Hopefully you’re all familiar with the people on this interrail journey by now. The second stage of the journey was to take a train east through Germany to the Czech Republic and more specifically, Prague. Berlin had been great during our three day stay, but we were both excited to head to a new destination with some new scenery and new people. I’d heard mixed reviews about Prague, some say that it is a place that is steeped in history and culture, whereas others say it’s full of drunken Brits on stag do’s.
Our train journey took us through the East of Germany and into the city of Dresden, an old industrial town that was bombed heavily in the war. Being a Huddersfield Town fan, I’ll be heading over in 2017/18 to watch a Dynamo Dresden FC match, as one of their cult heroes plays for Huddersfield, but anyway enough of that. As we departed south easterly towards Prague you are really in some of the most picturesque parts of not just Europe but the world. The train runs through Forests, alongside the Elbe river and even through some of the small hamlet towns of south east Germany, this journey is one that I would recommend for anyone, not just rail enthusiasts!
We arrived in Prague at around 3pm and one thing that was noticeable is just how warm the place is in the height of summer, 26 degrees is hot for a pale Englishman! It was unexpected, and a word of warning is needed for those who travel there to take sun cream and drink plenty of water. After arriving in Prague, we walked around trying to find our hostels and it became apparent that my B grade is GCSE Geography wasn’t really going to be useful, nor was google maps, due to the astronomical service charges that were charged. Firstly, we encountered somewhat of a main street at the ‘top of Prague’ if that’s what you can call it. Little did I know, that this was Wencelas Square, one of the busiest places in Prague. At the top of the square, there is a large building that towers over and architecturally it is fantastic, little did we know that inside this building stands the national museum of Prague with some of the grandest Czech history. Just below, stands a monument which was erected between 1897-1924 and it represents the Duke of Bohemia who defeated the Duke of Kurim in the early 10th century to rebel against the government. Finally, we took the customary photo of the monument and tried to find our digs for the evening.
Another issue we had trying to find our accommodation in Prague was that the public transport was all in Czech, when I’d travelled internationally previously, many of the airports and hubs for transport had English as there second language. Truthfully it was a struggle for both of us trying to navigate, plus, there was no tourist information site to get a map to even try navigate. Locals also told us the taxis were quite expensive near the train station so we decided against this. If you do travel to Prague, it may be a good idea to have a local map in hand or an idea where you are staying before you leave to save time and money. Fortunately for us, we bumped into a couple of Aussie’s who were heading to the same hostel and we tagged along until we reached our destination.
Upon our arrival, we were checked in quickly by the staff and dropped our bags off in the 34-man dormitory we would call home for the next three days. Now, I know some of you will be a little put off by staying in a room with 32 strangers, however, for £6.94 a night, it was comfortable and clean. Furthermore, an all you can eat breakfast was available for 150 Koruna (about £5) plus there was happy ‘hour’ between 6-8 on an evening. Obviously, there are more upmarket places to stay, but if you are travelling this place is great for anyone between 18-30 and a link can be found here.
During our first night in Prague, we headed down for a few pints of Krusowice (A famous Czech Lager) in the hostel bar and had some conversation with three Peruvian girls; Sam, Ivette, and Mala. After a few drinks in the bar, we jumped on the tram towards the centre of Prague, jumped off after one stop and then down to the underground. The trams were some retro 1950’s Russian trams from the communist days, however, they and the underground ran like clockwork until the early hours of the morning. After departing the underground, we walked towards the old town square. This place, under the moonlight, is my favourite place I have ever been. There was a genuine buzz around the place with live music, multiple bars, and restaurants as well as the amazing architecture on display. We were lucky enough to get a rendition of bamboleo by a group of Spanish travellers, who were busking their way round Europe. It was one of the highlights of the trip. The girls loved it as Spanish is their native tongue and as they say in South America, the hips don’t lie!
