Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Prague, the Golden City

After two weeks off we were "back to work" Tuesday after Easter... Most primary schools had an inset day (Pro-D) and teachers had 2 weeks to recuperate, so we weren't too hopeful for work.  To top this off one of the the two bank holidays per year in this country is the first Monday in May AND add to that the Royals decided to get married on a Friday, and heck let's make that a holiday too, all means that there were very few working days in April and Michelle is VERY poor :(  But it also means lots of time to travel and spend this money that I do not have.

All this said, Friday morning I kept with the recent pattern and was up just after 4 am, way to early for my liking. I jumped a few buses, scoffed at the Wedding enthusiasts who were also up at this unnatural hour, and met Jen at the train station to head for our 8 am flight from Stansted airport to Prague via Cologne.

We arrived in Prague around lunch time and caught a taxi to Jarmila's house. How do I know someone in Prague? Well, about 20 years ago I was camping in the Okanagan with my parents and a lady from Czechoslovakia (yes, even before it became the Czech Republic) and her friend were camping next to us. On the weekend they locked their keys inside their car.  Apparently BCAA was non existent at this time because they were unable to get their car unlocked until Monday. So we invited them to our campsite for some food, and in good Canadian style eventually told them to come on over to the island to stay with us and see the sights. Which they did. And twenty years later, Jarmila, who was studying to be a journalist at the time (a ruse my Dad actually used to take them into the bush to work with him!), tracked down Dad on good ol' facebook! When I told my Dad I was heading to the Czech republic, he told me to send her an email. I did, and she graciously asked if I would like to stay with her, along with Jen who I was travelling with. We were very excited at this news for many reasons: we had not yet booked anywhere to stay, we were both feeling very poor, it is awesome to have insider tips when visiting a new place, and who wants to spend a night reading hostel reviews to get one that is affordable without being a risk to health and safety.

Some Easter Markets
Back to Friday. We grab a taxi from the airport and arrive at Jarmila's. She is there to greet us and she has made us lunch! We are happy travellers.  After lunch we head in to the city and Jarmila points us in a few directions, but by this time the 4 am wake up is making our brains foggy so we end up wandering aimlessly around the city in awe of our surroundings.

We walk through the Easter stalls where a man calls out "Hi Angel" then squirts at us with a water gun - not my idea of a great way to entice customers.  Another man looks at me and says something in a language I definitely do not speak and seems to offer me a bite of his falafel? I will pass, but thank you. The sun is still shining so we find a little terrace with live music down by the Vltava River for a nice drink.  Czech Republic has the highest beer consumption per capita than any country in the world, when in Rome...

We continue our sightseeing and make our way across Charles Bridge, a beautiful and extremely busy bridge over towards the castle side of town. Getting hungry we stop for dinner on a patio after reading about some delicious pizzas on the menu.  But we are told that the pizza is only sold downstairs in the restaurant. So we make our way downstairs into a psychedelic cave painted in many different neon colors with paintings of dragons and unicorns and topless faeries on the walls. Interesting ambiance, but the pizza was devine.

Saturday when we woke up Jen turns to me and says, "Sorry, did you hear my phone ring last night?"  "Nope, did you hear my alarm go off just after 4?"  "Nope." - Guess we make good room mates. We were served an amazing breakfast by Jarmila before we went into town for the free walking tour. The tour started at the gastronomic clock right in front of city hall. We were told that every hour on the hour the clock comes to life and someone gets married at city hall.  We laughed at first, but then started to believe this story as we saw no fewer than five brides that day.

Our tour guide was a girl from Texas, making for a lively and entertaining tour of the city - called the golden city because they used to store the city's gold on the roof of the castle, the castle largest in area in the world (though they all seem the same to me: big).

The last day of April is also Witches Night in Prague, a combination of Halloween and bonfire night. We had to check this out. Legend has it they used to burn the witches brooms, or light big bonfires to show the witches flying in the air, but what fun is that? Let's BURN THE WITCH!
Burn the Witch!!
Families crowded the park that we went to, kids and adults were dressed up. Some ladies dressed as witches sang for awhile. The songs seemes to be traditional as many locals were singing along. Then came the fun as a witch effigy was toted around the crowd and others dressed as witches and henchmen danced around. Finally she was paraded over to a big stack of wood where she was set alight. It was a very exciting, and slightly confusing ritual. While the witches seemes to enjoy random cackels, I took to randomly shouting: Burn the witch! Which brought strange looks from some, and chuckles by fellow tourists who spoke English. On the way home we stopped for some dessert then made our way home just as the thunder and lightening started. Of course the skies opened to the rain right before we got off the bus. Luckily it is a very short walk, but we were still soaked by the time we walked through the door.

Welcome to Prague, we are really starting to like this place!

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