Dresden had been a little sleepy city where I'd mainly been the only one on a street at any given time. I knew Prague would be different but I wasn't quite ready for just how different it'd be. A guy in the train station handed me a map and directed me to "the Main Street", at the end of which my hostel sat. People. Lots and lots and lots of people. Tourist shops full of tourists, with easily identifiable Czech people, as they all looked thoroughly pissed off that their country was being overrun. However, the hostel was found and a shower was had.
I did a pub crawl on the first night solely as a way to meet people but the social ineptitude I'd experienced in Bruges returned with aplomb. Everything was so overwhelming, not least the really dreadful 5 story dance club which was where the pub crawl ended. Tired, bored and rather drunk I then realised I was completely and utterly lost without a map. I tried to ask a taxi driver for some help but he just opened the door and said "I'm not tourist information, get in". Reluctantly I agreed and a 2 minute cab journey cost me far more than it should. Never mind.
Next day I did a couple of walking tours and experienced information overload again. There's an awful lot about people getting thrown out of windows and very many old buildings and clocks. The Czechs have a very superstitious history, so there's lots of legends about statues coming to life and ghosts wandering the streets. I'm not sure what it says about me, but I was more interested in the crazy guy from Dublin who was juggling machetes and fire sticks, but that's me.
I then visited the castle, which isn't really a castle. I was made a focal point of the tour as the guide recognised that being from Wales made me a castle expert, apparently. What it lacked in castle-ness, it made up for in Cathedral-ness. Quite simply one of my favourite buildings. Pictures don't portray the scale of the thing : just go and see it.
It was on the tour I met a couple of girls from Ireland and a few guys from Canada (on a side note ... Canadians... They're everywhere. ;-). ). So we went to get some food and ended up in one of the Canadians hotel room because it was cheaper than a clubs and had wifi. The novelty of this soon wore off though and one of the girls suggested going to "that amazing 5 story club". Hmmm. This experience taught me quite a valuable lesson though, things are more fun with other people. I had an amazing night and danced for a grand total of 5 hours. When we left the club it was morning and Prague was as sleepy as Dresden. I really wanted to wander the streets on my own but a fear of getting lost without a map again and the effects of the aforementioned dancing were taking their toll. Bed.
The next day was a trip to a place called Kutna Hora. Famous for its 'bone church'. Finished in 1870, it was under construction for a few centuries and decorated by a man, his wife and kids with the bones of over 40,000 people who died from ill health and poor sanitation. Very eery, creepy and humbling. The tour also visited a neighbouring town which had an equally outstanding cathedral. Highly recommended for anyone visiting.
Sure enough, I then met two more Canadian guys. One was a massively enthusiastic and highly energised judo expert and guitar technician. The other was an accountant. It made for an interesting dynamic. The first guy told a tale of how he'd discovered a bar which served "tank" beer. The idea being that no gas is added when it's put into kegs. Instead, they put a bag inside the tank and when they need to pump it, they inflate the bag, which then pushes the beer through. The result is very flavoursome and doesn't bloat you like carbonated beers. Really good stuff.
I met with the two Canadian guys the following day and we visited the John Lennon wall which is pretty much what it says on the tin. A wall... With John Lennon graffiti. Lots of Beatles references and quotes which were really fun to look through. After that, we climbed the observation tower, which has the same shape of the Eiffel Tower and is actually taller than it, from sea level. From there you get outstanding panoramic views of prague and surrounding cities. In my case, you also get really wobbly legs, especially on the way back down. Terra Ferma was a good feeling.
I then partook in a beer tasting course. There's 22 microbreweries in prague and you wouldn't find them if you didn't know where they were first. The guide was super enthusiastic and informative so it made for a really interesting night. Naturally there were some Canadians that I met. I'm fairly sure I can visit all of Canada without meeting any new people.
Then, in typically British bloke football stereotype mode, I watched arsenal win the FA cup in a sports bar which had a screen bigger than Aberystwyth cinema. I know it's not very cultural but the atmosphere was one of the best I've experienced. I've heard that the English are some of the most vocal supporters, and we didn't mind showing that. It was fantastic
So as I'm writing I'm in a train station waiting for a train to Vienna, which should be slightly more relaxing! After that it's Budapest and then the plan is to make my way to the Croatian coast. Not quite sure how to do that yet. I might phone that German bloke who drove me to Berlin.
Europe. It's Canada in disguise.