When preparing for my trip I read a lot about safety tips, especially for female solo travelers. Something in every list is to try not to arrive in a new city after dark. But I’m pretty sure there was an exception for flying the day after a wedding when your options are 8:00 am or 6:30 pm. So I arrived at the Prague airport at 8:45 pm, after dark, in a new country, with a new currency, a new language, and with plans to take the bus to the tram to the hostel.
Well it went great. As I came up to street level from the tram I just had that “I know exactly which direction I’m facing” feeling, and was actually right.
If you recall from my first post abroad, Stockholm, the Capital of Scandinavia, within 30 minutes of being in Stockholm I saw someone I knew. It was the freshmen dormmate of a good friend of mine from college (AJ) , who I had mostly lost touch with after I moved back to the Bay Area. So I reached out to AJ to let him know about this chance encounter, we got to talking, and I found out AJ was also headed to Europe for a wedding and would be arriving in Prague just a day after me!
The hostel AJ booked looked better than mine, so I rebooked to Roadhouse Hostel, which just opened a couple of weeks ago, and arrived around 10:00 pm Monday night.
Quick side note about Roadhouse Hostel – it’s sister hostel, Madhouse, is a “party” hostel. (Apparently Prague is a party city, I guess I missed that when doing my research…). I avoid party hostels at all cost (recall that I’m 30). Roadhouse was advertised as the cooler more relaxed sister hostel to Madhouse, designed for solo travelers, family dinner available every night if wanted, quiet hours after 10, etc. So when I walked in and was immediately offered a beer, and told the group was headed out to a bar shortly I was skeptical. But the bar was awesome, this underground maze of rooms, a massive dog, tons of writing on the walls, swings and ladders, the group was fun, got home around 2:30 am, it’s one night, whatever…
Tuesday night AJ checked in, we ate family dinner at the hostel (cashew chicken stir fry, the staff here are excellent chefs!). Nice bar led to dive bar led to dance club led to Burrito Loco (don’t ask), and we got back around 3 am…
By this point AJ and I had fallen into this group of people from our room at the hostel that we just really enjoyed hanging out with (we may or may not have referred to ourselves as the “squad”), and Wednesday night we found ourselves at a place called Retro Music Hall, until 3am…
Thursday was more “low-key”, back at the hostel by about 1:30 am…but I think we were up until closer to 4 am just enjoying each other’s company. Shout out to the squad, hoping I find another group half as cool as you guys again on my trip!
But I swear I didn’t come to Prague to party, so in between waking up at noon and going out at 10pm, I did actually do some sightseeing! Turns out Prague is as beautiful as advertised.
Prague also has some really interesting artwork. The top left are two men peeing on a map of the Czech Republic. The naked babies are by the same artist, David Cerny. The Lennon Wall was also a really neat attraction, with continually changing Lennon-inspired graffiti, lyrics, and quotes, and a guitarist playing Beatles songs at all times.
I also spent an afternoon touring the Jewish Quarter of Prague. Prague held one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe prior to World War II, with about 92,000 Jews in the city and many more in the surrounding areas. Around 260,000 Czech Jews were killed in the Holocaust, with most being sent to Terezin before being deported to death camps. The Pinkas Synagogue (top right pictured below) has been turned into a beautiful memorial to the Czech Jews who were killed in the holocaust.
The Old Jewish Cemetery was also an amazing sight. The cemetery was used from ~1439 to 1786 and holds more than 12,000 tombstones, at times with graves layered up to 10 deep. This is because the city wouldn’t give the Jewish community any more land to expand the cemetery, so they just kept adding soil to the top, and built walls around the cemetery to stabilize it. The cemetery is beautiful and I really enjoyed walking around it.
Beyond its sad Jewish history, Prague has been in a war over religion for much of its history. As the location of Prague is very central to getting around Europe, it was constantly being conquered by someone new. Interestingly, about 90% of Prague residents are now Atheists, and the Czech Republic is one of only a few EU countries that does not pay the Vatican. I guess at some point you just have to throw your hands up?
Oh and I ate food too (pesto toast, trdelnik with Nutella, Svíčková (beef with cream sauce and bread dumplings, very traditional Czech dish), and fancy cocktails from Hemmingway Bar).
Dinners by the hostel staff (cashew chicken and butternut squash soup):
Tomorrow I am doing an all day 10 mile guided hike in the Bohemian Switzerland National Park (about 90 minutes north of Prague), and Monday I head to Cesky Krumlov for a couple of relaxing small town days before I go to Vienna.
I also want to say thank you for all the comments, emails, and texts I’m getting from all of you! They are so encouraging and it’s great to know at least some of you are enjoying reading my blog as much as I’m enjoying writing it!