d ever seen snow and when the Australians in the group said only in movies she told them it was white. Gee really?

The tour lasted an hour, thank goodness, because any longer would have killed us and then we would have started haunting Prague. Afterwards we found a nice little pub/restaurant for dinner and really enjoyed the meal. Czech food is definitely growing on me but it’s definitely a heavy cuisine. When we left the pub, in the rain again, we just came back to the apartment. Katie was really disappointed in the Ghost tour so we decided to tell our own ghost stories. Luckily for me, so many years of camp as a child has left me with a ton. We all had a great time, except Jaclyn, who got a little overly scared but fell asleep pretty soon so it was okay. At first Sarah was worried because she’s always hated ghost stories but quickly realized she’s not as scared at 21 as she was at 12. That was a relief. We all had a good time and some good laughs before calling it a night. I hope no one has nightmares!

5 people+3 umbrellas=a wet evening Thursday, Jul 9 2009 

Thursday the gang woke up… eventually to our first day in Prague. I guess the lack of sleep finally caught up with all of us and the super good blackout curtains in the apartment didn’t help, but we all slept into the afternoon. It was lovely.

When we finally all got up and got around we made our lunch in the apartment before heading out to explore the city. Our first stop was Old Town Square. There we saw Prague’s Astronomical Clock, a very elaborate contraption that can tell you the time of day along with about 30 other things, I’m pretty sure it could even take your temperature. Everywhere we looked we could see the beautiful, classic Czech architecture. I don’t think I could ever get tired of seeing these buildings that are centuries old.

One of the many ancient cathedrales in Prague. The city is full of architecutre just like this.

One of the many ancient cathedrales in Prague. The city is full of architecutre just like this.13th century architecture really made me realize just how young the States are and how new all our architecture is compared to everything in Europe.

While we were wandering around the Square we saw St. Nicholas’ Church and found out there was a concert starting in less than an hour. It was really cheap (like everything here) and it was a trio playing some very famous classical pieces, plus it was the only way to get in the church. We bought our tickets and couldn’t have been happier that we did. The group was amazing and the church was beautiful! Classical music is always impressive and these people really had talent. It was really great to hear the music in one of the oldest, most well-known musical cities in the world, the Mozart piece we heard was written right in Prague!

After our concert we wandered across the river to see what we could see. Somehow we wandered into an old garden and found some weird things. Right off the bat we saw an albino peacock, something I’ve only see pictures of. What really made it annoying was that it kept screaming, I hate when peacocks scream, that was the only bad part about staying the night at my grandparents’ when I was little, the neighbors’ screaming peacocks terrified me. The garden also had a really strange artificial dripstone wall. The king at the time (sorry, I don’t remember who exactly) wanted a wall that would be intimidating and terrifying. I think he succeeded a little.

The albino peacock in the gardens. I never would have imagined these birds could be just as beautiful without their colors.

The albino peacock in the gardens. I never would have imagined these birds could be just as beautiful without their colors.

The dripstone wall from the view of Prague Castle.

The dripstone wall from the view of Prague Castle.

Eventually though we were pretty hungry and it was starting to sprinkle so we set off in search of somewhere to eat. We remembered how to get to the restaurant Keegan took us to the night before so we got on the Metro and headed there. Like I said, it was sprinkling when we got on the Metro but when we got off it was POURING. We waited in the station for 20 minutes waiting for the rain to let up. It eventually did but we still got all wet because only Jaclyn, Sarah and I had umbrellas. Oops.

We found a great little Czech restaurant in the same neighborhood and had another wonderful meal. It’s so strange going from the pretty light, summery food in Paris to the heavy, stick-to-your-ribs Czech food. It’s wonderful but I don’t think I could eat it for a prolonged period of time. After our dinner we decided to head home because despite the late wake-up we were getting tired. I think we’ll be tired from this trip for the rest of our lives. Andres really wanted to take the trams so we gave it a try. We managed to take one to a good stop but from there we got confused so we hopped on the Metro instead. The Czech is starting to get to us because we really are walking around this city blind. It’ll be a strange feeling getting back to an English-speaking nation. Overall though I’d say Prague is pretty amazing and I’m really looking forward to the next few days!

