Aha Praha

The Pilsner bar is the first thing that greets me at the the Prague airport. Hello beautiful!! I am quite tempted to get in and have my welcome drink. But, I decide to keep moving.  I regret not doing that. In the time I spent waiting for my baggage, I could have had a whole pitcher. 
Rain, rain and rain. It’s cold as hell. I was told by my hostel to take the airport shuttle and come into the city. I stand, shivering at the wrong bus stop for a while but am helped by a charming guy to the right one. This time they are grey. Sparkly grey eyes. What is with me and one time meetings with eye candies at airports? Damn!
Into the right bus, half an hour’s ride for 60 Korunas/Crowns which is around 180 Indian rupees. There wasn’t much of a landscape to look out at. I was already in city limits so, it was all concrete and glass. But yeah, thanks to the gloom a rainy day brings and the absence of anyone on the streets, (I am an Indian, I need a bunch of people walking around to feel normal) all the buildings looked like asylums or Hostels from the movie franchise “Hostel”. 
I alighted at the main train station, Hlavni nadrazi and took the elevator to go down into the station and walk out to the other side of the street. Instructions from my hostel. After asking a few people, I reached my destination. I get my room key and the punch in code. I am staying for two days in this hostel and moving onto my couchsurfing host’s place on the third. 
The visa guys think they are very smart by forcing us to book all the accommodations and by not accepting couchsurfing? Well, I am an Indian. We are the kings of all hacks. I had booked flexible accommodations through AirBnB, which are bookings that could be cancelled 24 hours before check in time, with no fines. You end up paying a fair amount of 200 rupees to AirBnB and the rest is refundable. After making these bookings for my visa, I had also contacted various couchsurfing hosts in the cities I was travelling to. The ones I got a positive response from, I cancelled my AirBnB booking. My host Farhana in Prague wasn’t available the first two days I was there, so I went ahead and used my hostel stay.
As I enter my room, I am greeted by one of my four roommates. A girl from Spain who is living in the London at the moment and was travelling through Prague and Germany this summer. We introduced ourselves, but unfortunately I don’t remember her name. She is on my Insta, but can’t figure out her name there either. She gave me some ideas on the free Prague tour. While I was unpacking and wondering what to wear, I realized that the universal converter I had bought last year in Germany wasn’t working here!!! So, can’t charge my phone and the worst of all, CAN’T IRON MY CLOTHES?!!!! NIGHTMARE!! 
I charge my phone temporarily with my power bank (not mine, borrowed) and then charge the power bank through my surface. Just then, walks in my third roommate. She was in Prague for the night, before she headed out to her friend’s wedding in Plzen. I invited her to come explore the city with me.
After spending almost an hour together, we realized we didn’t know each other’s name still. My co-explorer was Johnny from the USA. Yeah, I was puzzled too and repeated her name to make sure I had heard it right. Her mother wanted a baby boy and had her heart set on the name. But when it was a baby girl, she decided to go ahead and use the name nonetheless.

Johnny had no plans for the day and was going to come back to Prague with her husband in the next couple of days. So, itinerary for the evening was all upto me. First we went on a hunt for a local phone number. I cannot survive without Google maps. I am horrible at remembering or figuring out directions. I need maps to tell me where I am at and where I have to go. Specially in Europe, where every other building looks like a palace, you need a map to know whether you are really looking at one or it’s just a mall.

While following directions from various people for the nearest place to get a sim card, we come across the powder tower.  I knew what it was, well because I had a list of places to see with a daily itinerary. Yes, I am crazy. This was the castle gate between old and new town.It was used to store gunpowder, hence the name. It hosts an exhibition, but I was in a hurry to go get my new sim, so decided to visit later again. Take a few pics of that. Change lens, struggle, almost drop the camera. Phew.

Powder Tower

Saw this great vintage car and remembered that you can take a trip through Prague on one of these gorgeous babies. You can, I didn’t. We were supposed to go to the mall Palladium, which apparently is the biggest mall of Prague. Let me tell you, it had nothing on the simplest, smallest mall back home. Anywho, I get my new sim, while trying hard not to pass out. Remember, I had a bad cold when I left India? Well, it was as worse as it could get now and the cold, chilly weather was obviously not helping.

We come out of Palladium and I see a Trdlenik stall. I tell Johnny that it is a local specialty (which apparently it is not, as told by my nuclear bunker tour guide the next day) and we have to try it. Trdelnik is a traditional sweet pastry originated from Hungary and is made of rolled out dough that is wrapped around a stick and grilled. It is then topped with a sugar and walnut mix. There are multiple modern versions of it available in Prague. I took one with chocolate, cinnamon and sugar and Johnny took one with ice cream and fruits.

