Thursday, 20 March 2014

PRAHA

Two weeks in after the holidays and I've spent about 50% of my time adorned in sunnies and t-shirts and the other 50% dressed as though I'm embarking on a trip to the North Pole. However, despite the yo-yo weather and the stressful mornings that go with it (not wanting to spend the upcoming 12 hours either sweating like a pig or risking meeting a cold and miserable end), it's been one of the best fortnights so far.

The first week was spent planning my weekend in the South-West of France, where I attended my grandmother's surprise 80th birthday party. As a punishment for being tucked away in some unknown place in the depths of Germany, it took me a while to get over the shock of how long and expensive the journey was going to be. I think I have been spoilt by the plethora of regular and cheap flights it is possible to get from London at any one time - I'm learning the hard way that travel isn't always so simple.

A couple of long journeys, a party, and a bit of sunburn later it was back to Germany to plan my upcoming trip to Prague.
Tip numero uno: when travelling, don't discount coaches! I was forced into a corner and booked one out of sheer desperation when I saw the price of the trains (ok, ok, I left it quite late in the day to book my travel), but it was the best decision I could have made. Comfy seats, hot drinks, and Zac Efron films on demand - I was in heaven.
And tip numero dos: if money is an issue, save it for doing the nice things Prague has to offer and skimp on hostels. When we booked our stay there were so many places for under £10 a night that there's really no reason to spend more. The hostel was pretty basic but clean and provided us with somewhere to sleep - the only issue I had was with the breakfast (or lack thereof), but what can you expect for £5 a night, right?

Going out on the first night we could see why it's such a popular place- the atmosphere was alive and infectious and I even made friends with a big, cuddly shark wandering the streets before we were recommended this absolute gem of a cocktail bar in the main square of the city. 'Black Angels' was the kind of place I would expect to be paying upwards of £10 per cocktail in London, but Prague being Prague we had personalised cocktails, friendly bar-staff, and a damn good night with change from a ten pound note (not that we paid in pounds, but if we had, we would have done).

The next day we umbrella-less souls braved the lashing rain to do a 4-hour tour of the city. Having no prior knowledge of the Czech Republic in the slightest, everything was fascinating to me. I discovered that:

1) Czechs are the biggest beer guzzlers in the world (even bigger than Germany).
2) There is a beautiful clock in the Old Town Square, which has chimed on the hour for about 600 years and      along with the chime comes a dancing chorus of figurines (think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-              esque).
3) The Czech Republic is one of the least religious countries in the world - the reason why so many churches
     have had to be given new uses, such as restaurants, theatres, and even strip clubs!
4) There is a part of the Jewish Quarter that Hitler never wanted destroyed as he had plans to open a
     'Museum of an Extinct Race' - if you didn't think he was psychotic enough!
5) Music by a Czech composer was the first music on the moon.

After a day of learning, we then thought it was important to experience the nightlife of the city and decided to take part in an organised bar crawl. I'd highly recommend it - doing it this way, we paid 500 Koruna (about £15) and got taken to 3 different bars and then a 5 storey club, with lots of drinks included in the price. Aside from the drink per buck advantage, doing it this way instead of on our own meant we met lots of people of a similar age and doing a similar kind of thing. Oh, and we got a t-shirt of course.

The last day we went to Prague Castle (the biggest in the world) and climbed the Old Town Hall, giving us a panoramic view of the city.


The city is a place I would highly recommend to anyone, and if you do decide to go, bear these things in mind:

1) It's a reasonably cheap city, so don't worry too much if you're not rolling in it.
2) Definitely try the Goulash, which you can find EVERYWHERE (unless you are a vegetarian or don't like       beef) - it's a heavenly experience, almost like angels are dancing in your mouth!
3) If you are travelling around Europe and can't be bothered to change up money, don't worry. Everywhere
     seems to accept Euros.
4) If you ARE changing up money, ask the people running the place you are staying or a tour guide to
    recommend a place - Prague seems to have more money exchange places than people, but we were
    warned that an awful lot of them charge extortionate commission and fees - and so it's best to go
    somewhere that's been recommended.
5) Don't ever change money with someone who comes up to you in the street - apparently a surprising
    amount of tourists do this, and it's never good news.