Dumplings and goulash and whipped cream, oh my! Thursday, Jul 9 2009 

Wednesday morning Jaclyn and I woke up bright and early to meet Katie, Andres and Sarah to continue on our journey through Europe. Our flight left at 9:20 AM so we needed to be at the airport by 7:20, that was fun. The flight wasn’t too bad, Andres got a little motion sick but not horribly so and we didn’t even have to go through customs when we landed. That made me a little sad because I was wanting another stamp in my passport.

We got transport tickets and found the bus that would take  us into the city to their Metro system to get to our hostel/apartment. On the scale of Metros/underground travel I would rank Prague’s above London’s Tube but a little below the Paris Metro. It must be really deep underground though because the escalators in and out are ridiculous. I’m pretty sure they’re at such a steep grade that no vehicle could make it up and they have to be at least 3 stories and go crazy fast. It was interesting.

When we left the station we found our hostel pretty easily and got checked in. It’s by far the nicest accommodations we’ve had here. It’s more like a small apartment, with two bedrooms with beds for each of us, a bathroom with a shower and a small kitchenette. We were stoked. After unloading our bags we decided to go find lunch and to stop by the small grocery store we noticed along the way to get some food for the rest of the week. Grocery shopping in a foreign country where you have absolutely no grasp on the language is entertaining to say the least. We relied on pictures and basic recognition to make it through but I think we did fine.

By the time we got back to the apartment after shopping, mine and Katie’s friend Keegan, who is studying in Prague for about as long as we were in Paris, was out of class so we gave her a call. She told us she would take us to a traditional Czech pub where we could get good food and then she would show us some fun night activities for the rest of the trip. The dinner was incredible! Keegan doesn’t speak Czech either but way more people here speak English than in Paris so we were fine. We all had goulash, which was really rich gravy with cooked beef, and it came with flour dumplings on the side. The only strange thing was that the beef was topped with whipped cream. I wasn’t so sure about that but it ended up being really really good.

The pub was right down the street from Keegan’s apartment so after eating we went there to meet her roommates. They were super nice too and decided to come out with us for the evening. Keegan and Brooke knew of a really cool club right along the Volga river by the Charles Bridge. This bridge has been around since the 14th century, much like most of the city and the architecture. Even in the dark we could tell just how amazingly beautiful the ancient architecture is. I can’t wait to see more in the daylight!

Keegan ended up showing us two clubs and both were really fun. Between the two we got fried cheese sandwiches, which are apparently a Prague specialty. Just imagine mozzarella sticks on a bun. Catching up with Keegan was a blast, I hadn’t talked to her since school got out and we typically worked together several times a week so we had a lot to chat about. It’s too bad she won’t be around the rest of the week to show us more of the city but she’s taking a trip to Hungary, lucky brat!

So far I’ve got a good internet connection here so I’m going to try to keep up the blog. Because I’m using Sarah’s computer though I can’t upload photos. I promise to get those up once I get home though!

Paris was so sad to see us go she cried…again Tuesday, Jul 7 2009 

Tuesday Jaclyn got up to go in to IES to take her last final and I got around to go in to the final picnic they were providing.

Lunch was a blast, it was a great way for everyone to chat and discuss plans for the last night in Paris. Afterwards we all did a little bit of last minute shopping and then we headed home to do last minute packing. Katie came over with her suitcase because she’s leaving it at our apartent while we travel because her family is going on vacation too.

The grand plan of the night was to have a final picnic at the Eiffel Tower with everyone but the weather did not cooperate. It rained off and on all afternoon/night so we decided to go to a nearby fondue restaurant instead. It was the best decision yet! The food was delicious and we all had a blast! There were 8 of us there and it was amazing! I was the only one that had been to a fondue place before (thanks Tom & Deb) so I guess that made me the resident expert. I tried not to screw it up too hard.

After the fondue place, the gang headed to the Bastille to meet Meaghan, Emma and Harrison for one last hoorah. We all went back to the Indian restaurant we visited a few weeks ago and had one last round of drinks and chats together before saying good-byes. It was a little difficult, I’m not going to lie. It’s going to be so strange not to see the same people all day every day for the rest of the summer. At least I’ve got an extra week of travel with some of them to help soften the blow.

On that note, the rest of the updates are going to be few and far between, if they happe at all. Katie, Andres, Jaclyn, Sarah and I leave bright and early in the morning to head to Prague and after that it’s on to Ireland. I’m hoping we’ll have computers with internet at the hostels so I can update the blog but if not I promise to do retrograde posts when I get back to the States. Thanks for following along with me through Paris and I hope everyone enjoyed reading this as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it!