The train from Munich to Prague is not as nice as the other trains we’ve been on. It is decorated in early 90’s pastels and many of the knobs and gewgaws appear to be broken.
My efforts to open the window fail until an hour into the trip when another passenger recommends pulling down on only one side of the window. This does the trick and the breeze makes our ride much more enjoyable. Everyone in our cabin slides in and out of light sleep as the train climbs into the Czech hills.
The Czech countryside reminds me of West Virginia – hilly and forested, towns in various states of decay and rust. It is not unpleasant.
As we grow closer to Prague there is a marked increase in graffiti.
Coach drivers meet us at the train station. There are 16 of us and they have seating for 12. This does not appear to concern the drivers as they wave us towards the vehicles.
“Is OK. Is OK. Yes, 16.”
Panic and frustration etch themselves in our tour guide’s face, but everyone in the group smiles and assures her that it is, in fact, OK. This is one of many reasons I like most Australians I meet – they tend to lack the righteous indignation at slight inconvenience or discomfort that seems to hide just below the surface of American skin.
“In we go. Good on ya!”
The group bonds on the short ride to the hotel.
We have a few minutes rest at the hotel and then are out into the streets for a quick orientation walk and food.
“Praha Hotdog! Praha Hotdog! Bread or bun! Red or white hotdog!”
Praha hotdog is actually pretty good. And Praha itself is a kaleidoscope of people and architecture.
As we walk towards Charles Bridge, we go through an alleyway framed by massage parlors and Prague’s Sex Toy Museum. It is only later that I realize Predator was holding the Thai Massage sign.
Tourists and shoppers clog the streets, but not overwhelmingly so. The myriad of non-English speech is pleasant to soak in – a calming white noise, the same that one would enjoy in a busy pub.
We split from the group and spend the afternoon wandering through Prague city center and down the Vltava river to Frank Gehry’s Dancing House, which likely leaks when it rains, like every other Gehry building.
Dinner is at a dive restaurant near the hotel. We are introduced to pig lard as a butter alternative and Budweiser Budvar of which America’s Budweiser is a pale, borderline-disgusting shade. Cream steak (svíčková na smetaně) and bread dumplings (knedlíky) – heavy but delicious. It’s all stereotypically Bohemian – Czech greasy spoon – but not cartoonish.
Back at the hotel I discover the inside of my right shoe is stained with blood and my heel is rubbed raw. My phone shows that we walked over 10 miles today. I briefly consider that I should have worn socks as I fall to sleep.