I woke and collected my things, still only a backpack of all my possessions.
From previous travel days, I knew it was best to eat a big meal before hopping on a long bus ride.
There was a local chain bakery a few doors down that I knew was good as I’d had a croissant and coffee from another location in town.
This time I selected a substantial cinnamon roll like pastry and coffee. So good!
It always takes awhile to point at an item on a shelf and for the server to automatically select not what you are pointing at several times, each new wrong selection eliciting a curious eyebrow raise.
There was a grocery store on my walk back so I bought some fruits and nuts to snack on during the long bus trip.
Sometimes the buses stopped for breaks, sometimes they didn’t, I guessed the length of drive time was a factor for when buses stopped so it was best to be prepared.
Having time to plot my days I realized I had a lot of time until my bus left, but not very much time before I had to check out of my hostel.
I needed to shower, too, so I was going to have to chance it and shower after checkout to kill some time.
On the way to checkout at the hostel, I stashed a fresh shirt, undergarments and towel into a shower area and hoped no one would take them.
Checkout was simple and they let me stow my bags for a couple of hours in a locked back room.
I sat outside for a few moments, scanning around at the nature as well as the reception area.
Finally, as I knew it would happen, the receptionist had some odd job to do away from the desk.
Seizing my chance, I strolled up the back stairs and hit the shower.
I’m not certain if anyone really cared about my shower, I had paid for several nights so they had made euros off me.
I was also technically not staying there at that moment when the water hit me. I figured it was all a wash, certainly much worse things went on than a guy using some water.
My only burden was now I had to travel with damp clothes, a fair punishment.
Per my map app, I was well over an hour walk to the bus depot. Appropriately I called for an Uber.
A very nice man picked me up and we talked about the city.
‘I love Vienna. It is so pretty. Often I find myself staring at a building while at a light or returning to a certain street to look at the architecture.’ He said with a huge grin. ‘Where are you from, the States?’ He asked as he turned around while we were stopped at a light.
I told him about Dallas and Texas. He was curious and I saw something in him I rarely encountered, but was searching for: he loved where he lived.
I’d determined that Dallas was just a place people worked, not a destination.
Few dream about moving to Dallas from outside the state or country, I reckon.
In some way this trip was about seeing how others lived, why do people live where they do? Is there a place for me out there, somewhere?
I waved goodbye to my newest short-term friend and looked around the depot for TVs.
There is a bit of consistency at train, bus depots as far as scheduling info goes in that there were TV’s or a display with all the arrivals, departures it was just the location of these info portals was different.
I had over a half hour til departure so my info wasn’t displayed yet.
Typically only arrivals in the next 15 minutes were displayed, then more info was added if a bus was delayed, which happens a lot.
Thankfully my bus wasn’t delayed this time plus it wasn’t packed.
Only a couple of trips I had a neighbor and the seats were close so you bumped shoulders, which is tough for several hours.
I slid into my seat, unpacked my iPad, headphones and water. I also had my camera phone ready as we usually passed by cool photo spots when driving out-of-town.
Surprisingly to me, most cities had a camp site just outside town. So that’s where the real budget travelers stayed.
I saw so many people with enormous packs, like big enough to fit a human in sized packs, strapped to all genders. Made me wonder how they were able to carry them for very long.
I’d also read about a website that connected people who were ok with camping in their backyard or gardens in town.
When traveling as long as I was, I’d become jaded about all the beauty outside my window. Rolling green hills, bucolic towns, old cathedrals, all blurred into one.
For sure rural Europe is far more pretty than rural US. They had style over here in whatever they built.
I guess I’m being a bit judgmental, when I think rural US I think of west Texas, or Oklahoma so long stretches of no trees, towns or hills.
Occasionally you’d see a collapsing farmhouse or windmill.
We pulled into the bus depot, train station in Prague or Praha as it was displayed.
Out front of the depot was a small park full of homeless people in varying degrees of sobriety or fully asleep.
In the other places I hadn’t encountered many homeless, but for sure I saw less than I did in Dallas. Per city I mean, had less or I saw less homeless than in Dallas.
I waved no as I passed by to the many calls for money or cigarettes that I presumed they were asking me for in Czech.
The route to my hostel took me through an open air mall that had a side entrance to a main walkway that soon connected to the downtown square.
I had selected my hostel as it was located in the old town, near the main square that had most of the attractions.
It was also the most affordable room per person ratio as I’d slept in a room with upwards of 10+ people, but rarely interacted with my suite mates. It came down to just more people snoring or stumbling in late.
The best place to meet people was in the common area or kitchen and this place had a great kitchen area with 3 tables.
I stayed on a floor that had 3 rooms with each room containing 6 beds.
Each of the hostels 3 floors had 3-4 shower/restrooms, a kitchen and lounge areas with couches.
The smokers lounge overlooked an Italian restaurant.
A large wooden gate with a small sign pointing you to the hostel which was on the far side of the building so you had to walk through the restaurant to check in.
My floor was accessed via iron gate just before the hostess station which was occupied by a friendly lady who would ask ‘Food or hostel?’ And direct you accordingly.
It was confusing and most guests walked by many times or tentatively wander the restaurant convinced they were in the wrong place.
My bed was in the back room so I walked through a 3 bed room, then a door to another 3 bed room.
