Now one of the first things you should know about Prague in the winter is that it pretty much is constantly snowing lightly. Never really a blizzard, always slightly more than a dusting. What this means is that the city is always in a perpetual state of picturesque beauty. I got into the city and found my way to the most reccommmended hostel i could find, Hostel One, and immidiately knew I had found a place that I could stay for a while. That night I met my friends Pedro and David, enjoyed the free dinner the hostel provided me and crashed that night with a smile on my face.
The next day a couchsurfing host accepted my request and I just couldnt turn down the free accomodation. Since she could only meet me at night a spent the day wandering the beautiful streets. I stumbled across a Salvador Dali exhibition and spent an hour trying to decipher the meaning in his works, some of which were beautiful and arresting and some of which were simply too distorted for my tastes. I found my way across the Charles Bridge and hiked up to the Prague Castle, home of the St. Vitus Cathedral. The outside of the building was impressive, the inside was mindblowing. I'm constantly amazed whenever I see any of these old buildings and sights at just the sheer man hours that it took to create such structures and the care that was obviously taken to make such impressive sights. Exiting to the right I began the climb up to the top of the building, where a snowscape panorama of the city presented itself, looking out over a city that in many ways still feels like it belongs in another century. Gone are the skyscrapers and glass, present are the red roofs and winding streets, the city wrapping itself around the Vltava River on both sides.
Needing to burn a few more hours I made my way back to the city center and grabbed a seat at a starbucks that my iPod said was only a 15 minute walk from the metro stop where i was to meet my host. With a half hour still to go I got up and decided being early was far better than being late to meet someone who was offering me a place to stay simply out of the goodness of their heart. So, off I went. Quickly I came across the park that my map clearly had shown was between me and my destination and trudged upwards on a small footpath, not quite what I thought I would be walking on but mildly impressed that google knew of such a miniscule route. But then the path peters out. Up no longer being an option I decide the path to my left seems the most promising and quickly head in that direction. Meeting time in 15 minutes. The path keeps going left, taking me around the park instead of over it. I quicken my pace. A switchback occurs and through the woods i see a statue and a large building that must be right next to the meeting place as far as I can fathom. With only 5 minutes left i hop up over the retaining wall and with minimum bushwhacking I break through and look wildy around for the metro stop. "I have to be close" I think as I work my way around the large building I thought would help steer me to my destination. And then I see the other side. I am not on the other side of the park, but rather on top of it, in the center with a steep downhill to where I need to get to now if I am to not be late. Hustling along the running path I scan for any sort of route downwards. I find one, slippery and not very used but its the best I've got at the time. Down, down down I go until I'm not 300 meters from the street that I need to get to. I turn off the path and start walking, sledding on my backpack, falling my ways towards the street until I come to a ledge. 20 feet below me lies train tracks, lots of them, and a 10 foot fence to prevent any trespassing through them. This is not good. meeting time was 10 minutes ago but at the moment I just want to be able to get back onto any street. I follow the ledge along and thankfully an embankment presents itself that allows me to get down off the ledge and to the fence. I look for a hole or something to get through and, finding nothing, continue to walk along. Amazingly I end up on an actual street and even more amazingly the road leads me right under the tracks and onto a street not two blocks from my destination. With fingers crossed that I'm not too late I burst into the metro station and feel like falling at the feet of Anita, my host, when I see her there. Beyond grateful, she leads me back to her spacious apartment where I collapse and fall asleep instantly.
The next day I decide to take easy, my previous nights adventures were enough for two days and I spend most of the day sending couchrequests for Krakow (my next destination decided on that morning). Since Anita has work all day I head out to find dinner and bump into a group of germans that I had met at the hostel. They invite me back to watch the soccer match on ( ac milan vs. barcelona) and I happily spend the evening with my friends again drinking beers and trading stories. On my way out the hostel bartender, Samwell, asks me if I'll be in town the next day. I tell him I wasnt planning on it but that I dont really have anything definite planned on my next move. "Your coming with us tomorrow" he tells me with no hesitation, "theres a big Erasmus event and you don't want to miss it." Erasmus (I figured out later) is an exchange program that is very popular all over Europe and that hosts events for all the kids that are in it in a certain city. Since I already told Anita earlier that day that I would be heading out tomorrow I book another night at the hostel then and there.
Samwell wasn't kidding when he said that it would be a great time. about 24 hours after I confirmed my night at the hostel I found myself crowdsurfing in a packed club with celebratory Brits, Germans, Czechs, Spainards, and probably 10 other nationalities. The music was great, the atmosphere better, and I was so glad I had decided to stick around.
I left the next day for Krakow and arrived safely at the home of Aleksandra, a photographer and student here in Krakow and an easy and great person to stay with. Budapest is up next.
Have a good one,