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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

PRAGUE ACCORDING TO JANA

INTRO

This is my continuing set of articles on life as I'm finding it in Prague. Overall, I like Prague though I feel the relentless sucking of Western Europe has not really decreased now that I have reached 'Central Europe'. Note, only locals call it 'Central Europe' - everyone else refers to it as 'Eastern Europe'. I'm not sure why they care but if you call Czech Republic (CR) 'Eastern Europe', it pisses them off.



PLACES WE STAYED IN PRAGUE

We went to the "Old Prague Hostel". We wanted to get cheap bedding - they didn't have it. However, the person at the front desk was very cool about it (probably because Pete looks so respectable) and let us have beds in an eight bunk room that nobody else was going to be in.. It was 700 CZK total for two people to stay there and a 100 CZK deposit for the key.

We are now staying in a different place 'Hostel 15'. It is I think 600 CZK for two people and located on top of a big fucking hill. I swear to God, Europe is trying to get me thinner.



MISCELLANEOUS THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED IN PRAGUE

I keep having trouble writing in the blog because I end up chatting to someone.

For my first 'traditional meal' in CR we ate Chinese food. Pete and I have noticed that nowhere in Europe seems to do chopsticks, unless it is a really posh place. Which I'm not eating at. The place we ate at was pretty middle of the road. For 3 people, with tea, three mains and two appetizers, it was 740 CZK (about $43).

Ironically, for 5 pina coladas, 2 Black Russians and on Czech beer, it was 865 CZK (about $50) at a mid level bar. That was a bit more than I was thinking it would be. But tasty. Speaking of Black Russians - if that is your drink of choice and you choose to come to Europe, be prepared to teach many, many bartenders how to make it!!

In the 'Old Prague Hostel' I met a lady from France (a town outside of Paris) and her aunt who were traveling together. They were nice and we spoke on many subjects. We then discovered that both the lady and I had been in Blacksburg, VA! I made sure to give her the business card I had made up to reference the blog. If she enjoys the writing style and such, maybe she will contact me when/if I head into France. Sadly, I didn't get their names.

There was a different French girl I ran into at the same hostel (different time) who was talking with her friends. She then asked what country I was from and I replied "I am from America but I am not a bad man." (My standard disclaimer). She turned beet red - apparently she had been discussing America in a derogatory fashion forgetting that people can be talking in one language and listening in another. She did a lot of sputtering and backtracking while I looked gravely on. She didn't know I couldn't speak any French but I feel the lesson was learned.

The women in Prague are tall and pretty. This condition won't last long, however, as fast food places are everywhere - like cockroaches. If you want to get a nice European lady with a nifty European accent, in Prague I am told that buying them beer and KFC is a sure fire way to make them very happy! Thanks to Jana for this important dating tip. [As a side note, the men look like normal guys, many of the women like fashion models. Interesting.]

Despite this being a beautiful, historic city tagging (graffiti) is common. That's a real shame.

Not all underground going places lead to the subway. One we went down while looking for the subway led to an underground grocery store.

People seem to speak English less than in Germany but you can usually still find someone.

There is a very strong police presence with lots of foot patrols. Sadly, the cops don't want to be in a picture with me. Pete explained that they didn't know what I was going to use the photos for, their personal safety could be on the line and all of that. Different, again, from the USA.

Lots of new building next to ancient building things.

Rather than spending useless hours on 'wrapping silverware' in restaurants, they put a bunch (with napkins) in a cup on the table in most (even some of the fancier) restaurants.

Logan quote: "It is a pleasure watching Holmes work. He found the correct street car stop in one go by dint of deduction. I feel that soon we will get a break in this case!"

Free wifi in all hostels seems common though whether it is worth a shit varies widely. The current hostel we are in has wireless that is weak as a kitten. The staff's opinion is that 'it works for them, hence it is my problem'. [See also article on Czech service.]

For Easter, they have a crapload of booths set up in various squares in the town. These sell anything from tourist junk to candy, grog, etc. Most are decorated with various flowers and such for the 'springtime renewal' (AKA Easter - go go reworked pagan holidays!). Grog - 200ml at 45 CZK each. Tasted like hot watered alcohol with a bite. Apparently Easter is a big deal here in this Atheist country.

The Communist Museum: As befits such a place, it was very hard to find. Various misleading signs with arrows attempted to point you to random places that had nothing to do with the museum. I was asking a Czech about it and I told him I thought it was very nice that the Czech Republic had stuck all of it's communist stuff into a museum - where it belonged. He laughed and agreed. We eventually discovered the Communist Museum in the same building as a casino. I'm not sure what Lenin would have made of that. One you got into the museum, you bought your tickets from one lady and gave them to the next who was literally 5 meters away. Very communist. The displays really didn't grant me any new revelations. I lived through the experience during the 'cold war' days.

