Friday, April 27, 2012

CZECH me out

I didn't really know what to expect when I got off the plane in Prague. I don't really know anything about the Czech Republic except that they have great Swarozski crystals. That's about it. We found our way to our hostel which was in a sketchy area and there were homeless people outisde our gate and we all were a little weirded out. But once we got inside the gate, it wasn't terrible at all. It was fairly clean and fairly small so we got settled quickly. We were eager to go out even though it was a Sunday night so we struggled to find a bar that was open. 

GA was turning 21 at the stroke of midnight, so there was no choice but to go out and celebrate his awesomeness. Most of the bars we found were closed so we continued to wander around until we found an Irish Pub but they closed at 1 am so we had to find another bar. The waitress at the Irish pub spoke perfect english because she has family in Oregon and visits there often. She was quite the chatter-box and talked to us for over 20 minutes straight about her life, Prague life, American life, party life, etc. It was an ongoing ramble of words that we all just smiled and nodded to. She was very nice but the level of her chattiness was not something we were prepared for after a full day of travel. So we left the bar after our one beer and two bags of chips and walked down-town. It was freezing outside and we were all a little grumpy from traveling and being so cold so we got pulled into the first bar that we could find which was actually not a bar, but a strip club. 

I've never been to a strip club before, and neither had Kels or Steph so we were curious but definitely weirded out. We went straight to the bar part of the club and ordered a beer. A bunch of guys from England were there for a bachelor party so they approached us and asked us what we were doing in there. When they found out it was GA's birthday, the groom-to-be (who was dressed in drag) grinded on GA and made a bit of a scene. Out of all the English men, Liam was the most memorable. He asked LA who he was dating out of me and Kels because he immediately assumed GA and Steph were dating because they are both Asian. LA said neither but then Liam thought he was lying so he paired me with LA saying: "I can feel there is something between you two, I can feel it." He then proceeded to give LA and I relationship advice for fifteen straight minutes, holding both of our hands together. It ended in Liam forcing LA to get down on one knee and propose to me using one of my rings. Oh dear lord. Steph, GA, and Kels were dyingggg with laughter because LA and I have been fighting almost non-stop since we arrived. He really drives me insane. So the fact that he was forced to propose and that we were forced to listen to relationship advice was...difficult or bizarre or a riot. You pick the word. It was quite the story. They Englishmen shifted to another bar, so the five of us sat down at a table. There were girls dancing on poles in lingerie which wasn't too terrible, I just thought back to my days in Basic Drawing and Painting classes when we had nude models. I was focusing on imagining painting them and where the light was hitting and the contours of their skin. Then things got a little graphic with a girl-on-girl show and my jaw dropped and I was taken aback. LA and GA watched my face instead of the show because they said that I was more interesting than the girls. I was shocked. We were all sober and I was not prepared to handle that. We left the bar immediately and went straight back to the hostel. That was... it was... yeah. A story. That was quite the story.

The next morning we woke up late and grabbed brunch at a traditional czech restaurant that was right by our hostel. I ate beef sirloin in a vegetable cream sauce with bread dumblings. It's a very traditional dish and only cost 98 Czech Crowns which translates roughly to 4 euros. It was unexpectedly delicious. There was whipped cream and jam on the meat which I just kind of pushed to the side, but the sirloin and the sauce and the bread dumplings which taste like steamed bread (like the outside of a BBQ steamed pork bun from a dim sum restaurant) was amazing. I was thouroughly happy and satisfied. Huge bummer is that Kels wasn't able to join us for lunch or for the rest of the day because she felt so sick she needed to stay at the hostel and rest up. Poor girl. Three down and two to go. GA, Kels, and I are all sick and LA and Steph have resisted the sickness so far. We all have hacking coughs and sore throats. It could be worse but we are going through cough drops like candy and taking all the medicine possible that we packed, codine, nyquil, dayquil, nasal decongestants, advil, etc-- anything that can let us handle a busy day and not feel too terrible. After lunch we went to a beer tasting at a restaurant that brews all their own beer. The whole restaurant is filled with the aromas of hops and barley. It was rather strong and not to my liking, but I really enjoyed the beer. We tried banana beer, coffee beer, nettle beer, dark beer, wheat beer, light beer, wild cherry beer, etc. It was really cool. My favorite beer was the banana beer. It tasted just like a banana flavored laffy taffy and was positively divine. Who knew beer could be that scrumptous? We ordered "beer cheese" and "marinated sausage" off of the menu to eat in between each beer sample so we could cleanse our palatte. Too bad we suck at life and ordered the most disgusting things possible. The cheese was rancid and I refused to try it because just smelling in made me nauceous. And the marinated sausage looked like a raw can of spam. Yuck. I tried a little bite but none of us could really stomach it. We left almost the entire hunk of cheese and chunk of sausage on the plate when we left.

