Vienna Waits 11Jul08 | [Rio] 0

At about 7am we all woke up and realised we were already running late after a much interrupted night’s sleep.  The pub crawl involving free beer, wine, vodka & cranberry or absinthe shots (THEY BURN MORE THAN YOU WOULD IMAGINE) had obviously taken their toll on all of us as we emerged bleary-eyed from the hostel into the unforgiving light of day.  I don’t remember much of the morning as a result of my semi-consciousness but I do remember feeling slightly disappointed to be leaving Prague – I know that we’ll only be moving on to more excitement in more European countries but our time here, with our hostel minutes away from the picturesque Old Town Square will be difficult to beat – we managed to fill every day with the perfect balance of culture and sight-seeing, cycling and walking, cheap beer, (cheaper than coke!!! Who could ask for more?!) dancing and Eurotrash.  And we met some great people, too, including a guy from Quebec with whom we shared a very heavy (but very cheap) watermelon, as well as Maz’s various conquests.

We managed to find our way to the right train station at the right time (miraculous if you ask me) and spent four and a bit hours on the train from Prague to Vienna.  The weather here today has been scorching (I’m sure it wasn’t this hot when we got on the train this morning… although to be fair I probably wouldn’t have remembered anyway) and so the rest of today has been spent generally blobbing about in useless heaps, revelling in the amazement that we actually managed to get up to get the train this morning.  In fact, such was the inactivity today that the highlights, and in fact the exhaustive synopsis of our activities reads as follows:

1.  Finding out that free pasta is readily available at this hostel, resulting in a vat full of cooked spaghetti for dinner, which not even Maz could finish off, and could probably feed the inhabitants of Zagreb for at least a year.  Other than free pasta, everything else in this hostel appears to come at some cost, which is why I preferred our Prague hostel.  The general atmosphere here seems slightly more hostile too, probably either because everything seems so antiseptically clean (admittedly our room is very nice), or because the only people we have bumped into here were a group of Irish guys in their mid-20s who seemed to disapprove of my pasta-cooking technique.

2.  A trip to the local Spar to stock up on food after realising we hadn’t actually eaten all day.

3.  The discovery of the game ‘Singstar’ on the Playstation in the small kitchen/common room known as the Backies Area.  We entertained ourselves for most of the evening with this, constantly listening for the possibility of a stranger walking in whilst one of us belted out the chorus of “I Touch Myself”.  Not a fantastic first impression whilst attempting to make friends.  I still maintain, however, that the game was faulty since the microphones seemed to respond better to Nick’s convincing impression of a donkey being raped than any of the rest of our efforts.

And so the day is drawing to a close.  We only have tomorrow left here in Vienna, so it’ll be difficult to fit in everything we want to see in this lovely, but huge, city – thank God we have Nick, his guide book and his meticulous ability to plan in order to make the most of it!

Prague Crawl 10Jul08 | [Maz] 0

Our last day in Prague could only be described as interesting. Not necessarily in the best way…

The day started pretty poorly as we woke up an hour later than we had planned. This was mainly due to our human alarm clock, Nicholas. S. Manners, failing to do his only task of the trip so far. Naturally we beat him. With sticks.

We made the epic walk back up to the castle, getting an informative tour around the church and the royal palace which, to my surprise, was rather entertaining and beautiful. This was the best bit of the tour, learning about Good King Wenceslas and the thousand-year history behind the construction of St. Vitus’ Cathedral. We learnt about the Golden Lane (or Golden Gate Bridge as I kept on calling it) where the alchemists lived and where Kafka spent time during the war.

Eventually, our feet grew angry at us, so we bent to their will and took them home to Hostel Tyn where we nursed them back to health.

For dinner we ate at the vegetarian place next door to our hostel and although limited in choice, was incredibly cheap and tasty. However, we were lacking pudding, and some of us decided to start on the watermelon bought the day before. We (Maz, Gill, Rio, and a Canadian man we met at the hostel) ate about a third, and gave the rest away to random hostellers.

The beginning

Rested and rejuvenated, we decided to sample Czech life after-hours. We went on a pub crawl. Not your average British pub crawl, either. For an hour, we were given FREE beer, wine, and shots of vodka & cranberry and absinthe. In true student style, we obviously had to take advantage of this fantastic offer. We would highly recommend this pub crawl to anyone with an active liver, or those who want to see a different side of Prague nightlife.  Now for the interesting bit…

We met loads of people. Loads of really nice people from Ireland, Australia… and even Bedford (exotic, no?). But most importantly we met people from Spain. One member of the group took a particular liking to an ‘Irene’ from Spain, and disappeared for half the evening during the latter part of our pub/club tour, much to the annoyance of the rest of the interthink crew, who had to scour the streets of Prague in the dark so that we could return to the hostel.

