Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Weekend in Czech

I came back from Paris on Tuesday evening, halfheartedly. I didn't want to come back. But I didn't want to stay in Paris either. I wanted to travel, far and wide. Who doesn't? My friends carried on to Rome. On Wednesday morning at work, it suddenly made no sense for me not to join my friends at Prague for the weekend. Within an hour, I booked my tickets and hostel for Saturday. See, you can just decide and fly out to a different country all together!

Cheap tickets come with their bane, the airport was in another city, no not city, it was in the middle of nowhere. It tougher to get to than to get to Prague. On Saturday I woke up at 3am and some 6 hours later I landed in Prague! From the airport to the city, I had to take a bus. I stepped into the bus and asked for a ticket to my destination. I realised for the first time in my life I was in a country of a completely foreign language without guidance. But it was not language that crippled me at that moment, but body language. He showed me a thumbs up. In India, the gesture is often used to mean a question, like what or where or why. I thought he was asking me where I wanted to go. I repeated my destination. He showed me a thumbs up again. I repeated. This went on for a few times. I was holding up passengers so I moved aside. An American walked up to him and asked him the same question and placed in front of him a note of 100 koronas. He showed her a thumbs and then a thumbs and the index finger. Then we understood. He counts on his fingers starting from his thumb! Nothing Czech about it though.

The hostel was a bright vibrant place where close to where everything is. However, my friends had seen a bit of Prague already and wanted to go to a place called Karlstejn where there was castle that my friend referred to as the Fairytale castle about 45 mins away from Prague.

The walk from the train station to the castle, crossing a bridge over still water in a valley next to a hill green with rich pasture and the still water reflecting every single detail every so perfectly was so beautiful I wish I could capture it all. Picture perfect! We walked up the castle hill and to the castle. There was no entry in unless you go as part of a guided tour.

A young and pretty Czech girl who knew just enough English to communicate clearly the facts of the tour walked us up to the castle door. She then opened the door with a set of keys, let us and shut the door behind us. She explained to us the map of the castle and how and what and why Charles the IV  built it. She then unlocked another room and took us in there making sure to lock it behind us. In the room we had a lovely woman dressed in traditional Czech clothes playing an flute and singing to us. We moved then from room to room with our guide unlocking and locking doors withe large set of keys she held taking us through the lives of the people who lived in that castle hundreds of years ago, with the preserved clothes, books and furniture. Fascinating experience, like as if someone was still living in that huge castle. On the way back, we stopped to grab a coffee at a cafe leaning on the hill side with nothing for the green trees to look into.

We came back to Prague and walked along the Vltava, past the Charles Bridge and sat down for some dinner by the river. The  river side was full of little restaurants cutely made up with flower pots everywhere.

Next day I convinced my friend to take a tour of the Prague Castle with the Sandeman's group. So tour we did. We went up to the castle stopping on the way at various points up the hill to glance back the city and look upon it like the Kings once did from their cosy bedroom chambers. We learned a lot about King Charles and his mixed roots that define Czech as a kingdom. We learned about its communist era. We learned a lot more about this glorious political leaders. We saw different kinds of architecture, the Roman Gothic and the Bohemian Baroque, a building with both that looks almost photoshopped.We saw the roman style of art on ceramic walls of houses depicting defenestration. We you do don't know what that means, click on it and look it up, it's hilarious!

We took a tram back from the castle to the city, walked on and stopped by at a cafe for coffee. The cafe was so pretty and had this amazing clockwork. Fascinating place Prague is I must say, everywhere you look you see something pretty. Then we walked to the old town square and saw the astronomical clock. By far the most fascinating thing I have seen. And when the hour struck, 4 status moved from left to right, the skeleton of death rang a bell, windows opened up to show four different statues one and a time moving to and away from the window which was pretty spooky. After the hour, a person (real one this time) popped into view at the top of the tower and blew a trumpet which was kind of funny actually.

Then we walked along to sit down at a restaurant and have some Czech food. I had potato soup in a bread bowl and medovino or honey-wine.  What a lovely day.

Now time to goof up. We took a tram to another part of the city which is known for it's many restaurants and vibrant life. If you kept track of time, you would know it was a Sunday. When we reached there, absolutely everything was shut and you could barely see anyone around. We got off the tram and started walking back past the many shut restaurant neon signs that give you a weird feeling. But one restaurant was open, so we popped in for a bit to have a small bite or dessert and fled back to civilisation as soon as we could.

Monday morning, I woke up again at 3, took a night tram and a night bus to the airport, flew back to UK, took a train to London and a tube to office, all the way wondering why I didn't stay back in beautiful Praha!

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