Czeching Out Prague

The train from Olomouc took a couple hours but before long I had arrived.  Unfortunately, it was to some obscure little station not at all near where I wanted to be.  It wasn’t so well serviced, so I had to march a couple kilometers through a massive park.  I spotted a tram halfway there, and was able to nab a lift the rest of the way.  The view of the bridge was nice.

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I planned on doing nothing that night except for joining an Olomouc acquaintance for dinner.  She was a part of Team Pasta at the last hostel and we decided to go in on something again.  The supermarket was just down the road, and we grabbed whatever looked good.  Back in the hostel kitchen we crafted a rice and egg omelette that genuinely tasted awful.  Buying the lowest quality rice had everything to do with that.  We carried on talking for a while before heading to bed.

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When I woke up, my plan was to walk around the city.  I thought I would divide it across two days – one in the castle area and another the old town.  This proved unnecessary though, since I tend to cover ground a little quicker these days.  Sure, I could spend my time and money going into every nook of the cathedrals and museums, but the amount of new information and appreciation I would get for that investment is very slim.  As a result, I was able to ingest the town’s sights a bit quicker than initially expected.  The view from the castle out over the rest of the town.

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I started off at the castle complex, which is one of – if not the – largest in all of Europe.  Most of it was just connected buildings, and not so beautiful, but it did have an impressive cathedral within the walls.  I did go in as far as free would let me, which was more than enough to appreciate the both the volume of the space and beauty of the stained glass windows.

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At the front gates of the complex were guards and at the top of every hour they were relieved.  I stood by to watch this ceremony, one of many that I have witnessed this trip.  The way that the incoming replacements marched up was pretty cool.

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As I walked down to the rest of the city, there were a number of street artists.  Most of them all do the same things but one caught my eye by blowing massive bubbles.  He wasn’t the only guy doing this, just the first one I came across.  The photogenic nature of large bubbles captured the audience, not so much his talents.

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One other cool stop was the Lennon Wall, which has long stood for… something.  It is a large section of continuously evolving graffiti.  A minute on Google would explain why John Lennon is tied to this thing, but I’ve not yet done the research.  Feel free.

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I also found one of the most fantastic statues to have ever been placed on this planet.  I had to pause and ponder the muse of the artist who crafted it.  A picture doesn’t do it justice so…

From there I crossed the Charles Bridge, which is famous for its stone arches and also for being old.  Lots of tourists cross the river at this point so it is packed with the expected crap peddlers, and oddly enough portrait artists.

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On the other side of the river, a few more cathedrals were waiting for me.  Before I got there though, I mixed it up a bit by making a detour through the old Jewish quarter.  This had a number of synagogues, a museum, and also an old Jewish cemetery.  The cost of entrance to these was extortionate, but after coming from Krakow my interest only existed as far as the burial plots.  I sacrificed the expensive walk through the dense maze of tombstones and instead just climbed a wall with a good enough view of them.  Something about charging 15 dollars just to see where the dead are buried feels wrong.

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In the main square I found and ignored all of the expected food stalls offering the ‘traditional’ fare, instead opting to hunger for a concoction made by my own hand.  The cathedrals here have a style unique to the Bohemian region and these differences are most noticeable in the roofline – just look at those mini spires hanging off the main one.

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On the way to the tram line I stumbled upon some Irish guy doing a street performance.  He didn’t really have a single talent but rather did a bunch of different tricks.  The comedy element to his routine was anything but, and despite the decent crowd present not many seemed impressed; he had to demand our applause constantly.  His jokes were either crude or poorly delivered, and generally left the crowd unsure about how to respond.  Don’t tell me that your parents hate you, and then pause as if expecting some sort of response.  Anyway, I moved on after a few minutes of the drudgery.

Back at the hostel, I returned to the supermarket to see what might suit my fancy.  I decided to go for a steak, some peppers, and a large piece of flat bread to carve out and shove it all in.  Paired with a beer, it represented a perfect meal.  I took the rest of the evening to relax and chat with some fellow travelers.

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Despite the ranting and raving of other travelers for Prague, I was left genuinely unimpressed.  I didn’t feel at all like it had the historical significance, culture or beauty to justify the droves of tourists visiting there.  Sometimes it seemed as if tourists were the only people that I shared the streets with.  I’m guessing that it is about as far into Eastern Europe as most people feel comfortable with, and though it wasn’t a bad place I found it somewhat overrated.  In general, if you are walking alongside Asian tour groups, you are not ‘traveling’ and need to get out of there just as soon has you have gotten your sights seen.

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