Thursday, September 24, 2009

Europe, part III

13 September 2009
Prague, 9.45pm

Have had what seems like a full/empty day. We started off by leaving the excellent Happy Hostel with our luggage and directions for the very easy tram #18 to the Suedbahnhof. Then spent an hour dragging suitcases glumly around the gardens of the Belvedere Palace. They were BEAUTIFUL, which slightly lightened our glumness, but we were both tired; Katie coming down with a cold and I on the last stretch of one; hungry and, in Katie’s case, caffeine-deprived.

After having lunch (and coffee), and stocking up on provisions (= chocolate), we felt much better, and went to get on our train – this time in the right carriage, on the right seats.

It was a longer trip this time (12.58-17.18). The Austrian part was very quick, but soon after getting into the Czech Republic we went winding through a valley that seemed to last almost all the way to Prague and slowed us down a lot. Not that that was a bad thing! Definitely the most scenic train ride yet. It was also interesting seeing a well-paved bicycle track running along by the train and river sometimes, and people biking or skating along it. Two German girls at the hostel had biked all the way to Prague two days ago, so it must be reasonably well-known.

The area of the hostel was reasonably easy to find; we had to take the metro (I ordered tickets in a very broken Czech – “dva - Muzeum”). But then finding the right street was a bit of a mission, and then we had to wait at two locked doors until someone came out, because the buzzer wasn’t working. Finally, at the hostel door, a very unfriendly receptionist who had no idea we were arriving and a grim, stale-with-cigarette-air room greeted us. Luckily the receptionist lightened up and our actual bedroom was not smelly! Still, this is definitely the least pleasant hostel so far. Which increases the hilariousness of the fact that Katie arranged for our opera tickets to be sent here tonight—according to her booking confirmation, “we will deliver the tickets on the evening before the performance to the concierge of your hotel…” :)

We left the hostel as soon as we could, unsurprisingly, to get dinner, and chose, for the funniness of it, a restaurant called “Typical Czech Restaurant”. For the first time, we had a truly helpful and nice waiter who didn’t make us feel stupid. I’ve never even heard of Czech cuisine before, but Katie had potato pancakes with cabbage and bacon, and I had a spicy Czech goulash. It was DELICIOUS. A very good culinary experience, in short – and culinary experiences tend to be the high points when I travel! Prague is starting to look more promising.

The only thing I feel I need to do now is to learn a few Czech phrases. We have felt so imperialist since we arrived in Europe, assuming we can just get by on English. I actually did okay in Vienna with my very very basic German, to the point where I could order food, say ‘excuse me’, ‘thank you’, etc – and for the majority of the time, I didn’t NEED to assume English knowledge, which was great. But in Hungary, and now in Prague, where the most I can conjure up is a ‘thank you’, I feel so rude!

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