First off, what day 12?! Where has time gone… And really I’m on day 13 as I write this (always a day delay to make sure I get to tell about the WHOLE day).
Well, I woke up at my hostel… Probably woke up more throughout the night than I liked… Not sure what some hostelers were thinking coming into the bedrooms talking up a storm and then shuffling through their bags for half an hour. Regardless, I got up early and handed in my keys. Yup, I handed in my keys after only one night because a professor at a university offered to host me at his house. Now, this was a nerve wrecking thought because I don’t know him and was just showing up to a random train stop to meet and then walk to his place. But I figured with all his references online that i would be safe. More about that later though.
I love coffee and I had to go find some. So as I walk out of my hostel I decided to go up the hill rather than down. I ended up at the vey top at the Prague Castle where STARBUCKS appeared. Now I know that Europeans have very good coffee, so I don’t know why they ruin their landscape with a Starbucks at the top… But hey, I decided to go in… And then I got kicked out because it wasn’t open yet.
The great part about waking up early is that I can see so much of the city without tourists, in the quite, while the sun in rising. The unfortunate part is that you get kicked out of a lot of places because they aren’t open yet.
So I enjoyed the castle, in peace, without coffee. It’s really a gorgeous place, almost like its own city on the top of a hill. Of course it was used as a look out station during times of war (because it’s super old) so they in fact had reason to have a community above the rest of Prague. While I was walking I saw the changing of guards!! I heard 3 soldiers marching down the hill behind me and at the next post relieving the soldiers. I’m not sure that the soldiers were used to being filmed because when they saw me they said something to one another and had a quirky smile like “Oh, look! We’re getting video taped but were not allowed to smile on duty!”
At the bottom of the hill I decided to walk toward old town Prague across the river, still on a conquest for coffee. I for some reason can’t let go of my old habit of finding the best deal… So finally I found a macchiato for about $1.50. While I drank my coffee I waited in the square next to the Astronomical Clock. The clock is the oldest running clock with its original mechanisms and that’s pretty amazing. I was told by a tour guide that I should wait in the square until 10am at which time the clock would have a puppet show! It has one on the hour every hour from 9am till maybe 11pm.
To see that clock come alive was great. People say it’s overrated but that’s because they’ve hyped it up for themselves and we’re probably expecting something stupidly awe-inspiring to happen. Well the clock came alive with the skeleton figurine adornment pulling a string that made the bell ring. The skeleton represents death and when he rings the bell it’s a sign that death is upon us. The other figurines were the personifications of vanity, greed and ?infidelity?. Their heads moved from side to side showing their fright of death. Then the blue doors open at the top of the tower to show the disciples who show us that salvation is possible. For some reason a golden rooster coos at the end of the show after the blue doors close and the skeleton stops pulling his string. DEFINITELY NOT OVERRATED. I LOVED IT.
All the meanings of stuff was explained to me by my tour guide in a free walking tour. (Based on tipping). The guy was named John Paul and was HYSTERICAL. After the clock we walked for about 3 hours, while he told us about the New Town, Old Town, and Jewish Quarter. He made jokes that made me feel at home because it wasn’t proper humor.
Some of the highlights of the walking tour:
Learned all 2000 years of history about the Czech Republic in 15 minutes.
The new town is still 700 years old.
Prague was left largely unscathed by WWII because Hitler wanted to keep it as his home and the Jewish Quarter as a shrine to the race he wiped out.
King Charles the IV is their biggest hero, starting the Golden age, and building my castle (yes, mine).
The whole city used to be 8meters lower but because of flooding issues they filled it in with dirt to build a natural defense. This is why a lot of buildings have full floors below ground level.
The Yosemites were a huge religious group and still have a following with a church in the Old Town Square.
There are so many stories to tell! I feel like a huge history buff now that I can actually remember this stuff! My tour guide should have been a history teacher!
I also met three ladies from the Ukraine, California and Australia. They all were interesting in their own right, but of course the lady from California and I started talking about the differences between America and Europe (with education thrown in there)
I forgot to mention in my blog post yesterday that while leaving my hostel for the first time I got stopped outside by a group of 5 older Americans/Israelis. They needed help finding the polish Embassy because that’s where they parked. However, the American couple were the parents of Doreeta, a 2004 alumna of Teach For America in Mississippi!! My SAME PROGRAM and SAME REGION. How crazy is that?! Obviously I don’t know their daughter because she finished in 2006 but she’s now in NYC too!!
The rest of Day 12 was spent walking around, offering to take people’s photos and then asking them to take photos of me. Haha. I also found it extremely hard to find a park or greenery area to lay down in! That’s unusual in Europe.
I also got an idea in Berlin of a unique souvenir. Each city has a unique manhole cover design. So, I decided to buy thin paper and a thick graphite piece to capture the design in each city. (I stole this idea from a guy that was putting paint on the manholes and then pressing t-shirts onto the Berlin manhole covers to sell) unfortunately I wasn’t able to buy art supplies in Berlin. Finally in Prague I said now or never for the idea. I had no clue where to buy art supplies in Prague, so as I wandered I also wandered into an art gallery where a gentleman was painting. He told me where his art store was and I went off to find the perfect supplies!
All the walking and adventure made me tired so I returned to the hostel where I was storing my stuff until I left to meet the professor. There I took a nap in a hammock thing they had hanging from the ceiling. After my nap, I got up and set out to find my perfect manhole cover to shade in!
AH HA, no place better than tracing it in front of the castle for which I’m sure they were designed. It worked well, didn’t get every detail but definite enough to see its beauty.
Off I went to meet the professor. He was a nice man that has an extra flat for his professional visitors but lets surfers use it when he doesn’t have guests. It was late (10pm) so he decided he would stay on one of the beds for the night. Before we went to bed, we had consumed a bottle of wine (delicious Prague wine) and talked about the history of Prague.
Before bed, he asked me to have tea with him before he went to work in the morning. Everything was working smoothly on my first couchsurf and I didn’t feel in danger. Success!
PICTURESSS: Instagram – jlwright12