 It starts raining. We are brave tourists who won’t be bogged down by climate change and we truck on to the Museum of  medieval torture instruments. This is located right next to Charles bridge, if you are coming from the old town.

Creepy. Creepy. Creepy. Couldn’t imagine living in a world, where I could be accused of being a witch because I don’t look my age. (Humble much?) The worse part being the punishment, where I could be paraded through the city in shackles with a pointy headgear, or tied to a pole with spikes, or my limbs tied to a roller and slowly pulled apart or if I am lucky, just burnt alive. It was very disturbing to look at all the instruments and read about them. How can people be so cruel? How can they enjoy someone else’s suffering? Sadly, the methods of torture have changed but the world is the same.

Crown of thrones?
The inspiration for Game of thrones?
Wanna get taller?

By the time we were done, I had no energy left to do anything else. The constant drizzle of rain with my blocked sinuses killed any remaining enthusiasm. As soon as we stepped out of the museum, it felt like I was back in India. The crowd!! Last year Munich was crowded too, but nothing compared to this. I felt like a fish in a school, being swept around wherever the tide took me.

We walked around looking for a place to eat. Everything looked expensive. We came across an Apple museum. Not the one you eat, the one you are ready to spend a whole month’s salary on. We were like “Seriously?!!” There are museums at every corner, of everything you can imagine. Well, why not? In a tourist centered city like Prague, every avenue of making money out of the lost masses has to be explored.

We walked around quite a bit, looking for a good place to eat. Not knowing what was good and what was not, we decided to enter the next restaurant we come across. We walked into Zlata Lyra. This place was filled with South Asians. After poring over a not so elaborate menu, Johnny settled on a Peas soup with Salmon and I ordered a Czech Beef Goulash. Me being me, I need to sample local food when I am travelling. I have to try out everything that has to be.

Over a conversation of LGBT rights, terrorism and Donald Trump, we enjoyed the absolutely delicious dinner. The peas soup was warm and mild, perfect for the gloomy weather. The beef goulash had one of the tastiest sauces I have eaten. The meat was just melting in the mouth and it was served with the traditional Czech potato and bread dumplings. The bill was exorbitant. I was already dreading the rest of my trip.

Feeling full and satisfied after the meal, it was an effort to walk back to the hostel in the cold. We walked by a wax museum. There was no way I wanted to spend some more precious money on looking at wax dolls. Maybe Madame Tussaud’s some day. Bruce Willis gave me a little peep at the entrance.

I wish I could just teleport to my hostel. It was just 7:30 in the evening and the city was dead. At home, at this time, everyday, I am battling with the monster called traffic. With the uninviting weather and no company to drink or party, going to bed was the best thing to do. Crashed at 8 and woke up at 6. Decided to have the breakfast at the hostel. One of the crappiest decisions of the trip. For 100 Crowns which is roughly 300 Rupees I got cereal, bread, jam, butter and a watery juice.

Cursing the hostel for the loot they were on with, I got out and moved on towards the nuclear bunker tour. I am a big fan of World War 2 and all that came along with it. Mainly the rise and effect of communism. Czech republic and Slovakia have a long history with communism and I was out to visit it. Google map actually showed the location, “Nuclear bunker tour” I was staying smack in the center of old town and everything was quite close and at walking distance. I followed the map through tiny cobblestone lanes, with cute bars and even a Chanel store. Saved a toddler from getting hurt, while her family was busy chit chatting and taking pictures. (Pats herself on the back)

The communism and nuclear bunker tour costs 600 CZK or around 1800 INR. We were an interesting mixed group. A bunch of oldies from Australia, three Swedish guys (one of them, stop your heartbeat handsome) and I, the lone Indian woman. Our guide, John (pronounced Yaon) was a super energetic guy with a love for travel. I had a great time sharing my travel stories with him. He had visited India too and was in love with Varanasi. We started the tour walking through the streets of Prague, by the hanging man. Hanging man was one of the places on my list. This sculpture which looks like a suicide in progress, is actually statue of Sigmund Freud, hanging by a hand, pondering the question we all struggle with on a regular basis, “To hold on or let go?” I decided to come back later and take some pictures from a closer angle, but never got around to doing so.

Our motley group walked through a little park, guarded on one side with one of the oldest monasteries. The park was lovely, like most parks are in spring time in Europe. With green mallard ducks walking through it.

