Day 335 – My Prague experience and first home exchange

I arrived in Prague on Sunday 22 December. We went there for Christmas. I didn’t get Christmas holiday, so I dragged all my study books with me and I had great intentions of sitting down every morning to study. We did home exchange for the first time. People from Prague (who we don’t know) came to stay in our place and we went to live in their home.

The view from the window was really pretty, but outside there was an icy wind blowing. The people in whose home we went to stay have a 4 year old son and his room is like a fan dedication to the Cars Animation film. The bed I slept in was the shape of a car. I felt a little like Monica from FRIENDS.

That night we went out and got off at Mustek station, found Vensesla square and a Vodaphone shop. We bought sim cards and wondered around the Christmas market. All the trees where covered with white fairy lights; all shimmery and pretty.

Jet lag got me to wake up before 5a.m. I took a shower and then there was an Albert supermarket near our home that opened at six. I unpacked, and then bundled up on layers and added my leather jacket and walked to the store. After that I sat down and studied for hours.  By 15:15 I was done with my books for that day and ready to explore.  Our home was near Kobylisy Metro station, so I took a train to the Town Centre.

The neighbourhood we stayed in had nobody who could speak English. In the tourist areas English was more heard and spoken.  I got off the train and just walked around. I couldn’t read any of the directions, it was all in Czech. I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing. Finally I found some direction and that’s how I found the Old Town Square. I saw Powder Tower. It’s a huge tower which was part of the city wall, which was broken down when some guy decided to modernise Prague. It’s a beautiful tower. In the Town Square there was a Christmas market going on.

It was craze busy with a huge Christmas tree in the middle. There was warm wine, food, beer, music, really pretty music. I couldn’t understand it, but it was pretty. Prague was different than anything I’ve ever seen or heard of or thought I knew about. Some of the old buildings still have the communistic building style.

Prague is famous for Crystal stuff; glasses, jewellery, chandeliers, etc. Mum really wanted a crystal wine glass and I was lucky enough to find the only place in Prague that would sell me one glass and not a set of six. Good Christmas present idea. I am a genius.  (Lion King)

In Prague beer is cheaper than water. As far as I know beer was invented in Prague. Some people go to Prague just for drinking. I don’t get that just btw.  In the building next to our apartment there was a pub type place. It seemed like the neighbourhood “kuier plek”. The kinda sexy blond waiter who seems to run the place can’t speak English, but we ordered by pointing to what we wanted on the menu. I had awesome mushroom pasta. It was a huge portion, I took the left overs home for breakfast and lunch. I ordered beer with my pasta. What the heck is the deal with that??

The day before Christmas I sat down with my statistics. I got dressed and went out to explore.  I wasn’t very smart in my clothing choice. I put on my leather jacket and a cute beanie type hat (can’t think of the right word now). I looked pretty cute, but I was icy cold after a short while outside.

I was on my way to Charles Bride, it some famous old bridge in Prague. I never found it on that day. I came out of the station and I could see the castle on the hill. So I just walked towards it. I walked over A bridge, not Charles Bridge and then uphill to the castle. On my way up I found a place selling Warm wine (mulled wine – a Prague specialty). I bought a glass of it and sat down on a wall to enjoy it. First the heat kicks in and then the alcohol and then you’re ready for whatever comes next!

Prague is a “flat” city, so if you find a high place you have quite a view over Prague. Red roofs. I was wearing shoes that I had bought in Bloem, which were still fine in London, but that day was their last day. They were hurting my feet really badly, but even so I kept walking. When I got home I had a blister and two almost bleeding heals. The rest of the trip I wore my boot shoes which are made to walk in snow, so my feet where nice and warm. I got lost on the trains and then I finally got home. I kicked off my shoes and got rid of my beautiful leather jacket. Put on my thick, warm shoes and a “real” jacket, thick one which was made for cold places. And I bundled up with an extra scarf.

I took Mum to the Christmas market in the old town square where I was the previous evening. It was so quiet, probably because it was the 24th… We had pork ribs for dinner. I hadn’t had that in months. At the dinner restaurant I had a shot, quite good. It’s a drink they make from herbs, tastes different than anything I know of, kinda spicy.

Christmas morning I woke up and stayed in bed. Sick. I had flu or something. My throat was aching. At least we had antibiotics in our bags so I didn’t have to find a doctor. I had heard that tram 22 drives through all the pretty places. I thought that if I felt OK I would at least go and sit and look. I never did this. Darn. No studying happened due to feeling like crap.

The next day I got on a train, rode to Muzeum station (20min ride), bought a scarf inside the station and then drove back home. Ready to get back into bed. I Googled the Czech phrase for “can I have bacon instead of chicken, please?” and put it on my phone. That night at the pub I ordered pasta and showed the waiters my phone the almost smiled and then nodded. Today I ate a Chimney cake. It’s like a uhm ok wait it has a hole the middle and it’s probably about 10cm long. They wrap the dough around a thick stick and then cook it over a fire until the outside is nice and crispy and tastes a little like smoke. Then it’s rolled in cinnamon, sugar and sometimes nuts. It’s good, but not quite as good as I expected.