After the beer tasting we wandered around our side of town and went into a second hand store where I bought an awesome white and black striped sweater and then we went into an antique store. LA was seriously considering buying a type writer because he desperately wants one. He imagines how bad-ass he would look typing away on a type writer in an Iowa City coffee shop. Typical LA. But he resisted the urge to buy it because it would be so difficult to transport and it'd be pretty impractical to buy one in Prague when we still have Budapest to go. Traveling with that thing would have been hell. 

After the beer tasting, we wandered into the old town square and went out in search of "the literary coffee shop" but we couldn't find it so we just stopped at the astronomical clock where there was an Easter celebration going on. Little wooden shops were set up around the clock tower and were selling souvenirs and fresh Czech food. Kels and I split lots of desert treats and we were happy happy happy. She loves chocolate and asked for extra chocolate on everything we ordered. One day Kelsey ate an entire jar of nutella in one sitting. That girl is OBSESSED. 

From the astronomical clock there was a trumpeter playing songs and a wedding was going on so the square was full of people looking up. The astronomical clock was the most intricate clock I have ever seen, having multiple faces of wood and iron and glass and had the 12 signs of the Zodiac inscribed on it. It was stunning. Lots of the shops that we wandered into were filled with marionettes, wooden dolls, glass art, and small intricate works of wood and glass. The czech people are true artisans. I was incredibly impressed by their level of skill.

We went back to the hostel and checked up on Kels who was soundly sleeping thanks to some Codine that LA provided her with. We woke her up-- or actually startled her awake from entering the room and we got ready for dinner. GA has a friend who lives in Prague and was born and raised here in the Czech republic. His name is Honza and he studied abroad for a year of highschool at GA's school back in the states. Honza and GA became best friends over that year and GA couldn't stop talking about how excited he was to finally get to see him again. Honza was meeting us for dinner and drinks that night to celebrate GA's 21st. Over dinner, Honza proved himself to be an incredibly intelligent individual quoting Steve Jobs and speaking about nuclear energy versus wind energy amongst other smart-topics. It caught me a little off guard. He's a cyber-robotics technology major or something of that sort-- which just sounds super nerdy and geniusy, but super awesome too. So he talked and talked over dinner and we all were just kind of listening in awe. No one has talked to us like that over these last two months and it's not what we expected from GA's best friend from his senior year of high school. Honza  was more than we bargained for-- in a wonderful way. 

We also acquired an Australian girl, Jay, to come with us out to the bars. She's beautiful and sweet and traveling europe for 5 months with her best friend. She's only 18. 5 months with one backpack and one friend. Now that's bravery.

After dinner we went to THE PUB, which is the name of a bar that has individual taps on every table and it's a huge competition in between each table to see who can drink more beer. There's a digital scoreboard on every table and also a giant scoreboard projected onto a wall. Talk about a great idea. That could get dangerous back in the states though, beer competition? Yikes. We all passively sipped the beer and found ourselves in second to last place out of 20 tables or so. We arrived at the bar rather late for czech standards so we couldn't catch up to the 52 beers of other tables. I sat in between Kels and Honza and was happy to be surrounded by friends. Honza and I had an incredibly intellectually stimulating conversation. It was so refreshing to be able to elevate my vernacular from concersational colloquialisms to a more sophisticated diction. I haven't been able to do that in awhile. I'm not implying that the people I'm around in Greece aren't intelligent, they are! It's just that Honza presents himself as an intellectual and is unhindered and unafraid to come off as one.  Therefore, it was comfortable to speak as he speaks. We spoke mainly about philosophy and psychology and other related topics. He had a lot to say that I really respected. We live our lives conversely, his day-to-day life is filled with logic and reason so he keeps his personal life void of it, whereas I life a creative life and choose to put more logic and analysis in my personal life. It's a balance between the both. I think I like how he treats his personal life much better, he chooses not to figure things out about people and with that active choice to not know, he finds peace. I find that I choose to search and search for answers revolving around peoples decisions and choices to try to understand them better and how I can be a better friend to them. Not knowing is frustrating and knowing provides me with varying levels of frustration as well. Honza lives smarter than me. When I came home, I jotted down a few "pearls of wisdom" he bestowed upon me. He really got me thinking. I couldn't be more appreciative for all he said. 

The next day was a full day of exploring Prague. It was one of the best days of the trip as well. TODAY, I FELL IN LOVE WITH PRAGUE.

We woke up earlier than normal around 9 am and headed straight out to the center of the city. We walked down the main street and went into H&M (we're going to an H&M in every country) and a couple other stores. We grabbed a hot dog at "the best hot dog stand in the city." It was delicious. Their hot-dogs are normal but but inside a small bagette with spicy mustard and ketchup-- delicious! We grabbed a couple pastries from an open air market and we were all surprised by how delicious everything was. Yum yummy. 

