22 June 2014 by victoriaknowe
A visit to a dear friend currently living in Prague.
This was my first foray out of Sweden in a couple of years – not counting trips to Denmark and the UK. I suppose I was expecting The Czech Republic to be a bit warmer than Sweden, but the weather really outdid itself temperature-wise. Lisa and I were lucky enough to experience at least 30C every day, with evenings not that much cooler (a thin scarf sufficed). Despite not being a huge fan of heat, I was glad to see this beautiful city basking in the glory of several sunny days.
I had an unlucky start to the journey. An industrial strike recently stopped all train services over the bridge between Sweden and Denmark, and I realised in a moment of panic that I couldn’t get to the airport in Copenhagen. There was a replacement bus service, but time constraints forced me to pay the earth (or very nearly) for a taxi, or surely miss my flight. My own silly fault for not checking in advance. A lesson learned for future trips…
Despite the inauspicious beginning, the rest of my journey went very smoothly. The flight between Copenhagen-Prague was amazingly only 45 mins long. It felt like I had hardly settled into my seat before the pilot announced 20 mins to landing. I pitied the poor stewardesses, who barely had time to whizz their trolley of overpriced drinks once down the aisle before they were forced to collect rubbish and nag us about turning our electrical gadgets back off. Lisa was nice enough to meet me at the tiny Prague airport, and the trip began!
Anyone who has ever visited a friend in an unfamiliar city will be familiar with the pleasant ignorance of simply following your guide around without having the slightest idea where you actually are. The effortless travel arrangements were a blessing at the start, as I found myself too flabbergasted by the heat to be able to spare any brain power towards deciphering the seemingly random sequences of letters that the Czech language resembles to my foreign eyes. The faux leather seats on the bus into town were scorching and I had some difficulty in un-sticking myself when it was time to get off. Luckily, Lisa’s apartment was fabulously cool, making it an excellent place to stop for showers and sleep.
My first impressions of Prague were a mixture of the familiar and unfamiliar. As it used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, it’s no surprise that there were a lot of things about the architecture that reminded me very much of Austria. However there are also many obvious reminders of the city’s stint as part of the Soviet Union, with communist concrete blocks dotted around the place as bleak souvenirs.
As a contrast there is also much that has become Westernised, and at one point I was confused to find myself standing in Tesco’s, being told in Czech that there was an “unauthorised item in the bagging area”. I was delighted to sit on a tram once again, and even more delighted to find an elusive brand of delicious herbal tea in a specialist shop on my last day.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was the food. Luckily for me, Lisa had been living in Prague long enough to scope out the best restaurants and cafés. After having got used to Swedish prices, everything seemed amazingly cheap. It’s no joke that beer was the cheapest thing on the menu in most of the bars and beer-gardens. It’s still legal to smoke indoors in Prague, but luckily the weather was so nice that the smoke issue never became a problem.
Aside from the sight-seeing and obligatory postcard sending, a few other things caught my eye during the trip: Occasionally you would see trucks going around spraying water onto the road. I presume that it was because of the heat, but the trucks seemed to be specially designed, so it must be something that they do regularly. Perhaps the tarmac doesn’t grow without it’s daily watering? In any case, they were quite thorough about it, so that all the cars behind the truck had a free window wash, and all the people along the street had a free shower (me being among those lucky few).
Undoubtedly, one of the best things about travelling is to see things from another perspective. After the heat of those few days, the paltry 25C we get in Sweden no longer seemed so daunting. Likewise, it’s amazing what a little break can do to kick-start your work motivation. I came back rested and ready for action. I have some beautiful memories of Prague, and although I’m sure that the circumstances of my trip gave me a somewhat biased perspective, I definitely plan to go back one day, if only for the free showers…