Oh, where to begin! This summer I traveled with my good friend and college roommate across Eastern Europe. It was my first time over there, and the greatest adventure of my life so far! In total, we traveled to Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Austria – seeing major cities in each country along the way. I decided to break my trip up into a blog post for each country to keep things organized. So let’s begin!
After a grueling 11 hours on a plane, I arrived in Munich, Germany on Saturday July 18th at around 10am. Shanna was at the airport waiting for me, and as soon as we met we raced off to the bus station to go to Prague! The way our travel dates worked out, it was much cheaper for us to spend our first night in Prague, rather than Munich. We planned on spending time in Munich for a few days at the end of our trip, but to start out we decided to make Prague our first city.
I won’t talk much about the bus ride in-between, except that it was a beautiful ride through Germany’s countryside with rolling hills, farms, quaint little towns and sunflower fields to keep my eyes busy. Once we arrived in Prague our bus dropped us off in the middle of the city, so it was up to us to try and translate local signs (all of which were in Czech) and find the metro station to take us to our hostel. We succeeded with flying colors, found our hostel, dropped off our bags, and hit the town.
That first night we ate a cute little Italian restaurant and wandered the streets. Everything looked exactly as I had imagined Europe would look like. Cobblestone streets, ornate and breath-taking architecture everywhere (I am a big fan of architecture), statues and cathedrals everywhere, little cafes on every corner, etc. We eventually found our way down by the riverside where there was a small park (with very creepy statues of giant babies without faces). It was a fun first night, and the city was so alive with people!
For our first full day we decided to do a free walking tour. A friend from our hostel, Dominic, joined us and we went all over the city with a small group and a very animated guide learning all about the history of Prague and the Czech Republic. One of the coolest parts of the tour was learning about this famous astronomical clock tower in the Old Square. Every hour on the hour it comes to life – these four statues on either side start shaking their head and waving various items in their hands. Then a rooster crows at the very end and the doors close, the animation ends. What is exceptionally impressive about this tower is that it was built in 1410! When you know that fact, it makes the technology inside this clock and the animation incredibly impressive. The guide described it as “The iPhone 6 of its time – but 600 years from now do you think an iPhone will still run? Well this clock tower does!”
Shanna and I enjoyed our guide’s tour so much we decided to continue the day with her and do a tour of the Prague Castle – which is really more of a system of courtyards and buildings, than one big building. There is an absolutely beautiful gothic style cathedral in the castle, and of course I took a million photos of it!
That night we went out with Dominic and a few other friends to go bar hopping around the city. It was SUCH a good time! We went to a few bars and then eventually found ourselves at a bar with a great DJ and dance floor. Shanna and I danced the night away with our newly made friends. At one point Shanna looks over at me, and above the music says to me “Welcome to Europe, Mi Amor!” (Mi Amor is a nickname we call each other) I’ll never forget that moment. It felt like we were back at college together, having fun, meeting new friends, acting a bit like our wild and younger selves. It was a very nostalgic moment that made me really happy.
Our last day in Prague was Shanna’s birthday. We explored the city some more, went shopping, found THE only Mexican restaurant in the whole city to have lunch at (Mexican is her favorite!) and met back up with Dominic during the day to visit a 600 year old Monastery and drink beer brewed by monks. We also visited the famous “John Lennon Wall” in Prague. It has a very cool story behind it. It is this white wall in the city that has spray paint ALL over it. During World War II Prague was occupied by Nazi forces. To rebel, citizens would come to this wall and post lyrics from The Beatles (because of messages of peace in the lyrics, as a sign of protest, as a way to say they support western views and beliefs, etc.). Of course the Nazis did not take very kindly to this, and would constantly re-paint the wall white. Citizens kept coming to the wall to paint over it though, and eventually it became a symbol in Prague and to this day it continues to be highly decorated with messages of love and peace – including Beatles lyrics!
That night we also went out with one of our new friends and Hostel roommie, Jung, along with Andrew and some others to wonder Prague at night, have some drinks, and have a good time. Drinking in public is perfectly legal in Prague, so we thought to ourselves, “well, when in Prague!” We went to a local liquor store, grabbed some beer, and walked around while celebrating the night. We spent some time down by the river, saw some fireworks in the distance, and wound up at a local Irish pub. All in all, it was a lot of fun! We ended the night by walking across the Charles Bridge one last time (the famous bridge in Prague). We found the statue of John of Nepomuk, rubbed it for good luck, and called it a night.
The next day Shanna and I checked out of our hostel (which was super cool. It felt just like being back in the college dorms!) and headed to the bus station. We had a bus to Krakow to catch!
Closing thoughts about Prague:
- There were street performers everywhere, which was very cool!
- The city NEVER sleeps – there are always people out and about
- There is a ton of WWII history there, which I love learning about
- Beer was MUCH cheaper than water, and their “lowest” quality lagers were the equivalent of a good ale here in the U.S. So basically, beer was really good, and insanely cheap over there!
- Traditional food includes goulash (beef stew) and Czech dumplings (potato/bread consistency) which I tried and liked
- People in hostels are very friendly and eager to mingle. It was so easy to make new friends among fellow travelers
- Shanna and I learned that some of our friends were also going to Budapest, and so we made plans to meet up there!
- Native Czech people were cranky! Shanna and I ran into a very grumpy and mean waiter while at a restaurant one night. Luckily we did not go there again!
- There are statues EVERYWHERE