So, it’s probably pretty obvious, based upon my last post, that there was a chance I’d be having a rough morning the next day. I was worried about that too. When I first woke up, my head was pounding. But after forcing myself to eat some food and drink some coffee, I was on my way to go on…a bike tour. In the moments before leaving the hotel I felt like I was parading to my death. But by the glory of caffeine and advil, I was back to 100% before we reached the bike shop.
I’d been on a bike tour in Munich before, so I kind of knew the gist of what to expect. Already I knew this one was going to be better when they split us off into three groups of our already diminished numbers (only half of the people on the tour made it up and out on time). So, I was in a group of about 9 people, which meant I only had to worry about crashing into them rather than the 50 on our last tour. Already I was much more satisfied with this tour than I had been the previous day. We actually got to learn about the city’s history. Fancy that. I got a kick out of the fact that there was the New City and the Old City, and that the New City started being constructed in the 14th Century. Super new, right? Well, it’s new compared to the Old City. The Old City’s older than dirt.
We also got to hear some more Cold War History. As we all know, during the communist era it was incredibly difficult to trade in certain items, and one of the most commonly difficult items to get was bananas. They’d only be shipped in once a year, and the line to get them was always crazy, so even still today a common Czech phrase is to say that a line is “bananas” when it’s crazy long.
One of my favorite spots on the tour was the John Lennon Wall. It started off as a memorial to John Lennon when he died, which combined two illegal practices during the communist era: graffiti, and enjoying western culture. Well, the owner of the building next to the wall said he had “allowed” that “artist” to paint such a mural, and therefore the government left it untouched. From then on, the mural has grown, and has become a place for peaceful graffiti for anyone who wants to leave it there. Our bike guide provided markers for us to write our names or anything else we’d like to leave on the wall. I left a little nod to our HB student council t-shirts there.
After the bike tour, I met up with Brodie and Katy, who had both opted out of the bike tour, and we started aimlessly wandering the city, just enjoying the buildings and atmosphere. Prague is so weird considering it’s incredibly crowded and touristy, but it still has a good vibe about it. It’s not like going to Times Square in New York and being swarmed by people. Yeah, people are around taking photos and enjoying the sights, but not in an annoying, commercialized way. It’s just a really pretty city, so a lot of people are just walking around enjoying it.
We did some souvenir shopping. I had come onto the tour knowing I wanted some jewelry from Prague, considering they’re known for garnets, which is conveniently my birthstone. I went into one shop and fell in love with these dainty little earrings that look like a flower dotted with a pearl in the center. I went into the shop and told the shop girl that garnet was my birthstone and she brought the price down about $25 in USD for that, so that was exciting.
Next, the most important thing we could have done in Prague was eat one of those delicious chimney cakes. After having smelled them for two days straight, it was time. Turns out you can get them either plain, filled with a topping, or with ice cream. As a daughter of Kim Ellis, you know I was going to get it filled with ice cream. It was just as amazing as it looked. This thing deserves a full-page image so here you go.
We also stopped into a gingerbread shop and museum, which was a hidden gem. There was like no one else in there, but there were so many cookies all decorated so intricately. There were some little people, houses, drawn buildings, animals, anything you can think of in gingerbread cookie form. Super cute!
Around this point, we started hitting “a wall,” and it began to rain steadily outside, so we popped into a Starbucks and sat there for about an hour. We were barely even talking, we were just so tired. As time grew nearer to our tour of a nuclear bunker, we picked up stakes and walked towards our meeting spot in Old Town Square. There were no benches available so we sat down on the cobblestones in a circle, waiting time out until it was time to go.
Once the group was gathered, we finally did make our way to the bunker. But that didn’t stop a torrential downpour from hitting us before we got underground. It was perfect timing. By the time we eventually did get to the bunker, we plodded down into the concrete dungeon like a parade of drowned rats. Good thing it was freezing down there! I suppose it made it more of an authentic miserable bunker experience.
We were greeted by an adorable fake communist Czech man who smiled and told his “comrades” that it’s going to be a great experience living down in the bunker! Only a few more days until it’s safe to breathe the radiated air! He took on his character loyally. He also had a really dark sense of humor which was awesome. He showed us all the different rooms of the bunker, the living space, the FIVE bathrooms available to be shared by 1000 people, the infirmary, and where people would have to be hosed down by “chemical water” before they were allowed in. The bunker was “first come, first serve” in the event of a nuclear attack. Of course no such attack did occur, but it was really weird to see how prepared they were for such a thing to occur. He also showed us all kinds of models of gas masks, including some for children that were just downright terrifying.
By the end of the tour, we were all cold and exhausted, but we still had dinner before it was time for bed. We went to a restaurant in the New Town Municipal Hall, which was a beautiful old building that was covered in colorful tiles from top to bottom. Chandeliers hung form the ceiling in the dining room, which was filled with long tables and ornately decorated chairs. It appeared to be a classy establishment. Dinner was a veggie and sausage soup, sausage and braised beef in a sauce, bread dumplings, and ginger cake for dessert. I devoured everything. My god it was so delicious. The food was definitely better than Berlin. I’m not sure if I would go so far as to say it was better than Munich, my #1 favorite food destination, but it was definitely close.
After dinner we traipsed down to the metro and rode home, whining about our sore feet each step of the way. After a shower, my Czech bed could not have felt more welcoming.
Prague, guys. After my tour last year I said that Lucerne was the most beautiful place in the world. I’m not going to change that, but I’d add a qualifier and say that Lucerne is the most naturally beautiful place in the world. As far as architecturally beautiful, Prague’s got it beat. I loved this city. Amazing food. Nice people. Cool sites. Fun night life. Delicious beer. History. Prague is heaven on earth. I’d wanted to go ever since Mom had told me how much she liked it, when I was like six years old. I’m so happy it lived up to my expectations.