People make places: Discovering Prague with strangers

On one of the first days of the trip, everyone on the bus got up to introduce themselves and to say the city they are most excited for. A huge majority of people said they were most looking forward to Prague.
I literally had no idea what was in Prague.

As we drove over a bridge, the city’s skyline of very European buildings and castle towers came into view. But before we could explore the culture, we needed to check out the bars (in true Contiki fashion).

The hour of free drinks seemed to dull the group’s annoyance at the pouring rain on our way to the club.

On the brightside, our free pub crawl t-shirts served as excellent umbrellas. I arrived looking like an only mildly-soaked poodle – more than I can usually ask for in the rain.

Vending machine lunchWe got up the next day and dragged our butts out of bed to go on a free walking tour. It was a vending machine lunch kind of day.

A cute Irish guy from the hostel guided us into town for the tour. He got us candy samples from his candyman hookup (This isn’t a shady candyman in a white van. This guy had an apron and a chef’s hat. Completely legitimate stranger to take candy from.) and showed us a good place to get fresh juice.

We sat and talked about our travels and he continued to reveal how much of a cool, nice guy he was.

He dropped us off with in the town square and we were introduced to our official guide.

At first glance, I was skeptical of our older, portly guide (can we get the Irish dude back please?), but he soon revealed himself to be a sarcastic and funny guy from Philly.

Astronomical clock in PragueHe began our tour in front of the famous astronomical clock, which he described as the most boring attraction in Europe. He went on to liven up the clock by explaining how its creater was blinded by the region’s ruler  who didn’t want him to make a clock for another city. The clock maker proceded to throw himself into the clock’s gears as a suicide mission to break it. At least that’s how the legend goes.

The guide strolled us through the cobblestone streets and relayed the legends of the city. Apparently, the secret of the Charles Bridge’s longevity is egg yolk in the mortar and the shriveled human arm hanging in the church was cut off after a statue came alive to stop a thief.

Some of the legends had more somber truth than others.

The reason so much of the city is intact is that an enamoured Hitler wanted to make it the capital of his new empire. He even saved the Jewish Quarter to serve as a museum/monument to the exterminated race. It makes my stomach churn to think about it.

There is a museum in the Jewish Quarter full of artwork done by children in a concentration camp that was saved and hidden in suitcases by a woman in charge of reeducation in the camp.

One of the final stories the guide told us was of the rebellion against the Russians. It was after World War II and the Russians were doing their conquer and communise thing. The Czech people of Prague were through with invaders telling them who to be. A group of about 1,000 students protested and were completely annihilated by Russian forces. Instead of quelling the uprising, the people of Prague came out in full force. 200,000 of them poured into the streets and simply shook their keys to tell the Russians they wanted them to unlock the gates and make them free.

The image of 200,000 keys shaking, metal earily chiming in harnonious protest, gives me chills.

One of the members of my Contiki group had recently said something along the lines of,

“It’s amazing how much random people influence your travel experience.”

An old man from Philly who somehow ended up in the Czech Republic and a young Irish student working at a hostel for the summer ended up making me fall for Prague. Thanks, strangers.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s