Before the crowds arrived
Prague Travel Blog› entry 12 of 26 › view all entries
Niels, Oliver and I stuck together as we were all heading to Prague from Dresden and we were having a good time hanging out.
I'm always up for a bit of adventure and I tested the water on the train as we neared the Czech border. The conductor/Immigration bloke came through to our car and asked to see our passports. The boys handed over their German ones and got a stamp and a smile. I handed over my New Zealand passport and the bloke flicked through the pages looking a little confused.
He asked me where my visa to enter was so I asked him if I couldn't get it from him?
He became a little excited and said, "No. You have to have the visa before you arrive to this point.
I wasn't too worried but it was good to know that. I took my passport back from him as I watched his mind tick over about where he thought the best place was to throw me from the train.
I then handed him my Swiss passport. This brought a smile to his face and I think a little flash of relief that I was no longer a problem. He stamped my Swiss passport and left our car.
Niels and Oliver were more freaked out than the conductor had been and asked me why I hadn't given him my Swiss passport to start with. I laughed and told them that this is the sort of thing that makes travelling the learning experience that it is.
No harm done and a great little story for the future!
Prague was a fabulous city. There wasn't anything I didn't love about it.
Czechoslovakia had only just been broken up as of the 1st of this year and hadn't yet been discovered by the throngs of English speaking tourists. The people were happy to see us but we had great fun trying to make ourselves understood as we shopped and dined etc.
One of the first things we heard when we arrived into the city out of the train station was a Peruvian band playing in the square. We followed the exciting music to where the crowd had gathered around them and enjoyed the atmosphere ourselves for a time.
I had bumped into these groups in several spots around Europe and I always enjoyed their great sound.
Czech has a solid jazz scene too so I guess the music is probably the most vivid thing I recall about the place.
The first night we were there we left our hostel in search of a restaurant for dinner. We had been sent along the road a bit to a nice little establishment and struggled through ordering our meals. We also got some beers to have with dinner and I was shocked to discover that they cost the equivalent of 8 English Pence each.
This was just the sort of thing that was going to make this lovely country so popular to travellers in the very near future!
After our dinner we found a jazz club called the "Reduta Jazz Club" where they were having a Dixieland night. I'm not a big Dixie jazz fan, preferring the cooler jazz sounds more than the Trad. having said that the place was hoppin' and we were having a great time as soon as we found a table and tasted our first beer.
The band were putting out some hot notes and then at the end of an instrumental number a woman stepped up behind the mic and started wailing out some outrageous chords! I don't think it was just the fact that the song was in Czech and that i couldn't understand her pain, it was simply that she had a BAD voice and I was now starting to feel my own pain!
We gave her a decent sort of a hearing, but couldn't handle much more of what she was putting out so after half a dozen tunes we'd finnished our beers and cut a track. It was a successful night all the same. I love music, and as i said before it's the thing I recall most vividly about the city.
During the next couple of days we were there we explored the old part of the city.
I was a little disappointed that many of the shots I took of the city and buildings had that cold dull feel of winter rather than the brightness that i felt around the place.
One of the things I was excited to see was the groundsman preparing a clay tennis court. I'd never seen the process of preparing the clay after rain, or in this case snow, and watched for ages as he dragged his level back and forth over the court.
We also visited a beautiful museum in the centre of the city. Not only were the objects within the building worthy of our attention but the building itself was magnificent!
Of course no trip to Praha would be complete without dawdling across St Michael's Bridge.
A fabulous piece of achitechture, but apart from the bridge itself the crowds enjoying time in the sun was worth the walk. Artisans, traders, tourists, locals strolled the span or mounted the abuttments to do whatever it was that made them happy.
To me Praha could be described very simply as the most pleasant place I've visited. Even the busses had a cheerful paintjob as they passed us looking like they'd had a recent collision with a paint truck and the colours had splashed out all over the bus.
Even my usual visit to the cemetary of a town wasn't anything sombre. I always find cemetaries great spots for quiet contemplation. They are also crammed full of histroy of the place, telling stories of what the people have endured over the time thay have lived and died there.
Back in the city I marvelled at the mechanical system used to control the traffic lights at one end of an important traffic route over the river. Sitting in a little box was a traffic cop who watched the traffic and flicked the switch to change the lights. That's what i'm talking about when I say the simple things I found in Prague brought me so much pleasure!
I can't wait to go back, I just hope it's not been ruined by the crowds.