We walked by the Wenceslas square and John told us about the various struggles and changes it had witnessed. He told us about the subway systems and how they doubled as nuclear bunkers during the dark days. He told us about his family’s struggles and how renowned scientists and professors had to work in factories as laborers.

A dark period of paranoia and distrust. We took a bus to a nuclear bunker near the TV tower. Well, somewhere along there, I got to take a few pictures of the same and thanks to my powerful camera lens, I could take clear images of the freaky crawling babies too. This is one of the must dos in Prague. There is a restaurant on top of the tower and is supposed to give the most beautiful view of the whole city. By now, I knew that this trip was going to be extremely expensive. Going to a fancy restaurant was out of the question and somehow I wasn’t interested in going there. There were a lot more places on my list claiming to give one of the best views of the city.

Why are those babies crawling up a tower?!

John took us all to a little hole in the wall. Literally.  Walking through the solid iron door we entered a dark, cold corridor which led to stairs going deeper in the ground. It felt like we were going into the bowels of the earth. Cold and damp. Ok, let’s not be a drama queen about it. It was just 150 meters deep. John made us guess that with a quiz. The “stop your breath handsome”Swedish guy got it right.

We were walked through the difficult times as we snaked through those corridors. Protests, subjugation, assassinations. Could not imagine living in a time like that. At the same time wondered if back home, we were slowly walking towards it.

My heart broke looking at those little gas masks and suits made for children and even babies. Small rooms as kitchens, telecommunication centers and everything else such a depressive place would need. This particular bunker could house a few hundred people at a time. Luckily it never had to be used as they hadn’t planned well. They had made sure the place was stocked with everything a person would need, except for the elixir of life. Water.

Heartbreak

Just before the end, we all got to pose with the uniform, guns, grenades and what not. Those Swedish guys were having so much fun. I missed being with someone. Wished I was travelling with friends. I felt really awkward posing alone. Well, I had dug the hole, and I had to lie in it.

The tiniest soldier

Once the tour finished we went back to the old town center and I asked John to help me out with an electronics store, as I mentioned earlier, I was unable to charge my phone. He directed me to a store called Datart. I was helped by a friendly attendant at the store, the only English speaking one. He obviously realized I was a tourist, and told me about this “must visit” place. It’s called the Petrin tower. He said that was his to go spot for first dates, as it’s beautiful and romantic. He would have loved to take me but was sick (very visibly) He had the flu. runny noses don’t really make the ideal first dates. He was so sweet and drew me a little map to go there and (claimed) was heartbroken that he couldn’t take me there himself.

When someone wanted to take me on a date

I let him live in his bubble, thanked and walked out. I decided to go towards the palace. And then, hunger pangs…. I walked the street twice looking for a place which didn’t wipe out my wallet. I gave up after a while and went into a restaurant called Narodni Nalevna. The menu looked quite interesting and I ordered Pork ribs in a homemade marinade and a mug of Pilsner. The first few bites were great, and then I tried it with a spread they had given. It was even yummier. bite 1, bite 2, bite 3… and now I started feeling queasy. I realized there was something funny with the spread. It wasn’t spoilt, but whatever it was made of, was making me sick. I am usually pretty good with guessing the ingredients while tasting. But this one eluded me. I started getting sicker, I downed my beer, stuffed down a few more bites (without the spread) and moved on.

It was a beautiful sunny day, I was feeling sick and I looked like shit ( Nothing new) Earlier yesterday I had thought of giving the free Prague tour a shot but finally decided to go on at my own pace. I like to wander around and take pictures and soak in, which is quite difficult while running around with a bunch of people and straining to hear the guide. I kept walking around and I came across “The matrix” This is a 42 layer metal sculpture of Franz Kafka’s head made by David Cerny (Same guy who made those freaky babies on the tower) This is what I love! Stumbling and coming across things. This freedom isn’t there if you are in a tour group.

From here on, I started following my map to go to the John Lennon wall. I had to cross the Charles bridge. The weather was horrible now and the pictures were bad, plus the bridge was packed to the rafters. As I walked on, there was a group of South Asians taking pictures. One of the woman called out to me and asked if I would pose with her friend, who was a shy shy man and, it was quite obvious that they were teasing him. Well, I love making people uncomfortable!! So, I linked my arm into his and posed for a picture. That man turned beet red and his whole group (around 30 of them) got their cameras out and started going paparazzi on me. As I walked away after that, I had a lot of “You are a very beautiful woman”compliments. The day was sunny again!!! I kept stopping by to take pictures and an African man who looked like a photographer was right next to me and told me that I was going to be remembered forever by those South Asians now and I was a gorgeous woman inside out, for being so nice about it. Awww. This day was just getting better and better!! πŸ˜€

How?!

