Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Roman Gothic Vaults, the Prague Astronomical Clock, and Monopoly Money

The Munich gang had a bit of a bumpy start to our trip to Prague- waking up a little late and missing our bus, but luckily another bus came and still got us to the S-Bahn on time. Upon arriving at the Hauptbahnhof, we hopped onto the train to Prague, taking over an entire compartment and thoroughly geeking out over the Hogwarts Express-esque feel. It was a five-hour train ride and, with the exception of me briefly napping on the Iron Chancellor, we entertained each other with stories of childhood, books, and had deep conversation about friendship, much to the interest of the Hungarian man sharing our compartment.

Upon entering Praha’s Main Train station, we got the feeling it was very much like the video for the Franz Kafka International Airport (if you don’t know to that which I am referring, watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEyFH-a-XoQ). Even the voice over the intercom sounded the same. The Iron Chancellor and I could not help but quote the whole video as we wandered around, trying to find both money and the exit. At this point we were starting to get a little anxious how we were going to navigate since it appeared that almost no one spoke English or German. We ate a late lunch at the McDonalds across the street from the bus stop and we immediately felt better, deeming it the US Embassy. (In reference to our view from the window at McDonald’s: “Take a picture, put it in grayscale, and that could be a picture found in our old history books for Eastern Europe.”) Something I think none of us were expecting was the exchange rate. $50 was around 1,000 CZKrowns, and so we got in a rather inappropriate habit of referring to CZKs as “Monopoly Money” or saying things like “how many Czechbucks is that?”

The hostel I found was super nice and the guy behind the counter was extremely helpful, giving us maps and circling places and things to see. We all got a free beer on arrival and played two games of foosball in the lounge area before heading off to the Astronomical Clock. We got some great pictures out front, and then for like no dolla dolla bills, we were able to climb to the top to take pictures of the whole city. We were in such awe over everything and how old it all was. Prague is actually one of the few cities not destroyed by the war, so it was fun to know that the Prague we were seeing had been there for centuries.

After seeing the church next door, which had a huge, beautiful chandelier, we walked down what we called “Designer Road” in order to get to the Jewish Cemetery. On our way through the city center the Iron Chancellor found this little hole in the wall bar in which we ordered Czech Absinth to toast Oscar Wilde. After sharing one shot between the four of us, we had to drink two cokes to wash down the burning sensation. Weaklings? Maybe. There were stairs, and so, naturally, we explored them. The stairs led us to another underground bar and a suit of armor, and more stairs led us to an underground Roman Gothic restaurant over 600 years old, complete with stuffed/ skinned animals and armor. It was beautiful and just delightful. There was also a quartet that played for us as we sat there, which was super entertaining. We ordered the “Buerger Pan” which was supposed to be shared among “two people or one hungry fellow.” It was an assortment of meats and deliciousness, and we were eating like Roman emperors, but alas, we were bested by it and could not, between the four of us, eat something meant for 2 people … or one hungry person. By the end of the dinner, we were talking to the Belgians next to us and a wonderful night was had by all.

The next day we took the train to Kutna Hora to see the Bone Church. Words cannot describe how cool it was. It was made out of the bones of over 40,000 bodies, and there was a chandelier that used every bone in the body to make it. We also went to the church nearby that was huge and contained two saint relics and tons of just beautiful artifacts.

Prague is famous for its chocolate, so we got some of that before we left. We also enjoyed the fact that bullet trains are called CityElefants- no idea why, but it was amusing. I finished my Praha postcards on the train and then one of my friends read our palms. I, apparently, have a long and promising life. The train ride ended with a "Twilight Zone" experience. On the outskirts of Munich, the train slowed to a crawl, if we were even moving at all. It was in the middle of nowhere and so it all dark except for the lightning we saw in the distance. There was a eerie “We’re all going to die” kind of feeling in the compartment; the Iron Chancellor checked the other compartments to make sure we were not the only ones in the train and came back with the affirmative that, yes there were other people in the train, but it was still pretty empty. On of my other friends put her head next to the window to try to look out, while everyone else kinda just watched from behind her. Then out of nowhere a bullet train whoshed passed us like it was coming straight towards us and we all screamed, jumped like 5 feet in the air and fell backwards onto our seats. An attendant came to check on us to make sure none of us had been axe murdered or something. It was exceedingly funny!- and we laughed about it for quite some time. We discovered later that the reason it might have been delayed entering the station was because a WWII bomb was found in the Hauptbahnhof that day...

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