Fortunately there was only 3 others staying so 2 people in each room.
I said hello and waved at my new roommate who smiled and shook my hand.
Where are you from? Is always the 1st question you ask anyone at a hostel.
‘Italy!’ He replied. ‘You French, English ?’ He asked me.
Wow must be the hat. I don’t know but most of the time I was rarely pegged as American or from the States.
We chatted a bit while I stashed my bag in the locker provided.
The only one that didn’t have a lock on it had a large dent, someone was using 2 lockers for their stuff.
I never heard of anything being stolen whilst at a hostel on this trip, but I read reviews where that happened.
I presumed it was locals invited in by trusting guests who specifically targeted these places because most people travel with iPhones, iPads or other easily sold electronics, not to mention stacks of cash.
I always had cash on me or in my bag for this reason. If anything was stolen from either place I was not totally broke.
My roommate was a soccer player teaching for an exchange program between the countries.
He spent a few months teaching in Prague, then played in games on the way back home with a semi pro Italian club that sponsored his stay.
He told me to be sure to go to the square at night as that’s where lots of people congregate.
A brief internet search I discovered it was a short walk to the Vltava River and I recalled how great it was watching the sunsets from a bridge in Budapest.
Along the way to the river, I located a noodle joint for dinner.
Pretty cool concept and affordable too. Build your own box using different proteins, vegetables and sauces.
To my surprise duck breast was on the menu here and most places I’d go in Prague.
Duck + noodles with spicy sauce for dinner it was. Beer only cost 2$ too so had a Thai beer.
Total cost was under 10$ for the whole meal. Quite a relief from the high Vienna prices.
On the way to the river, I encountered a small store well stocked with all sorts of Czech beers so I picked one up.
I cracked it open once I was at the bridge and had a good view of the river.
After a few moments I realized why this section wasn’t occupied as someone had thrown up nearby, maybe into the trash can or street. No visible liquids or solids around but what a smell!
I walked away from the stench and over the river on the bridge where I saw an immense castle in the distance.
I finished my beer as the sun went down, pausing to help a couple get a sweet pic of the river and sun in the background.
I always help someone take a great pic as I’d seen some very poor framing in many people I passed, stealing a glance into their screen.
Typically I took more than one shot with the goal of having one candid and one posed shot per session.
My favorite were always the candid shots because it showed people laughing, preening or embracing in very real ways.
Following the river a few blocks in the direction of my hostel but taking a different route, my map indicated a small brewery.
These joints were all over Prague and they only made enough to beer to serve in the restaurant, never bottled or canned.
It was a small spot, slightly elegant I dare say. Most definitely more restaurant than brewery, with wooden stools and tables covered by red velvet cloths.
I spied an empty 2 seat table and sat down.
A bald waiter arrived and said, “Dobry den’, hello in Czech.
I returned his hello and asked for pivo, beer.
He showed me their beer menu, only 4 beers, all listed in Czech with lots of accent marks over some letters.
‘Uh English?’ I tentatively asked.
He smiled and pointed to a beer then stating only its style: ‘lager, dark, red, eh monk pivo. Ah don’t know how to say style name. Is very ah high taste.’
I understood, it was an Abbey ale most likely with high ABV so that’s where I started.
It was great, dark beer served in a goblet glass.
Looking around I spied the vats in the back, not many and very small which made sense as they didn’t need too much beer. Maybe a few kegs a month.
I noted most people were eating and drinking wine.
Haha wow I sure stuck out drinking beer alone. It came with my goal of trying to taste the most local beer possible.
I attempted conversation with the waiter and bartender about what to see in the city.
They had a brief exchange in Czech then revealed they both lived outside the city.
‘We just work, no go out here,’ he said with a laugh. ‘We don’t know much, but this place.’
I selected a red ale and was informed they were soon to close so this was my final beer.
A couple staggered in and to my shock they were served wine, despite their obvious drunkenness and near closing time.
They finished their wines before I could settle my tab and off they were into the night.
It was a very cool walk on stone streets to my hostel, passing by very gothic buildings on either side, occasionally passing an open pub or restaurant.
I heard a low roar and was soon walking through the city centre.
Long tables full of people eating and drinking surrounded the path.
Soon the walkway opened up into a large square.
An imposing gothic cathedral lay directly in front of me, the famous medieval astronomical clock to my left but due to an enormous crowd it was very hard to walk through without bumping into someone.
I paused after navigating the crowd to get a glimpse at the astronomical clock.
Seemed like a just a clock, a couple of statues surrounding it, I didn’t see the big deal at the time.
After looking at the gothic cathedral I heard a large commotion and gasps from the crowd I learned what the big deal was: the statues were moving!
It wasn’t just a clock it was a dang show, every hour on the hour these statues would perform as they had done for centuries only now people took pics and videos of the show instead of just watching.
It was now late, after midnight and I had a long travel day.
I had been given 4 keys to access my room in the hostel. Each key was colored and numbered sequentially.
It took time, but I got the huge wooden door unlocked, then struggled with the iron gate lock, then the door to my floor lock and finally, the old mortice key to unlock my room which was most upsetting to me as in my struggles I awoke my roommates who let me in and locked the door behind me.
Beer: Klášterní special sv. Jiljí no 1
Song: Ocean Colour Scene the Riverboat Song