As the snow slightly taps my train window and I stare out at the colorful houses, dark trees and dirty tracks, I try and take in everything that just happened in the past two or three days in Prague. It all happened so fast—a whirl of flights and trains and walking and beautiful cobblestone streets. A mixture of coffee and no sleep, of dancing and soaking in the young history of a city I knew nothing about. Kalina and I just left Prague and I can’t believe that my first city has already come and gone.
After missing the first two buses at the airport—they are extremely efficient and don’t wait for two tourists running towards them with backpacks— we made it into old town and walked through the streets not knowing which way to look. Up was beautiful statues resting nonchalantly on the corner of buildings or red roofs and colored walls ranging from yellow to purple to green. Down was cobblestone carefully laid together like a puzzle. To the left were shops and the right were more. I felt like we walked into a place that seemed familiar and strange all at the same time. We wandered around the outdoor markets and through the famous Christmas Market which had a huge christmas tree with a wooden manger and a guy that was charging money for pictures with doves on your head or hands. We bought a cinnamon role type thing that was made of dough roled out and strung around a pole that rested over a cole fire. The dough was taken off and dipped in butter and cinnamon and sugar and tasted of heaven. The outside was hard and the inside was gooey, a combination enough to make my mouth water right now as I write this. We eventually found our way to old town square where there is a huge astronomical clock—one of the biggest tourist attractions of Prague—as well as a grand church and another outdoor market. This one had my favorite christmas tree of all with huge branches strung with lights that looked like they were dripping.
At the clock, we were told to look for people in yellow jackets offering free walking tours, and we were not let down. Our tour guide’s name was Givi and he introduced himself to us and forty other ignorant people like us with a redbull in hand. I liked the way he walked, always moving his hands as if he was humming in his head and was in no hurry while the rest of us clueless tourists tried to keep up with him. The tour lasted over two hours and he taught us so much, though I am not sure how much of it is true or not. First we stopped at the Astronomical clock and learned about the puppets around the edge and the faces of the clock. There is a small sun and the moon on each of the hands, and they move back and forth throughout the year to represent the season. The background of the clock had different shades of blue to represent the time of day. Because we were visiting in January, the sun was on the far end of the hand so that it would be in the dark background of the clock the most. Givi also told us a myth about the clock maker. Apparently, the man who designed the clock was a genius and soon after it was erected it became a huge attraction for people to travel and visit all over Europe. Hence, it became a huge form of revenue for the town. The town rulers invited the clock maker to a party where they fed him drinks and then dragged him into a back room where they sliced his eyes and cut out his tongue. They wanted to make sure he would never be able to replicate the clock he made so that the one in Old Town would always be famous. For revenge, the clock maker had his two best pupils lead him up the tower and push him down into the clock workings so that his dead body stopped the clock and broke it. The clock was so complex that it could not be fixed for another forty years.
We also learned about the 30 years war and Kafka. We walked through the Old Jewish district where hitler was keeping a lot of Jews and conserving the place to keep as a museum of a past race. Kalina and I soaked in the sights and the history.
After the tour, we asked a lady to help guide us to a restaurant where the locals go and ended up at a place that started with a U and were content because we couldn’t read the menu which meant that it was not designed for Americans. The waiter helped us order and we got the countries ethnic dish of beef gulas and then a dish of roast beef. The beef was probably my favorite of the two. It came in a deep velvet brown sauce and was tender. It also had slices of what seemed like bread and tasted like motza balls and a creamy spinach in the middle like an island surrounded by the murky sauce. One bite with everything piled on was the perfect combination of chewy, salty, and squishy. The roast beef was good too, and came out looking extremely similar but with a lighter colored less dense sauce. The denseness was made up in the side that wasn’t bready, but rather seemed like slices of mashed potatoes pushed tightly together into bread form. Kalina had a beer, the most common in Prague, Plinksey*. I thought it tasted stronger than keystone light, it was better too, but I still wasn’t a huge fan.
When our stomachs were finally were satisfied, it was time to find the chocolate. We walked around for a little and went to this Chocolate store across from our place that had stacks of nicer (and more expensive chocolates) from around the world. I bought a dark chocolate made in Prague with pepper coated on the bottom. It was a risk, because Pepper and chocolate don’t seem to go well in my mind, but the lady recommended it and my goal is to try chocolates from all over Europe. We also went to a mini market, which I love the name of and they exist like gas stations all over Prague. Yet, this Mini Markets are filled with cookies and drinks with cannabis, though they claim on the back there is no THC included. They also have absinth and all sorts of junk food I have never seen before. We bought two more types of chocolate that were much cheaper and to be honest probably tasted better in the long run. We got a white chocolate wafer cookie type thing and an oreo cream filled chocolate bar that reminded me of the Willy Wonka factory. The Oreo was the best of the three probably because it had the most sugar and tasted like milk chocolate covered Oreos.
The next morning, we made ourselves get on the time of Prague and got up at around 8:30 to go see the John Lennon Wall. We walked over the Charles Bridge which was beautiful in a different way during the day time and made our way to the wall which was colored in beautiful graffiti. The wall is one of the things that started the Velvet Revolution—a peaceful march started by students in 1989 that eventually lead to 500,000 people marching and the resignation of the Communist leaders. Lennon inspired students to want a better world. One thing I loved about the wall is that it was a piece of history that was recetn and inspiring. I think it was John Lennon who has the quote about how the job of art is to inspire people—well his music did. Kalina and I signed the wall, too. There were lots of umbrella’s on the wall for the Umbrella revolution happening right now in Hong Kong.
We then walked up for a while to the Prague Castle where we waited in line forever to get tickets. At noon, we watched the traditional change of the guards and then we walked throught the St. Vitus Cathedral, the Old Palace Hall, and the Golden lane. Just like the walking tour, it is hard to soak in so much of the past when we are all stuck in the world we live in now. It was quite surreal seeing the details of the gothic church. I still can’t believe the architecure back then, but more than that, it is hard for me to understand the power of the religion. It inspired, it lead, it dominated and so many people dedicated and bent their life around it. The power of belief in something is amazing and hit me hard while we were walking around the cold stone church. Just like the belief we also saw resonating through the Lennon Wall.
After venturing to the Petrin tower and by a supermarket for dinner, we found our third chocolate bar to taste. It was a rich dark chocolate and we probably liked it because it was most similar to what we were used to. We made dinner and looked up some more of the history from the day and then went downstairs to have Gelato. I got the chocolate and every small spoonfull made me happy I came to Europe.
The action packed days and the history blow my mind, but what remains when I can’t process everything any further is the graffiti. It is everywhere and each time I see it I feel different. Sometimes I think it’s beautiful, like it adds personality to the city. A natural art form. Sometimes I think its ugly and reppelant. But that usually happened when I saw a cat with eyes crossed out or some other drawing that didn’t seem special.
I remember the hot wine. It was sold everywhere and was cheaper than tea. Or the Hot apple, which wasn’t apple cider but actual shredded apple heated up with water. I remember the buildings and the cobblestone streets that sometimes were wide and sometimes swirled to a small point at the end. And I remember the strange taste of smooth dark chocolate and pepper trying to find a balance on my taste buds.
Good Bye Prague. And that’s an Un-wrap.