Prague, Czech Republic. Beautiful old architecture, but the people are not so nice. Perhaps they are bitter from Communism, who knows?
The first day there, we met up with Kate, a friend of mine from U.N.T. She had been studying in Brno, Czech, this semester, so she was somewhat familiar with Prague. She brought along her friend from Latvia. All-in-all, our first day was sunny and clear, and we were able to see many sights. We started off with the Castle and Cathedral. I actually expected the castle to be quite large, but it wasn't. The cathedral, on the other hand, was the best one I've been to in Europe (and I've been to a lot!). The stained glass windows and statues were out of this world. In general, the buildings in Prague have a look about them which is very rustic but gorgeous. After the castle and cathedral, we visited a Mozart museum (where he wrote the overture to Don Giovanni). The garden there was peaceful but the museum was not that interesting. I did get to see a lock of Mozart's hair, which was the highlight in my opinion. We stopped at a cafe for coffee and hit up a few shops, and then we went to buy food for a picnic. If you shop at the right places, Prague is extremely cheap. We got more than enough food for four people for around 10 U.S. Dollars. And we got to eat in a park. After dinner, we walked over to a cemetery and saw Antonin Dvorak's grave, as well as Smetana's. Then, sadly, Kate had to leave to catch her bus back to Brno.
The next day was very rainy, so sadly Bert and I didn't get to do much. We walked to the Old Town center and looked at the famous clock. It's supposed to do something really neat every hour during the chime, but it was just some silly little ritual where a bunch of wooden apostles and/or demons popped out, lasting about 30 seconds. We visited a couple of really great restaurants, including one that brewed their own beer. I had a mug of their sour cherry beer, and it was unbelievable! It was like drinking alcoholic cherry cola. I loved it. Czech food is definitely very, very rich. A lot of pork and dumplings and cabbage. They also put whipped cream on EVERYTHING. Like, you'll order a chicken steak and it's topped with whipped cream. It's crazy. They also love beer, and it's much cheaper to order beer than to get water here. But that's ok, because the beer is SO good.
Finally, the people - what the heck? Almost everyone we ran into was rude to us. It could have been the language barrier - the Czech language is by far the most foreign so far. With French and German it is easy to at least understand what is going on, but Czech is way out there. In general in Prague, people were unwilling to help and not very hospitable. I love the city, so it's too bad that one aspect made it not as great.
And now for my "pee your pants with fright" moment - Bert and I, trying to navigate the Czech metro station, forgot to buy tickets before boarding the metro. Upon entry we ran into a LARGE (possibly 6'4") man with long dark hair and a beard. He flashed a badge in front of us and started speaking to us in Czech. When he figured out we didn't speak the language, he yelled "tickets?!" We of course did not have them. He yelled at us some more and then fined us each 700 Koruna (around $35). I didn't have all of the money with me so he threatened to call the police. At this time I proceeded to nearly pee myself. But I showed him my ATM card and he agreed to follow me up to the ATM. It was OUT OF ORDER! So he let me off. I was soooooo glad. That was a horrible way to start a rainy day, but things got better. I still think it makes me sound like a bad mofo, getting fined in Prague. I'm ok, though, it was an experience.
Next stop: Plzen, Czech Republic, home of Pilsner Urquell beer!