Prague, Czech Republic 2005
Prague Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
September 25th, 2005 – by: krysleigh
Perhaps the greatest thing about living in the Netherlands is its centrality within Europe. In just a few, short hours, you can take a train to Paris, hop a plane to Barcelona or even bus it over to Germany.
I had vowed to save my travel funds for the spring when I'm required to travel for two months as part of my course, but when one of the various travel companies I subscribe to e-mailed me about promotional deals from Amsterdam to Praha (or Prague as us Americans call it), I couldn't pass it up. It took a bit of coaxing to talk Megan into missing class and coming with me (she's the studious one of the duo), but my powers of persuasion worked, and before I knew it, we had in our possession round-trip bus tickets to Prague.
Due to our lax class schedule, we were able to book our trip from Friday to Wednesday and only miss one class. And even that one was excused, after we invited our 27-year-old Argentinean economics professor out after class and smooth-talked him with our Southern charm. After awhile of small talk and all-around brown-nosing, I coyly said, "So, Max, how would you feel about us missing a class and studying the economy of Prague instead?"
He paused, then responded, "Well … I've been to Prague before. It was fun. I wouldn't want to deny you two that fun. Have a blast."
And that was that.
So last Friday, we took an overnight bus from Utrecht, after almost missing it because we couldn't quite locate the bus station, Jaarbeursplein, which funnily enough ended up being just a normal road behind the train station.
Megan and I managed to locate two seats separate from each other but still close by, and I was stuck beside a large man who took up his seat and half of mine and listened to "My Girl" loudly on his mp3 player, while Meg had a social Malaysian as a seat buddy who blasted Nirvana during the brief time he wasn't trying to chat her up. Not exactly how I envisioned spending a 14-hour overnight bus ride. Lucky for us, somewhere around Frankfurt (approximately 3:30 a.
I have now been to rougly 20 countries, and the only time I have been checked at the border on a bus or train ride was the time I successfully smuggled two Austrian refugees into Italy. That was one stressful evening I don't care to relive (another story for another time). But this time around, the bus attendant had collected our passports in Germany. Apparently, there was a problem with someone's green card, though I'm still a little unsure as to what actually happened, after all my German/Czech (we still have no clue which language they were even speaking) is a tad bit rusty.
Three stone-faced German/Czech police officers came through to hand us all back our passports.
Instead of simply handing my passport back to me, they made us all get off the bus (note: it's nearly filled to capacity) and gather our luggage. Luckily, Megan and I packed light for once and only had our daypacks with us. The border police went through each of our bags item-by-item, took out every little possession we owned, and even went as far as to unscrew the lids of our contact cases.
Oh, and they did this one-by-one in front of the entire bus, which could be quite embarrassing depending on what you packed. The only time any of the officers so much as cracked a smile was when they unpacked my inflatable friend, Steve the parrot (a gift from a friend in Scotland – he now travels everywhere with Megan and me), from my bag and held him up for all to see. I'm sure they thought I was using him to smuggle drugs or engage in some other illegal activity. I wasn't, you'll be glad to know. Finally, after two hours or so, the police returned our passports, and we were on our way into the Czech Republic.
After that, our trip was anti-climactic - well, relatively speaking after our near brush with the law. We basically spent four days just exploring the city and taking lots of pictures in typical, American, touristy fashion.
I wasn't quite prepared to re-enter the world of traveling hostel-style, though. Sharing a room with 13 other internationals who snore, yell out in the middle of the night and have other odd sleeping habits; using communal showers that lack dividers and are not designed for the modest soul (I had never showred nakey with so many women in one room before!); and dealing with one bathroom stall for 40 people per floor – not exactly luxurious travel accommodation, but it works.
My favorite part about hostel life is the people I meet. By the first night, we had accumulated a group that consisted of the two of us, six laid-back Aussies, three suave Englishmen, two crazy Swedes, a quiet Californian, two nonchalant Oregonians, a rather self-involved Kansas City boy and a couple of random Norwegians we picked up along the way.
After such a fun few days with our new friends, it was hard to come back to Utrecht, where all is calm and relatively quiet on the home front. Not to worry, though, Miss Lucia (our crazy landlady) will ensure things don't stay that way too long.
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