I'd asked several cops if I could get my picture taken with them but was curtly refused. Pete felt it was due to the police not knowing what sort of horrible things I would do with the pictures, their personal safety, if I was actually Logan the Jackal, etc.

Prague money - there are no partial denominations of the 'crown' but bills start at 100 crowns and the largest coin is a 50 crown.

We have been amazingly lucky on weather. Pretty much today (12 days into the trip) is the first kind of inclement weather we've had since traveling. That is amazingly fortunate. The rain we had today was what I call about a 50%. About half or less of the people we saw who had umbrellas bothered to put them up. So, not a severe rain at all. If you go on a vacation and it rains all of the time, just remember this paragraph and know that God loves me more than you. Sorry.

Beware oh my fat brothers and sisters - 42 is the largest size they make in clothing here. Not even kidding. Fortunately, they are silly enough to have fast food here so in another decade they will need up to the 60" waist. No, mine isn't there (thank gods) but it is still inconvenient. Many of the things here are still small and narrow but not so much as in Amsterdam.

When you buy shoes, the sales person doesn't even try to touch your feet. There is also no foot measuring device. You are expected to just try on shoes. Some boxes contain only one shoe, others two right shoes and still others both shoes. I believe that this sort of thing is not brought on by trying to keep people from stealing the shoes - they have RFID tags for that - but due to indifferent service. [See the article on Czech service].

In Europe (as in Australia) what Americans refer to as 'texting' (as in phone texting) is called "SMS'ing". According to Pete, SMS = simple message system.

Jana has promised to take us to see 'upir' (vampires). She hasn't yet but I am hopeful. Apparently, upir are a big problem here in CR.

Wanted to mention that Pete who is usually very slick and dapper finally spilled something. I am usually the 'clumsy, sloppy, slovenly American' but he finally spilled something. I actually can't recall what and think he may be using some sort of 'brain magic' on me. Alarming.

Met up with two of Jana's friends, Ava and Mariana. Sorry if you are reading the blog and have misspelled your names. Don't think I got to know either of them all that well but it was a nice time and nice to meet them. It is good to know Jana's friends are not all imaginary. As I sometimes am. Mariana got to go through a lot of inner struggle because apparently she and Jana were enjoying themselves so much that the time got well away from them (or they ceased caring about it) and the subways closed. Pete gave them money to get a cab. Cabs are expensive here and she said the amount of money he gave her was 'enough for food for two weeks'. It was interesting to watch the inner struggle play out in her face but eventually Jana stepped up and solved the dilemma. I hope the cab got them home safe.



TRAVELERS TIPS

When you are renting out multiple beds in a room, you have to request extra keys. They seem to think that if multiple people are staying in a place, they can all use the same key. Try phrasing it like "May I pay more deposit on additional keys?" If you don't and just say "Can I have an extra key?" they will say no.

When it rains, you've got two different options. Well, actually more if you don't mind getting wet. One of the options that most of the travel shows tell you about is 'museum day'. When it rains, head to a museum. I have personally seen enough museums, art galleries and such to choke a horse in a very short period of time. I'm good on museums but will head to them to make my two traveling companions happy. One thing I like to do to try to learn the lay of the land is to hop onto some sort of above ground transport - whether it is a bus or streetcar. If I'm lucky, I can find someone who speaks English on the vehicle. Read as 'unpaid tour guide'. Even if you just sit quietly on the vehicle and look out of the window, you can find interesting shit you want to get out and see.



SMOKING IN PRAGUE

Most Czechs seem to like imported ie American cigarettes the best. I had offered a cigarette to a Czech street vendor. He was excited to get one until he discovered I smoked local Czech brands rather than what Czechs like - American cigarettes. [A pack of Czech smokes is about $3.] The Czechs smoke like fucking chimneys. Another interesting thing about CR is that there are no 'butt boxes' (places to put your completed cigarettes). This I think is a very silly move as it results in butts being thrown onto the streets with distressing regularity. No, I am not fucking helping the situation.

For the Americans that cough when they smell smoke as a way of saying "I don't like it that you're smoking around me", fuck you. You don't want to come here. Hell, in a restaurant they were seating non-smokers at the same table as me while I was smoking. [Note that Europe being much smaller than America you get different groups seated at the same table because they may not have space and waiting for a table is pretty much unheard of.]

I had to buy American cigarettes because the Czech's I met kept giving disgusted looks to the cigarettes I had (Czech ones) and saying things like "These are shit."



RANDOM MUSINGS

I had asked Jana what she thought the worst thing about living in Prague was. She said it was like a small town feel where, in order to get a job, you had to know someone.