It was as beautiful outside as I was feeling inside. Street artists all along the bridge. Had a great time watching people sing, dance and even paint.

As I got closer to the John Lennon wall, it got quiet and peaceful. This was obviously not a favourite tourist haunt. A guy was walking next to me and he struck up a conversation. He was Shah from Singapore and was travelling through Europe. Loved his itinerary and ideas. We took each other’s pictures which was awesome for both of us, as we were lone travelers and the only way we can be in pictures is through selfies, and I hate selfies!! It’s beautiful at the wall. It’s lined with trees which had little flowers and the wall itself is colorful and peaceful. Messages of peace and love. Reminded me of the Berlin Wall.

I wanted to go to the Franz Kafka museum and I asked Shah to join me if he wanted. There wasn’t anything interesting in the museum and we decided to not waste our time or money on it. Nothing interesting inside, but outside… well well. The famous Peeing men. Thank god for Shah being there with me, I could unabashedly be goofy and do silly stuff. I would have been too embarrassed to take selfies with a peeing man, if I was alone, even if he was made of metal. The people around us had a great time looking at our poses.

                                            //www.youtube.com/get_player

I had read about this Cafe called Kaficko on the lane outside the Kafka museum which apparently had the best Hot chocolate. We went hunting for it but unfortunately the place was shut for renovation. On our walk back we came across a little artist’s studio and watched the artist paint through a window. Watching strokes of brushes, colours turn into beautiful landscapes was extremely therapeutic.

We saw another cafe and decided to go in there for a hot chocolate. Over conversations of our respective countries, hostels and travel stories we had the most decadent hot chocolate. They gave us a cup of hot milk and a block of chocolate on a stick. We had to dip it in the milk till it all melted. I wanted to just lick and eat the gooey chocolate. It reminded me of a friend who absolutely loves chocolate and how much they would have enjoyed this. We were so immersed in it that we didn’t think of taking videos or pictures for a long while. When it finally hit me, I took some from Shah’s phone as mine was dead and well, now I don’t have them. The dampener to the great time was a bunch of drunk British men being absolutely obnoxious and rude. If it was India, by now they would have been thrown out of the place, but here the manager took their s***.

After the chocolate, Shah took me to this beautiful little bridge under the Charles bridge.

Europe or India. Goddess Lakshmi is everywhere.
Skyline

It was time we parted ways. Promising to stay in touch and maybe come across each other in life again. I walked back through Charles bridge and took lot of great pictures and my first selfie with a selfie stick, which by the way wasn’t great at all. I stopped by the St. Nicholas Church. Beautiful Baroque architecture and full of my favourite Frescoes.

I rested my tired old bones for a while and then…… To the sex machines museum!!! Church to sex museum… Yup.

As soon as you enter the sex machines museum there is a love tester on your left. A big arm chair, on which couples came and plonked themselves and it told them whether their sex life was frozen or was a sex bomb. I was tempted to try it out, but realized that with my 45 KGs of weight it will have no option but to give me a new score of “Dead and rotting”.

This little self help machine is one hell of an invention.

Once you pay up and go in, there is a little theater where they screen old erotic movie. That day they were playing some girl on girl action. We are so used to the porn nowadays, with the perfect bodies. I was cringing watching the movie. And I was shocked and upset with myself because the women on screen were normal women. Just like all of us. No flat abs and super perky breasts and ass. And, I couldn’t take it. The movie was far from arousing. It was almost revolting for me. I decided to move on and went up to the 1st floor. This is the only museum in the whole world dedicated to sex machines. Love seats, dildos, flexible dummies and what not.

Yes it is what you think it is.
Ouch!
YIKES!!!

Sex devices from the 16th century and onwards. There was a whole floor dedicated to BDSM. Some of it, I didn’t find very weird. Maybe because now, in the 21st century we have seen, read and heard a lot more than people did in those times. I was the weirdo taking pictures of dildos, dummies and love seats. All were couples in there and I was the pervert single girl.

Lazy enough?
Don’t touch. Indeed.

