0427 The Dark Side of Prague (Czech Republic 001—new)

Prague Travel Blog

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Prague is definitely a city I’m looking forward to seeing.  Back in 2006, I was running out of time when I reached Czech Republic, so I only got as far as Brno and then turned around… So ever since then I’ve had to explain to everybody “I’ve been to Czech Republic, but I didn’t go to Prague…” and always get a puzzled look…

 

So finally I’m going to change that and visit this city that everybody raves about…

 

I arrive at 9 pm.  This time I decided to break with tradition and reserve a hostel room in advance.  I don’t want my first experience in Prague to be spoiled by a frustrating search for a cheap hostel late at night in the middle of the summer…

 

I head out of the bus station to the rather dingy streets… a rather rundown post-Communist feel to this neighbourhood.

  I soon find a city map and head north to where I think my hostel is. 

 

I guess I assumed that my hostel would be in the city center.  But once I cross the river, the city quickly turns into endless trash ridden empty lots on my left and intermittent unfriendly looking neighborhoods on my right… No business district… hardly any people… no sign that I’m getting closer to the city center…

 

I find myself in a bit of a predicament:  1. it’s getting late, and there’s less and less public transportation. 2. I don’t have any Czech currency anyways,  3.  I’m very distrustful of taxis in general, and Prague taxis are some of the most notorious for ripping people off…

 

Finally I reach yet another bridge, and I know I’m definitely not heading towards town…

 

I head back to a subway commuter train station which is all but empty.

  I manage to coax out a ticket vendor who has just closed her window.  She tells me that to get to the neighbourhood I want, I have to take a tram outside and that no, she can’t exchange euros for me…

 

I head outside to a gas station  where a couple of caps are lurking in wait for their prey… I decide I’ll give it one more shot… I head down another road back south once again, under a railway pass… and there my hostel was right on the corner…

 

I was worth the search--  especially since it’s been over a week since I’ve slept in a bed…

 

Feeling rejuvenated, I head out to experience Prague at night, this time with a map… But first I have a chat with my roommate--  a fellow from Mexico… It’s good to see Mexicans out discovering the world… Growing up in Mexico I didn’t meet a lot of guys that dreamed of someday visiting Europe…

 

Actually, down this street, the north side of town doesn’t look too bad… and before long,  I’m back across the river and into the heart of Prague.

 

Definitely the right thing to do to explore Prague at night.   This way, wandering down a winding alley, I suddenly see that evil looking black tower, staring down at me with its evil Draculaesque eyes… It’s another unforgettable moment…

 

After wandering around a bit, soaking in the vibe of the city, I hike on back up to my hostel…

 

Next Day…

 

I was a little worried that by exploring a bunch of Europe’s “Supercities” back to back, I was going to start getting jaded and all of them were going to start looking alike.  But that’s definitely not the case.

  Each city has had it’s theme: Munich, a fun, fairy tale city. Vienna a splendidly royal city.  And Prague?  It has this dark, mysterious feel to it.

In the morning, I head straight back to explore Old Prague.  Not quite so ominous in the daylight, but still, has that unique feel to it.  I take a video clip next to the tower and another with the dark cathedral in the background.

But when I go inside the cathedral, I’m surprised to find that it has a very cheerful interior, painted in light colors!  That’s seems strange--  as most Catholic churches are very somber on the inside…

 

There is so much to see and enjoy in Prague, although I must admit, a lot of times I feel like I’m just being swept along in a river of tourists everywhere…

 

I head across the famous Charles bridge and up to check out the cathedral and castle high on the hillside on the other side… then down again to some peaceful gardens that include a wall that looks like it’s made out of stalagtites…

 

I don’t visit a lot of museums, unless their free or really, really catch my attention.

  And it seems that in this Dark City it would be appropriate to visit the Torture Museum…

 

I’m not a vicarious sadist or slasher movie lover--  but I’ve always been intrigued at how torture was perfected almost to an art form during centuries past here in Europe…  How performing absolutely barbaric acts on fellow humans was so perfectly acceptable to a seemingly “civilized” people.  I’m particularly interested in the connection between having a state religion and the obsession with torturing people who don’t abide by that state religion…

 

It is a very interesting display--  not a lot of information that I didn’t already know about, but to actually see and touch those instruments really makes you wince--  and appreciate the fact that times have changed…

 

I guess it kind of kills that “fairy tale” feel of this medieval architecture…

 

From there, I decide that I need to get out of tourist trap Prague and see some of the real city, so I head down south along the west shore of the river, past a modern shopping center, and then neighborhoods that get considerably scruffier… And I’m suddenly reminded, that just a couple of decades ago, this was a Communist country…

 

Back up river, I crisscross the Old City some more, trying to make sure I don’t miss anything really cool… There’s the Old Palace now turned museum standing royally at the end of a long plaza… There are cool sculptures and and buildings covered with beautiful mural designs… there’s the old synagogue that really stands out with its colourful, almost Old Persian feel…

 

Prague all around is just a splendid city…

 

Another thing that excites me is the fact that Czech Republic is a small country with cheap trains and buses… this means that I could come back here and in a couple of weeks parkbench the entire country… 

 

But that will be another time… Now I’ve got another overnight bus to catch…

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Prague
photo by: vulindlela