Jana feels comfortable enough with us that she sometimes talks to us in Czech. Not a couple words or sentences but paragraphs at a time while Pete and I smile and nod at her. When she is done, we ask for a translation. For some reason, this reminds me of when Matt (English) got into his car and noticed the steering wheel was missing. As he had gotten in on the side that the English put their steering wheels. [For the extremely ill informed, it's on the other side of the car than everyone else puts it on.]

I was talking to a nice Czech lady (not Jana) and she said that she believed the reason that many people in C.R. drank beer (even if they didn't like it) is because it is the cheapest thing they can get. Another Czech gentleman further verified this when he said that he felt most Czechs bought for price, not quality. Given how fucking expensive it is here, I can fully understand that.

The former country of Czechoslovakia was famous for making Semtex. I think an excellent name for a company which did this (and of course to print on the product) is (in HC tradition) "Surprise, mutherfucker!"

Phones (cheap cell) in CR don't have 'special characters'. I find this interesting and wonder how/if it will change the Czech language.

The 'apparently not fucking easy to find' address of the US Embasy is Traziste 15, 118 Praha 1- main stana. In the 'historic schoenborn palace in mala strana district.' More on that later.



FASHION IN PRAGUE

Music, whether on people's phones or in pubs seems to be from the '80's. This leads me to believe that Prague (perhaps the whole of the Czech Republic) is currently entering the 80's. Jana wearing white pants clinched it. Fortunately, 'big hair' and 'parachute pants' haven't. Pete says fashions often come from Europe to the USA but I don't believe him.



CZECH LANGUAGE

Czech is a Slavic language. Hence, completely non-understandable by me.

Here are the words I've currently learned (spelled somewhat phonetically):

"Pardon" = 'excuse me'
"Do-ree-den" = hello
"Ja-quee" = thank you

You'd be amazed how often I can make just those three words work for me.



PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN PRAGUE

Something I like to do in when I first arrive in a town is to get on some sort surface public transportation and ride around. Often, it eventually goes in a full circle. You can work your way back to whence you came. If you like something you see, you can either make a note of it for later or get off the bus/tram/etc and check it out. Having a full day pass helps a lot for this.

In Prague, I recommend not being too far from your hotel when it gets to be about 11 PM or at latest 11:30. At midnight, they shut down the subway for some reason. Sure, the city is full of tourists and locals up at late hours but they think it is a good idea to shut down the easiest, fastest means of getting around. I suspect this may be a hold over from the communist regime. [See also 'service in Prague']. To make matters worse, different buses and streetcar lines take over after midnight so getting to your destination can be very frustrating. Again, I'm not saying you have to be in bed by midnight but if you are partying at a bar that is an easy walk from where you live, life will be better.



SHOUT OUT TO MY PEEPS

Travis - Pete said when you are ready to travel, we may end up having another traveling session. Anyone else interested in traveling should contact me if you're wanting to hang out. Disclaimer: Interested and have the means. If you're travel is a vague pipe dream that may take place in another 5 to 10 years, wait till it gets a whole lot closer to contact me. Like 'in less than a year' at longest.

I do like that Pete seems to be enjoying his first trip out from Australia enough to be contemplating his next.


UPCOMING!

We will have other articles on various aspects of Prague life soon!

7 comments:

  1. Yes, yes, yes, all very well but... there's a Castle of Bones to go see, dammit!

    And had anything stolen yet?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes indeed. Jana wanted to go to that as well so we need to do it on a day she has off. Hence, it will take a bit longer to get there. I want to see it too.

    Nothing stolen but we practice good 'bag security'.

    ReplyDelete
  3. On having stuff stolen - mayhap I spoke too soon!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Well, honestly I'm not sure where I lost my headphones. It could have been when I switched bags when I was tired I stupidly left them in the last hostel. We'll go back there tomorrow and see if I get lucky.

    ReplyDelete
  5. When you go to the Castle of Bones, point to each one and ask Jana "Do you kill that guy?" ;)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Re: the Central Europe thing.

    Consider that Czechs aren't much farther east than Austria, and you wouldn't think of Austria as Eastern Europe.

    btw. Poland is also 'Central Europe'

    Also, "hello" in Polish is the same words, but in reverse order: "Den do-ree". "Thank you" is pretty much the same.

    Fun fact: the Czech word for "fuck" ("sukat") is easy to confuse with the Polish word for "to search for" ("szukac").

    The vulgarism is pronounced "shoe-cat" and it's likely to also work when asking for directions in Poland.

    ReplyDelete

PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia - Michigan - Illinois - Colorado | England: Slough - Lancaster | Thailand: Bangkok | Cambodia: Siem Reap |

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