Basically Prague was wonderful. It's easily the most beautiful city I have ever been in. I constantly found myself looking around in wonder at everything. The architecture is lovely with random carvings everywhere. There's few boring looking buildings. Certainly no hideous glass skyscrapers that adorn most large cities these days. Just generally very old-world Europe and I loved it. Helped that the weather was lovely while there being mid to high-20s. I, unfortunately, didn't really pack for that but it was ok; I was just drenched in sweat for a portion of each day.
This was my first couchsurfing experience and while I was little apprehensive about staying with a random couple for free it turned out really really well. They were fantastically welcoming and I also met an American girl who was also couchsurfing with them because she lost her passport in Austria and missed her flight home. She had stayed with them earlier in her trip and when she was stranded they let her stay another night which I thought was very nice. The first night we all ate dinner and drank wine together (as well as a couple shots of Slivovice) and chatted about our travels and random stuff. Everyone was a bit tired so it was actually a pretty early night.
On Wednesday I wandered around a little bit before conference registration started at 12:30. The conference venue was only about 15 minute walk from my couchsurfing host so I left a couple hours early and explored the city in the best way I know how- I got lost. Seriously, I love getting to a new place and having only an idea of where to head and just walking in the direction that feels right. Of course, this is only during the day and when I don't have any pressing needs to attend to or crap to carry. So I wandered around the streets and came across St Charles Bridge which is probably the best known tourist attractions in Prague and it was crawling with other tourists.
|I'm guessing it's Saint Guinefort since that's the only dog-saint I know of.|
There's a walkway with sculptures of the Greek gods and goddesses.
Behind that is a entranceway covered in stunning paintings.
After leaving the senate grounds I continued wandering and found my conference venue. The building- Michna Palace, was really nice. The outside wasn't anything particularly fancy but inside was beautiful. I feel like an idiot for not getting any pictures of inside the room we had the conference in because the walls and part of the ceiling was just covered in sculpture. You can kinda see a bit of it in this picture of the Music, Metal, and Politics sign.
Most nights were spent in a great little metal pub called Hell's Bells which was a small underground little thing. One night they were showing a hockey game and part of our group made themselves very unpopular by sitting on the stage partially blocking the screen. I told them not to but the bartender kept insisting (we had been there the previous night and they knew we ordered a lot). Myself and two others sat elsewhere until the end of the game cleared some tables for us all to sit together. Didn't stay out too late either night since we had an early start in the mornings and I didn't want to wake up my host. And I had to figure out the night tram system. Oh, I was the only one in my group to use the public transport system which kind of shocked me. I probably saw more of Prague than the rest because of it and the fact that I stayed elsewhere than the ridiculously expensive hotels within minutes of the venue.
Speaking of hotels, my couchsurfing hosts could only host me until Friday (though on Thursday night I was offered the continued use of the couch even though they were going out of town- like seriously that's how nice and trusting they were) but I had already booked a hostel bed online I figured I'd go with that. Now I booked a bed in a 18bed mixed dorm for $9 so I was expecting some sketchy accommodations. Well, I was surprised as fuck when I got to St. Christopher's at the Mosaic House. They had upgraded me to a 6 bed room and it was wonderful. Seriously better than most hotels I've been to and certainly better than some of the conditions I heard another attendee paid $100+ per night for (thankfully she'll be reimbursed by her university). I took a glorious 20 minute long shower once I got to the room which was fantastic since though my couchsurfing hosts were great their shower was horrid. After showering I hung around the room for a bit until the one other occupant came in. She was an American who started traveling around Ireland with her mom and then stayed to travel around Europe alone for another 2 1/2 months. She also had been upgraded and had had the room to herself for the past couple nights.
On Friday night the handful of remaining conference attendees (I was surprised how many people had flights almost immediately after the end of the conference) went to dinner together. There was some talk of trying to find a place to sit outside and have a couple beers because of the gorgeous night weather but it seems like pretty much everything closes up on that side of the river after around 11 and the others didn't want to walk around much more to find something open so we parted ways and said we'd hopefully see everyone at the metal conference at Bowling Green next year.
I got back to the hostel around midnight and while I easily could have gone down to the bar in the hostel building I decided I just didn't feel like being social so I climbed into bed and watched Big Bang Theory and Grey's Anatomy. I went to bed pretty early for a night in a party town but it was the better decision since I wanted to wake up early the next day. Oh, two guys joined the dorm room, I knew that other people had put their bags in the room but I didn't know anything about them until I opened my eyes in the morning to see a guy in tighty whiteys climbing down from the top bunk to use the washroom.
My one tourist day was the one day it was cool and rainy but I was glad for it because of all the walking I did. My feet were SO sore by the end of the day. While they look cool I'm not a fan of cobblestones.
Random pictures around Prague:
After getting my fill of the sites I headed back to the hostel to pick up my bag and head to the airport once again using Prague's super easy transit system.
I had quite a shock when I got to the airport and my flight wasn't on the board. I asked a Czech airlines person standing around and he said it was on the winter schedule and that flight no longer runs. So I had to go to a special desk to see what was wrong and had to wait for what seemed like forever for a couple in front of me to sort out their cancelled flight to Rome. Apparently they had rebooked my flight for around 2pm without informing me so after a long wait she was able to reschedule me on the flight through Copenhagen instead of Amsterdam and it all turned out better in the end because there was less of a layover and I got home an hour earlier than expected. I have to admit part of me wanted it to be an inconvenience to justify sending a letter into Czech airlines. It may just be a difference in European customer service standards but I wouldn't have hired the girl behind that counter for a CS position. She didn't greet me, there was not a single 'sorry for your inconvenience', or even a parting 'have a nice flight'. When I looked at her after double checking the ticket she gave me a smile but it was of the 'ugh, please go away now variety'. After working in Customer Service for 7+ years I've come to expect more. But oh well, everything worked out better in the end and I arrived safe and sound in Oslo and bought a bunch of chocolate, a couple bottles of wine, and some awesome 50% Finnish peppermint liquor in the Duty Free before collecting my bag. I've been wanting to drink the wine every night since but it'll have to wait til I return to Norway again.
Wednesday morning at 6:40 I'm flying back to Canada for 3 weeks. Hopefully I can get this gorram paper done before then.