After our food extravaganza, we took the train into the center and walked across the Charles Bridge (Karluv Most) which connects the Old town with the Kesser town. It was filled with musicians, painters, and vendors. I bought a hand-made leather necklace that is intricate and beautiful. I was very happy with that purchase. I passed many other jewelry vendors, wood vendors, painting vendors, photography vendors, etc. There was a live band playing some upbeat music with a trumpet and guitars and all that jazz. I also rubbed a statue that when you rub it, it's good luck and a wish of yours will be granted. Right in front of that statue, I lost the lens cap to my Canon and was ticked off. Without that lens cap, my lens could get scratched and that would be NO BUENO. 

We found the Lennon Wall, filled with quotes and paintings and drawings. We took a million photos in front of it because who could ask for a better backdrop? 

After the Lennon wall we were all ready for lunch and we grabbed lunch at a Bagel shop, which was BEYOND DELICIOUS. We were all incredibly, almost deliriously, happy to have bagels and for it to be so delicious. I got french toast bagel with REAL maple syrup. It was heaven. I also had a bottomless cup of coffee and it's amazing what some caffeine can do for a girl. Woo, I felt so chipper and happy after a couple cups-- just what the doctor ordered. 

After lunch we went to St. Vitus cathedral and then enjoyed sitting on the church's steps. It was sunny and warm and our group loves to soak up the sun on steps. It's our thing :) After soaking up some sun, we visited the Prague castle. It's a fairy tale castle up on the hill overlooking the city. It was beautiful and reminded me of my time in Romania. We got tickets to walk around the castle so we saw old suits of armor and shields and weapons. We went into the church, which was stunning, but compared to the sistine chapel and all the other churches in Italy, it doesn't quite compare. The stained glass was glorious though. The castle church was built in the 13th century but the stained glass was relatively new, installed in the 1920s. 

After the castle, we went to the Museum of Young Art. The boys opted out for it and headed for the hostel. The Museum for Young Art was not what I bargained for. It was strange. Theart was very much about the message, less about the art itself. I'll let the photographs speak for themselves...

Next, we decided to go to an infamous ICE BAR. The bar is kept at -5 degrees you have to wear special coats and gloves to go inside it. It's freezing in there. You can only stay in there for 20 minutes and your drinks are served in cups made completely of ice. The entire room is made completely and absolutely out of ice. It was really cool but there was only one other couple in there with us so it was a bummer that it wasn't bumpin' but it was still a fabulous photo op which we took full advantage of.

Once we were done freezing our butts of at the Ice Bar, we headed back to our hostel to scoop up the boys for din-din and then for party time. We went out to a traditional Czech dinner again. It's just so delicious, why would we stop eating it? I know I couldn't eat such a heavy, filling meal 24/7, but I can definitely do it a few days in a row. GA ordered Kangaroo and I tried a bite, it was kind of like steak, just a little chewier. I didn't mind it. When Kelsey saw "Kangaroo fillet" on the menu she asked, "what's kangaroo fill-it?" (pronounced as such.) We all laughed and enjoyed her pronunciation mistake and it quickly became a quote of the trip. Honza joined us for dinner again and I greatly enjoyed his presence once again. Such a bummer he has class during the day and isn't able to explore the city with us.

Kelsey and Stephanie didn't feel like going out, so I was the lone girl out with the guys. We started out just the four of us: Honza, GA, LA, and me at a sitting bar. We had a little booth to ourselves so we had a beer and chit-chatted. Honza's room mate Justin and his cousin Katerina joined us after a bit and we headed down town to look for a fun bar. Justin and I walked with each other on the walk and we had a wonderful conversation about Prague and about America. He doesn't speak English nearly as well as Honza, but he speaks well enough that we can communicate relatively easily. Justin was such a sweet guy. Katerina is beautiful and funny, she has a wonderful smile and is great company. She was bold and wore giant high heels which was definitely a mistake after all the walking we ended up doing. So... we went to a dancing club but it was pretty dead so we walked right out, we went to bar number 2 and it was pretty dead so we walked right out, then bar number three was fairly dead but we were all sick of wandering, so we settled in at a high table. I had told Honza earlier in the evening that Mojitos are my favorite drink and he ordered a gigantic Mojito-bucket for the table. It was very sweet of him. We all sipped the delicious drink and danced a bit. Honza had told me the other night that he was in the mood to dance and promised me to show off his skills the following night (tonight). I was expecting him to be an alright dancer. He's a brainiac. Seriously, on the verge of being a genius. I didn't expect him to have any sort of moves. But he does. Yet another thing that Honza is great at. He's such a fun dancer, he has a good sense of rhythm and his move are all goofy, but not silly. They're just.... fun. For a bit we tangoed and twirled and it was a blast. Katerina and Justin were dancing with us and GA for awhile too. LA was hitting on some locals, so he just did his own thing. But I loved dancing, I loved the night. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful, wonderful trip to Prague.

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