prague, czech republic

Train $49.50, metro to hostel $1.10, foot massage from your bestie, PRICELESS. Have I already mentioned how much I loved the trains? Such a wonderful way to cross countries, every time you look out the window the scenery has changed. Not to mention, trying to decipher the language the family in your cabin is speaking, always makes for a fun game.

I can say with complete certainty that Prague was my favorite city on this entire tour of Europe for two reasons; beer and architecture. We took a train from Berlin to Prague for about $50 and the metro to our hostel, Rosemary Hostel was only about $1.

Although I planned my first few cities before leaving home, after the first couple weeks we simply used the Hostel World app. It gave us a great idea of what was available, day of, how much it would cost, and we could read actual reviews from other travelers who had just stayed there. This becomes very important when you're on your way to your next destination and the person who posted yesterday says, "BED BUGS! DON'T STAY HERE!"
For the most part, we were very lucky with our choices. For instance, Rosemary Hostel was directly across the street from the metro station at which we arrived, and just a couple blocks from Old Town Prague. We were also super lucky to stay in the rooftop room with a kitchen, small patio and large skylights which let in so much natural light in the morning, and allowed us to hear the rain on the rooftop at night.All of our fellow hostel-mates were very nice and we ended up going out with them to the Cross Club one night, which is definitely a must see. Five stories of black lights, nuts bolts and gears, and bar seats made from what I can only assume were old chair lifts.

Our first day in town we explored, got a feel for where all the landmarks were, and how to get from our hostel to the center of Old Town Prague. Every hour, hundreds of tourists (us included) gather around the Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Square, camera's at the ready. The clock mechanism is composed of three components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the sun and moon in the sky; "The Walk of the Apostles", an hourly show of figures of the Apostles; and a calendar with medallions representing the months. I have a small obsession with the moon and stars so this was one of my favorite stops everyday, mostly because of it's detail and everyone's fascination every hour, on the hour. It definitely had nothing to do with the fact that all the gelato carts were right out front.

On our second day, just as in Berlin, we opted for a free walking tour and were completely overwhelmed with the beauty in Old Town. Prague is one of the only cities that was not affected by the happenings of WWII, so although most the Eastern European countries we visited were covered in bullet holes and war stories, Prague is perfectly intact. The tall and skinny buildings in the center square of Old Town reminded me a bit of San Francisco.What blew my mind is that these buildings are so clean, well maintained, and hundreds of years old. The entire city of San Francisco is barely 200 years old and looks much more run down. Some of the buildings are on a less than solid foundation and seem to tilt forward a bit, which gave them a bit of character. We walked through side streets, stopped for coffee and a croissant with our tour group, saw some of the old schools where art had been hidden during the war. Then we happened upon a small synagogue, just before we reached one of Prague's most expensive and bustling shopping streets. Our guide explained that this synagogue has been holding their Saturday service, every single week, since 1280. Talk about creatures of habit. Nothing helps calm my fear of growing old like a synagogue making my mere 25 years on this earth seem irrelevant.

Day 3, it was quite rainy and our feet were tired so, per a college friend (who had studied abroad there)'s recommendation, we went to Pivocarský Klub. I am a self proclaimed 'beer girl' but even I was overwhelmed by the over 240 different beers they had in this gem. There are 6 beers on tap, so naturally I started from the top and tasted them all. They offer traditional homey Czech cuisine and various kinds of meat. The way to a girls heart is through a good charcuterie board, trust me on this one.

Day 4, we conquered Prague Castle. Every day we would walk the same small alleyways to the long strip of stores which led us into Old Town Prague and then to Charles Bridge and from there we would explore a little bit further. With no real idea of where the castle was, besides the other side of the river, we simply headed over the Charles Bridge and towards the highest peak. We were in for quite the hike through the old city and cobblestone roads, but man was the view worth it. A million stairs later we finally made it to the top and entered Prague Castle. The pathway around the castle showcases beautiful gardens and viewpoints of the entire city of Prague. You can also stop into St. Vitus Cathedral, (for free- important when you're traveling on a budget) and see some of the most incredible stained glass walls.

It's funny, when you're backpacking you only spend about 3-4 days in a city, but sometimes that's enough time to make it home. The first day you arrive, everything is new and exciting. You can't find anything and every corner turned seems like you've become eternally lost and you'll never find your way back. Day 2 things get more familiar and by the 3rd or 4th day, you feel like you've been their your whole life. Giving others directions and recommendations becomes second nature. Then, you're off the next; to do it all over again.

Sbohem Praha, I'll be back.