The last name of the mysterious Irene, however, was never discovered (no chance of finding her on Facebook, then) – but numbers were exchanged. And then lost.

Ready, Czech, Go. 09Jul08 | [NickM] 0

After what could only be described as an intense first night – due credit goes to the brief cameo of Nick No.3 and Stuart Phillips – we awoke late and decided that the only real way to get anything worthwhile out of the day was to enlist the help of Praha Bikes and storm the city on two wheels. We circumnavigated Prague’s dubiously marked cycle lanes while trying to stay upright and attempting not to be crushed under 100 tonnes of Prague city tram.

After speeding along the river we found ourselves in a set of parks, providing a some lovely scenic views of the city and enabling us to visit the giant metronome, that was surprisingly, just  giant metronome frequented by skaters whose pasttime appears to be throwing shoes with their shoelaces tied together over a powerline. Overall it was a slightly bizarre monument but I suppose that after a giant statue of Stalin and then the Prince of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, being previously in that location, the metronome was nothing too out of the ordinary.

Eventually we made it to planned destination one of two: Prague Castle – a lovely set of buildings and fortifications on the hill overlooking Prague, but due to our frolicking earlier in the day and lack of slick* tyres on the bikes to take advantage of the weather most of the complex was due to close in under an hour. It was decided that we would return on the ‘morrow to give the structure the time it deserved.

We began our return to our hostel but the weather suddenly deteriorated into torrential rain and so the bikes pitted; on went the extreme wets for Team Stylianou with Team Manners playing safe and opting for the intermediates**.

But then we realised we were on bikes and it didn’t make a sodding bit of difference.

So apart from a case of brake fade on the STY-08 bike on the particularly steep downhill sector, the rest of the trip back was fairly uneventful. The result? Of course a well-deserved powernap for everyone involved.

As the clock struck 8, we were off again into the streets of Prague for a meal and we discovered a nice little Italian joint. Here we all filled up with some surprsingly good food (various risottos and pastas) and wine that could only really be described as ‘inoffensive’.

The final jaunt of the evening was to find the ‘Friends’ bar where we could all purchase a quiet drink. Naturally it was indeed Prague’s premier gay and lesbian bar, and naturally it had been shut down months before. Our homosexual party plans were in tatters.

At this point we took the hint and set our sails for home, arriving at a comparatively early 1am, enough time to reflect on a relaxing and enjoyable day while still preparing our minds and bodies for the epic sightseeing slog that awaited us the next day.

* In my ‘journalism’ I like F1 references.

** Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

This is your captain speaking… 08Jul08 | [NickS] 0

“Guess what?  The air-conditioning problem we had ten minutes ago has recurred.  We’re going to have to taxi back to the stand and get an engineer to fix it…we’re looking at about half an hour…”

Not the best start to our adventure, being stuck on a runway at Stansted.  Nevertheless, after missing our various flight slots as a result of the pilot’s a/c trouble, we arrived at Ruzyně International Airport rested and raring to go.  Actually, we were knackered – the girls spent the night on the airport floor and the boys got a lift at the crack of dawn.

After buying our first public transport ticket with an obscene amount of Czech currency, we successfully failed to navigate to our hostel, walking in a loop no more than a kilometre away at any given  time from our desired destination.  Nevertheless, we soldiered on and eventually checked (or should that be Czeched) in to our room.  Not the one we reserved, of course, but two doubles and a single, for the same price.  Can’t complain.

In an interesting, quirky turn of events, Stuart Phillips (yes, affiliated with our very own Maz) was in Prague with a friend, who arrived on our doorstep shortly after we had settled in to show us the city. This involved a litre of beer each to start, for less than a bottle of coke, and some odd Czech delicacy (I had beef, cream sauce and whipped cream?) from the equally cheap bistro we stopped in.  Staroměstské náměstí was next on the agenda (the Old Town square) and a trip up the clock tower to see the breathtaking view.

Returning to our Czech base for a brief nap after a quick tour of the famous Charles Bridge, we pledged to join our new guides for the evening.  Gill successfully managed to offend the entire service industry of Prague in the first restaurant we went to, and in the public interest, a dramatisation is as follows:

(enter humble waitress…)
Can I take order?
A Magherita pizza, please.
What kind?
What kind of Margherita pizza?  What do you
mean ‘what kind’?  There’s surely only one kind! I hate you! Why don’t you understand me?
(…shocked waitress leaves in floods of tears)

To alleviate the mood, we hit a “Beer Factory”, where we were to drink as many litres as possible to gain a top place on the scoreboard.  We sadly only managed a team best of fourth.  Then, the largest club in Central Europe, Karlovy Lázně, with five floors of funky music.

For our first day, we packed in a lot, thanks to our handy city guides – Stuart and Nick (yes, another one).  How we will fare without them in the days to come is  mystery, but if we have even half of their amusing anecdotes by the end of our trip, I’m sure we’ll be happy…