Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Friday, Day 7 – Prague

This was to be the last day of the official field study tour. From here, people would spread out all over Europe. We, however, were staying in Prague. (We had discussed going to Dresden, but decided that we hadn’t really done all we could in Prague, so we would stay there. I woke up and headed to the bathroom, but when I got back, Daryl and John had gone downstairs to breakfast, and locked me out. So I went down the 3 flights of stairs and into the café area in my bare feet to get breakfast. Then I got the key, had to run upstairs, get shoes and my wallet, run back downstairs, and go to an ATM so I could pay for our final night in Prague. This morning was not starting out well.

After breakfast, we saw a Czech dissident writer speak about what it was like for writers then and how they have adapted. He had a strange way of speaking that made it really hard to concentrate on what he was saying, and I mostly ended up learning that C-Unit and Anna were staying til that night in Prague as well. After the speaker, I headed for the bus with everyone else since Daryl had left my lonely planet Europe book on the floor in there, and I wanted it back before the bus left. C-Unit had left something aboard as well, so the two of us jumped on and off quickly not wanting to get taken along for the 12 hour ride to Luxembourg.

When I got back, Daryl and John were laying in bed reading, so I took a shower, braving the foot herpes again, and headed out to wander. I wandered around the streets near our hostel, stopping in stores and staring at all the cool buildings. I eventually made it to Wencislas Square. This is not so much a square as a really long and wide street, lined with touristy stores. Eventually John and Daryl met me there, and we wandered through tourist traps. We hit a bookstore, and I bought the aforementioned Dictionary of Quotations, Daryl got Arabian Nights, and John bought another Pratchett book. We decided to head to the Communist Museum, paid our entry fee, took pictures with a gigantic Lenin, and went in. It was very interesting, talked all about communism in the Czech Republic, and had all kinds of remnants of Communist statues and other things left from the Soviet rule of the Czech Republic. I learned quite a bit about what happened in Prague, it was very interesting. One of the more amusing facts was about a gigantic statue of Stalin that they put up on a hill in the city. It was finished two years after Stalin died, then destroyed a couple years later when Khrushchev declared him a criminal. Now there stands a gigantic metronome on that spot. More on that later.

The next thing we did was climb a gigantic hill that had a wall going up it, and had some sort of buildings at the top. When we got to the top, there were some beautiful gardens and buildings. On the way up we saw a really cool monument to the people affected by KGB brutality under the Soviet regime. There will be a picture on webshots at some point. Also, we were near the Czech version of the Eiffel Tower. Just as high above sea level, but only a 5th the relative height. Daryl and I climbed it, while John went into the botanical gardens. (This is the norm, Daryl and I like towers, John likes gardens.) There were 3 or 400 steps to reach the top; it was painful. When we got there, though, the view was terrific. I took a number of pictures, and as soon as the stitch program allows me to stitch a picture without freezing, I think I have a couple good panoramas of the city. The way down was terrifying, since the stairs are open to the air, and you have to look down, since you are going down. Daryl and I are both afraid of heights, so we were relieved when we got to the bottom.

We ate some junk food from the little shop on the ground to regain energy, and John came over from the gardens to join us. John had found a museum of mirrors or something of the sort that he wanted to go into. Daryl and I reluctantly ponied up the 40 kc fee, and went inside. At first it was very boring, but then there was a mirror on the ceiling, and we had fun jumping while looking up, and feeling like we were jumping off of the ceiling. Then we went into a room with a bunch of the weirdly bent mirrors, and had fun looking at Daryl the midget, Daryl the conehead, John looking like Beevis, and many other strange looking versions of ourselves.

After that we decided to try to get to the castle. We wandered down through these close, walled in streets, lost and making good time. As we were wandering, hoping we would eventually hit the castle, we got a text from C-Unit, asking if we wanted to grab food with him and Anna before they got on their train. We abandoned our quest for the castle, and met them in the Old Town Square for food. (It was easier to get back to familiar Prague, since we just went downhill until we hit the river.) We went to a restaurant that Anna and LC had gone to before, and it was good. On the way back from the restaurant, Anna (possessing excessive energy, as I mentioned) decided that she wanted to run to the hostel then run back and meet us again. She ran off, and we kept walking. We eventually made a detour to a shady looking shop that had a bunch of bottles of absinth in the window. Daryl and John were hell bent on trying this stuff, so they had an incredibly painful conversation with a storeowner who spoke neither English or German, and ended up pooling all their cash to buy a 20cl bottle for far too much. With me rolling my eyes in exasperation, we set back out for the hostel, hoping C-Unit and Anna would get to their train on time.

When we got back, we headed to the bar to use the computers again, then went up to the room where Daryl and John failed to hallucinate (there’s a waste of $16). We fell asleep for our last night in Prague.