I went back to the hostel and met another new roommate. Caroline from Hamburg. We spoke about Hamburg (Oh, how I love that city!!!) India, travelling and so on. I was supposed to meet Farhana tonight. My couchsurfing host, I am supposed to move in with her tomorrow. She had asked me to come to her boyfriend’s new cafe. I got ready for the evening and got going. I was still not feeling too good. I hoped the evening out will do me good. Farhana had given me great directions. I was in a completely different part of the town. Quite far from my hostel. Far by Prague’s standards and not India. I travel more than that to go to work here everyday. I met Farhana and her boyfriend Michal for the first time. Really nice and warm people. I loved their Kavarna or cafe.  I had some appetizers which were absolutely yummy. I was starving but felt awkward to ask for more. The place was beautiful and rustic. They had no mirrors in their bathrooms because they didn’t want people to worry about how they looked in there. I think it is a brilliant idea!!

After a while, Farhana and I moved on to a pub where we were supposed to meet her friends. I don’t remember the name of the place but it was dingy and drab. Drinks spilled on the floor, too much smoke in the air. Luckily as soon as we reached they were ready to move on to the next place. We went to a bar called “The Red Room”. There was live music, this guy singing classic rock. Again, too much smoke. I realized I was being my usual “in a new place”self. I become extra cautious, unable to relax or let go. Which I think is a great defense mechanism, obviously one shouldn’t lose their senses in an alien place when they are all alone.  But this also means I am never able to have crazy fun. Being sick wasn’t helping with my mood either. We were a bunch of 8-9 people. What crazy energetic fun friends Farhana has!

There was a group of Britishers behind us. Being so boisterous and messy. Breaking glasses and spilling drinks. I was getting super irritated. To add on to that, a couple of men approached our table. British again. One of them zeroed in on Farhana and I. I guess the exotic brown skinned girls of the group. He started showing his tattoos of Swastika and Buddha eye, trying to impress us both. Well, if you know me, I don’t give two f**** about all this impressing bullshit. I was trying to be polite and not encouraging him, when he puts his hand on me and tries to whisper, but croaks because he is drunk, “This is a city of sin my love. We can do what we want.” I lose my cool and I say something rude. His companion comes defending but one of Farhana’s friend swoops in and diverts their attention. Keeps them laughing all night and makes them buy shots for all of us. What an awesome girl! Some talent!! I don’t do shots, so I kept passing my drinks to the others. If this had happened back home. if a guy was hounding me and being so aggressive he would have been punched and been dumped out of the club in no time.

After a while one of Farhana’s friend, Pavla (A very quiet girl) and I decide we had had enough of all that and go out to take a breath of fresh air. The bunch of Britishers who were sitting behind us leave the club at the same time. Farhana’s best friend, Amanda, a high energy no nonsense Croatian comes out too. And then,…. OMG!! If you think I am feisty and confrontational, Amanda is the queen of us all. One of the British men, the only kinda sober of that group, apologizes to us for the ruckus his mates were creating. We just nod and smile but Amanda starts telling him how all Britishers were like that. They are dirty, loud and impolite and she can’t stand them. I am shocked. The guy is still nice about it, apologizes again and they leave. One thing that struck me most with the exchange in this place was how calm and bother-less the club was. In India, the bouncers would have thrown out all of them out ages ago.

We decide to leave after a while and hit another club. I am tired but I decide to go on. When we are out, in some conversation Farhana tells them about my son. They all are shocked. They can’t believe that I have a 5 year old child. Then Philippe, a Brazilian guy with us asks me, how did my parents take it when I decided to have a baby at such an young age. I tell him that I wasn’t too young. I am 33 now. He says, “Ya. You are 23 now. 18 is too young to have a child.”I correct him and all of them erupt again. It was so much fun. Great to know that I looked young for my age on an international standard. πŸ˜›

We take a tram, everybody is so hyper and crazy and I felt so weird being part of a group which made so much noise!! But, I loved it all too. We had to walk a bit from our stop to the next club. Everyone wanted to pee so bad. They all take turns to just go into a park on the roadside. I just couldn’t get myself to do it. When we reach the club, its shutting down. I request and use the loo. Everyone decides to hit another nightspot. I am exhausted and feeling extremely sick. Farhana and I leave. It felt so amazing and surreal to wait for a tram at 2:30 in the morning. Felt even more funnier later when I had to walk to my hostel. Can’t imagine taking public transport or walking on deserted streets back home. Hope life would be safer for the next generation.

I am not sure about you, but I am tired of writing. This blog has become way too long already. I will hit you soon with my next two days in Prague. Till then, mΓͺjte se!!!!

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Zeest says:

    Gripping ! Loved it

    Like

  2. Deepika Rao says:

    Thank you!!! Means a lot when my readers like it. Please do feel free to give any critiques or recommendations. πŸ™‚

    Like

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