During our second day, we absorbed a lot of the culture in and around the old town. Having previously never visited Prague, I didn’t have it as one of the top cultural hotspots of in Europe but I admit, that was a big mistake. Firstly, we walked over Charles Bridge which crosses the river towards Prague Castle. The bridge was constructed in 1357 and is entirely cobbled, furthermore, there are gothic statues running on each side of the bridge, and lookout towers at the end of the bridge which stand tall above. For anyone interested in gothic culture, like my parents, who regularly attend gothic festivals, this bridge is the be all and end all of it. There’s nothing more fascinating than a marvellous structure that was built so eloquently so many years ago. Following our time on Charles Bridge and taking in the surroundings, we then climbed what seemed 1000 stairs to reach Prague Castle.
From afar, you can see a wonderful exterior of green spires and sandstone which stand out at the top of the old town. The castle houses the crown jewels of Bohemia, and has multiple out buildings that are possible to enter. Admission prices are reasonable for such a magnificent structure steeped in so much history and it is well worth the fee to enter. Once you enter the castle, you are immediately taken aback by the height and depth of the pillars as well as the magnitude of work that has gone into each stain glass window.
The weather was glorious on the day we visited, and the windows oozed colour as the sunlight shone through, it really was a beautiful sight. Following our visit through the castle, we then visited the multiple outbuildings that surrounded the castle, in which past members of the royal family had inhabited. Opportunities to visit the; Vladislav Hall, The Bascillia of St George, Kohl’s Fountain and The Statue Of St George also presented themselves as they were all in and around the surrounding area.
After our exploration of Prague Castle and the other attractions nearby, we headed to a shop to get some more water and refreshments as it was a beautiful summers day. The scenery that; Myself, Haribo, Anchal, Dave and Alice (Anchal’s BMFL) witnessed was truly mesmerising. Pictures don’t do it justice although I had to take about 100. For miles, you can see red slate that covered the old town as well as the river running under Charles Bridge as well as other magnificent buildings scattered throughout the skyline.
After our excursion to the castle, we hired a pedalo and casually pedalled up and down the river for the next couple of hours with the sun setting over Prague Castle. I can honestly say, these were probably the best times of the trip, we were in a fantastic city full of culture with fantastic company.
That evening, we were recommended to visit a bar named Vzorkovna by a barmaid in the hostel. We were told that the bar was probably the closest thing that we would get to a real ‘Czech’ night out. The bars don’t stay open extremely late in Prague, so options are limited if you want to party until the early hours. However there is an alternative which we visited the day after named Karlovy Lazne, a five-story club which is very commercial. Upon our arrival into the bar it was apparent that the place was a bit of a maze, it had multiple rooms and each room had a different genre of music. We decided to chill in one of the rooms where a live act was playing. The band, were of Romany Gypsy descent and their music was very relaxing. As we jammed to the tunes, we were confronted by one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen in a nightclub. A huge and I mean huge Irish Wolfhound trundled through the door and if you don’t believe me, just look at the picture of Alice petting him below! The final part of the night proceeded and the drinks were well and truly flowing, it had been a great night and to top it all off one of the members of the band proceeded to put on one amazing show. I don’t want to say too much, because this is a must see if you’re on the wild side, however four words sum the whole thing up beautifully. Fire, Blindfold, more fire.
During our final day in Prague, we headed back to the old town because of its vibrancy and landmarks. We visited the Lennon wall, which is a wall that has been inspired by the music and life of John Lennon. The wall is owned by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, which allowed the graffiti to continue on the wall, and is located at the grand priory square. Candles and flowers were laid on the floor near the wall in tribute to those who lost their lives in the Paris terrorist attacks. This gave us time to reflect on how fortunate we were to be safe, travelling in Europe with no visa, with people from all over the world. It was quite fitting, that one of the images that stuck in my head was the total opposite of what the wall stood for.
For me, Prague is a wonderful city. It isn’t too big and easily accessible by foot, tram and underground. The prices of food and drink is relatively cheap in comparison to the other places that we visited and I will be returning in the future!