Saturday, Day 8 (Sunday, Day 9) – Prague, Travel

We woke up about 9, having to pack up and check out before 10. Checkout consisted of turning in our key and saying “We’re checking out,” and the clerk saying “OK.” We had another terrible breakfast, put our bags in the storage at the hotel, and left for the castle. We decided to wander up to the aforementioned metronome on our way to the castle. The view from there was pretty good, and we passed a sort of fair beign set up that looked like it would be pretty cool. We eventually (with the help of a map) made it most of the way to the castle. The map eventually disappeared; either John dropped it or was preyed upon by the worst pickpocket ever. We made it into the castle, which is really a small city within walls, with many cool buildings. The most magnificent by far was St. Vitus Cathedral, a gigantic gothic building. This was probably the coolest looking building I have ever seen. It looked ridiculously evil, with black spires everywhere, dozens of gargoyles, and huge towers with ornate windows. Words cannot describe how awesome the building was. There will be pictures of it, but even those do not do it justice. We snuck inside without paying with a gigantic German tour group. The inside is immense and has some cool stained glass, but it was not as magnificent as the outside. Frankly, the Cathedral of St. Mary and even the unknown one we saw in Munich were much more ornate inside. This is not to say its nothing at all, as it is far more ornate and beautiful than almost any church in the US is.

We made our way out of the castle via the castle gardens, which were cool, though we had to pay to get out this way. It was now nearing midday Saturday, and you could tell. The amount of tourists was absolutely staggering. Over the next few hours I would grow to increasingly hate tour groups with a passion. We went to a small café that was empty, which made us very happy, and I had a good lunch of this ham and chicken kabob thing and some pineapple juice. Daryl had some sort of meat that was mediocre with his banana juice, and John got duck and Budwar, the original Czech Budweiser. He really attacked his duck, tearing every last bit of meat out of it. It was vaguely frightening. We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering and buying souvenirs and such.

We then headed back to the hotel for our bags, and went to the train station. However, there are like 4 train stations in Prague, and we went to the wrong one. Then we found the right one. The people there were incredibly unhelpful. We were trying to get to the border so we could use our Eurail passes, so we asked to get to the closest German city. They all seemed to have issues with this, and we eventually got incredibly cheap tickets to a place called Cheb, which is still in the Czech Republic. While we were waiting to leave, Daryl and john blew the rest of their crowns on food, and put the change that was left (5 crowns) on the stairs to see who would pick it up. A lot of people walked by without noticing, then a couple penny-pinching old men picked up all the coins. We got on the train (really dingy, Eastern European train) to Cheb. We got to Cheb, and went to the information window asking if we could get to Luxembourg. The woman sort of laughed, which made us very nervous. She eventually got us an itinerary with a bunch of switches that would go Cheb-Frankfurt-Koblenz-Trier-Luxembourg. Unofortunately, the next train to Frankfurt was at 1.12, and it was only 22.00.

We settled in for a 3 hour wait in the Cheb train station. We eventually got kicked out of the station proper and had to go outside and wait there. As we were reading out loud from Arabian nights, a couple prostitutes came up offering sex and crystal meth. We declined both, but not before Daryl had been rather inappropriately touched by one of the prostitutes. We eventually got on our train (another dingy one) and settled down in a compartment for the trip. Before we got the lights turned off and the curtains closed, an old German woman came in and sat down in our compartment. For the rest of the trip, she wouldn’t let us turn off the lights. This was a 5 hour train ride that began at 1am. Needless to say, by the end, we were all ready to kill the crazy German insomniac. We made it to Frankfurt, got on a nicer IC train, and the rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. When we were nearing Luxembourg, I sent Guy a text message to tell him when he would be back, and he said he would make a reservation and take us out to lunch. We arrived in Oberkorn at 12.00 noon Sunday. Guy was waiting for us, and once we stuck our bags in our rooms and had a glass of welcome back Framboise, we headed for the restaurant. We had some good Italian food, and were all ready to collapse. We got back, took showers, and all went to sleep.

The trip from Prague to Oberkorn took 17 hours, 40 minutes, and 6 trains. We were exhausted, grimy beyond belief, and exhausted. Did I mention exhausted?


Well that was my trip, any questions? I just wrote over 10 pages, you better all read it. And comment on it so I feel loved. Check webshots, I will slowly be adding pictures. As Samuel Palmer said, “A picture is something between a thing and a thought.”


Matt

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having skimmed your text between classes, two questions arise:

1) Did you ride the goddamn subway cars? Explain.

2) DID YOU EAT THE DUCK DEAR GOD PLEASE TELL ME YOU DID IT WAS AMAZING.

Sorry if you covered these; I'll peruse later. Aww fuck, you're sleeping right now anyway - I won't get an answer for 14.6 hours or something.

-Drew

5/10/05 18:29  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're going to have to show me more pictures than that. You are just teasing me at this point. I love the story about the cave/bar with the drunken Polishmen. Sounds like a riot!

-Schmiddy

5/10/05 21:52  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matt!!

Can I tell you that my new place that I want to go is Prague?? And then I read that YOU WERE THERE? And I was jealous?? Christine and I are travelling this summer, and we are SO going to Prague. I'm making her go. Hope all is well...miss ur visits here at U of M!

Steph
oh, and the white sox...fuller is a little upset...

6/10/05 19:46  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alright i read most of it but i figured i'd leave a message anyway...is it wrong that that i got really excited when you mentioned the KGB?? i only ask because syd's mom was part of the KGB in Alias...and even though they killed off vaughn i'm still watching the show...sigh...anyway, it sounds like you're having a blast. I'm completely jealous, but like steph said, we're going. Ok, that's all, miss you!

Christine

7/10/05 04:54  

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