My studies where rearranged which meant that I had some off time in Prague. Time to be sick, to sleep, to explore. Prague was difficult for me to navigate. Everything in Czech and no English. I didn’t know where to go or what to do.

27 December I was still sick, but I went to shop for some pants. I didn’t have that much energy, but I knew where there was a Marks and Spencer, so I took a train, found the store and luckily also a sale. Got some nice jeans and then went back home. I hated being sick in Prague. It totally stole my experience.

Saturday (28th) evening there was a music concert that we went to. I had been in bed all day, but that afternoon I started feeling better. I tidied up my room, took a shower and cleaned up the part of the couch I’d been crashing on for 4days. I got to wear my leather jacket every day in Prague. I loved that. Although, when I went out for hours I put on my other, warmer jacket.

We had pizza for dinner after the concert at a place next to the river with a view of the castle. Looked like a Disney animation picture.

The cold air of the previous night made me wake up with a painful feeling in my chest the next morning. I went to put out the trash, locked myself out of the building then climbed over the wall, walked around the block to the front door and went back to bed.

I had lunch at the pub that day. Conclusion: Beer is BAD! Since living in Dubai I’ve started caring what kind of meet I order when I’m abroad. I scan the menu for anything with pork or bacon. I had pork pieces with onion for lunch.

Sunday evening was nice. Prague is famous for Marionettes – those wooden puppets. So that evening we went to see a marionette opera. Yes, I mean exactly that. It was brilliant and hilarious. It was Mozart’s “Towerfluit”; they did the performance of all the “main” pieces in an hour. The music was played from a CD and then the puppets where the actors who told the story. I laughed so much, kinda like in The Bucket List – I laughed until I cried. We had our last meal at the pub that evening.

Monday morning (30th) we moved from the home exchange house to a hotel. Other home exchange people where coming to live in the Prague place. I was feeling a lot better and spent the entire day outside. I wondered the old streets, lots of cobble stones.

In Dubai I can’t find a Continental Pillow. So after walking around for a while I got on a train and planned on going to IKEA. On the station an inspector asked for my train ticket and I confidently showed him the one I had bought. It was all in Czech and it turns out I had bought the wrong ticket. I got a R400 (AED200) fine for being on a train with an “invalid” ticket and I had no money with me. The guy walked me to an ATM to draw money for the fine. The ATM ate my card. The ticket officer left me to deal with my problem; I called the bank and blocked my card. Not my day. I never found a pillow shop. I used the last coins in my pocket to buy a train ticket to get back to the hotel.

Later that day me and mum met for a very late lunch. After that I walked around trying to find a Vodaphone shop to recharge her phone’s airtime. It’s pretty to walk around even when you don’t know where you’re going.

Our hotel was next to Charles Bridge. Don’t know how I missed it that first afternoon. In my wonderings that morning I found a marionette store with a puppet of Cap’n Jack Sparrow. Mum bought it for me that night as a Christmas gift. I hung him next to my mirror.

Tuesday the 31st we went to see the sunrise over the river. There were very few people on the bridge. It was bitterly cold but really beautiful. It was misty, with the old towers standing like black silhouettes in the mist. The naked tree branches against the grey sky and then me freezing my butt off. This was just before 8a.m. Just as the clouds started to turn pink the temperature began to drop, by 8 I was back at the hotel for coffee and breakfast.

I was back on my pillow hunt that day. I got on a train with all intents to go to IKEA, but when the train stopped next to a shopping centre at the next stop I hopped off with the hope of finding a pillow there. I forgot the small fact that nobody speaks English. I couldn’t find a pillow and I decided to spend my last day in Prague, not on trains trying to shop.

I walked to Old Town Square, bought some warm wine and a chimney cake walked around to find a seat when I heard music playing. I found 5 elderly men (late 60’s, early 70’s) rocking on a flute, cello, drums, a trumpet and a banjo. I sat down on the frozen cobble stones and just listened to them playing while I enjoyed my snack.  When I finally got up I my legs seemed frozen. I went to the hotel to defrost.

Mum bought us symphony music concert tickets. To me it is pretty, but it’s not my first music choice. I enjoyed it, though. Really beautiful. Maybe I’ll learn to love it someday. We went to have a meal at the restaurant across from our hotel.

When we got back to our room the hotel had put a small bottle of Champagne in our room with a card that said Happy New Year.

Wednesday (01 January) was our last day in Prague. The taxi came to pick us up at 13:15. I walked around, went to buy mum a scarf. Had a hot dog. Tried some Irish coffee – not my style, but I’ll re-evaluate that decision when I visit Ireland someday – hopefully. We had pizza for lunch. Pizza Express has good pizza.

That was my Prague experience.