A mere two days after getting back from Tuscany, my mom had to leave Vienna. It was really nice having her, especially since I didn’t think she could actually make it to Europe while I was on exchange.
This weekend called for a change of pace from the relaxing and laid-back weekend with my mom: Prague with Vancouver friends! Our whole purpose for going to Prague was actually to see Kygo, a DJ & music producer from Norway. I began listening to more Kygo when I came to Europe, and I must say his music has really grown on me. It’s slower and more “chill” than typical radio EDM, but still something you can play in the background of your “focus and study” playlist.
We started by doing some sightseeing in Prague: Charles Bridge and Prague Castle. It was starting to get dark, but the view of the bridge and castle over the Vltava river was stunning.
We went to this sweet restaurant called Vytopna to meet up with our friends from Vancouver. Vytopna’s has a “railway” concept, where little trains would bring your drinks right to your table. There was a whole network of trains throughout the restaurant, and it was a novel & well-executed idea. The food itself was kind of meh… but you really went there for the trains & drinks, not the food!
That night, we did a pub crawl through Prague Pub Crawl. We had pretty high expectations, given the Czech Republic’s #1 position on the list of countries by beer consumption per capita (almost 150L per head, per year!). We went to 3 pubs and ended up at Karlovy Lazne, a 5-storey club. At each place, we got one free drink and got to bypass the line. The overall pub crawl experience was alright, but it was made better by being with friends!
During our pub crawl, we experienced first-hand the “hostility” of the Czech people, notably in service industries. I’d mentioned in my Week 8 post that Viennese people are always grumpy, but this was on a different level. At one of the bars, Blake asked for water. The bartender said, “we don’t have water”. Blake’s second “you don’t have water?” inquiry must have ticked him off, because he did a little jump back, put his arms up and shouted angrily, “NO, WE DON’T HAVE WATER”. I thought he was going to punch something. It’s a good thing the music was loud in the club, because it probably would have caused a commotion. That night, we learned they definitely don’t serve water in pubs and clubs. From then on, we had this impression that Czech service people were not only disgruntled, but also very angry.
The following day, we did some sightseeing and a free walking tour of Prague with Sandeman’s New Europe, a tour company located in many major European cities. These tours are free upfront, but with the expectation that you tip the guide at the end what you thought the tour was worth. Apparently none of the guides are paid by Sandeman’s, they are purely commission-based. Our guide was Pavel, an easy-going guy with a somewhat dry sense of humour. Unfortunately, we didn’t stay with the tour until the end, but it took us to the Old Town Square & Astronomical Clock, Wenceslas Square, House of the Black Madonna & Museum of Cubism, Art Nouveau Municipal House, and more.
Reflection moment: Most of the time when we – somewhat naïve and sheltered students – travel to European cities, we tend to forget the centuries of history (many involving war) in these countries’ pasts. Our tour guide mentioned something really interesting: his grandmother lived her whole life in what is known today as the Czech Republic, but over all those years, she lived in 6 “different countries” as governments changed and borders ebbed and flowed. Our tour guide mentioned something like this, but I think we, as North American students, fail to realize that the entire population may have been permanently affected by negative events in the past, and maybe that’s what’s causing people’s general distrust and hostility?
OR….. people are just fed up with repetitive questions from tourists like us. Who knows.
Later that day, Jason, Jocelyn and I found a little food market. The food was delicious! We especially liked the Trdelník, a dough cylinder with sugar sprinkling. Apparently it’s originally Hungarian, and has different names in different cities, but it was still delicious in Prague.
That night, we did a Czech beer tasting at our hostel (Prague Hostel Downtown), hosted by one of the hostel’s employees who was originally from the USA but had now lived in Prague for a few years. We learned that the original Pilsner-style beer came from the city of Pilsen in western Czech Republic. We tried a variety of beers, from pilsners to lagers to ales. After beer tasting, we went to a typical Czech restaurant for a hearty meal before the Kygo concert.
The Kygo concert was at Roxy Nightclub, and it was so much fun. Music review: It did sort of sound like he was just pressing “play” on his tracks (he did nothing super different or interesting), but his smooth transitions between songs kept the tropical vibes going strong. Although he looked a bit like an American frat boy (not that that’s a good or bad thing), Kygo was awesome. We had such a good time belting out his anthemic tunes and dancing the night away.
The following day, it was time to head back to Vienna. Unfortunately for Blake, Fiona and Wendy, they had to catch a 6am (merely hours after the concert ended) train to their next destination. As for us, we had enough time to walk around Prague for a few hours before taking the bus back to “home sweet home”.
This trip made me realize that your enjoyment while travelling doesn’t depend entirely on the destination, nor is it 100% affected by the activities you do. For me, I’ve realized what separates a trip between “good” and “great” is the people you’re with. Although some of us had just met that weekend, we got along super well (in my opinion, at least) and had an awesome time together. Definitely something to keep in mind for future trips!