hmmm, Bohemian Rhapsody's already taken... (2008-01-05 - 9:58 p.m.)
And so, armed only with a hostel recommendation from a Geoff Berner song and the Michelin Red Guide, Malcolm and I took Prague.
NOTE: Probably best in the future not to choose hostels based on Geoff Berner songs. Based on the fact that they offer girls a fifth night free if they stay four, I figured it might be a party hostel. But we got beds in the big dorm anyway (as in, 40 beds in a giant room on the 5th floor of a huge run-down building). It was not too bad, though... I couldn't sleep because of all the people coming in and talking, but I figured it would quiet down. Which it did... until a party of drunken Brits stumbled in and decided that someone had taken the beds they had chosen. So then it was twenty minutes of "Oi! You've nicked my bed mate! I had that bed! There's going to be a fight in a second mate! You and me, rolling around on the floor!"
The guy in the bed (who was quiet and Brazilian and had genuinely not nicked a taken bed to his knowledge) tried to explain that the bed seemed free, bringing on a chorus of, "you calling me a liar, mate? ARE YOU? You calling me a liar??" By that point Mal and I were awake and muttering, "No, we're calling you a total jerk, really." Eventually the Brits found other beds (of which there were several), but at that point the guy in the bunk below me had returned and was kicking the bed at regular intervals. I finally fell asleep at perhaps 5am.
As this was the day after "sleeping" on the night train, I had quite a brain-dead day of it the next day. Our first day in Prague we had wandered around the Old Town and been to the Communist Museum on Will's recommendation, so the main wanderings were out of the way. (The Communist Museum was quite cool, by the way - oddly set up in that you didn't get a timeline of the history till the end, but full of interesting propaganda and information about how, by the end, the secret police were using the wire-tapping equipment to spy on "romantic assignations".) So on day 2, we went to see the castle and accompanying giant scary gothic cathedral complete with excellent gargoyles. We also saw a very strange giant metronome and some lovely bridges. And! I got my hair cut. This was accomplished by picking a salon at random as we walked past it on the street, then using sign language and pictures to try and convey about how the result should look. I got the most junior and inexperienced stylist, who was so careful that it took her an hour and a half to do the cut. On the plus side, I didn't have to make chit-chat conversation! The entire haircut took place in dead silence. But the result is quite nice (though she got carried away and gave me a strange little fringe on one side) and it certainly was cheap. So, getting hair cut in foreign languages = yes.
Despite my slight skepticism about the Michelin Red Guide, it in fact proved worth its weight in food. We started with Kolkovna, the recommended pub. We split an appetizer, sausages in beer sauce. (Hey, it's Prague!) Took one bite and oh my lord... it was incredible. Absolutely amazing flavour. The entrees turned out to be huge, and good, but mostly huge. I had goulash and dumplings with sage-flavoured potato cakes, and Mal had some kind of pork fillet twice the size of his plate (and ample beer, of course). We ended up going back the next day as well, for more beer'n'sausage. Tried another one today, called M Brasserie, which was also yummy but not quite as incredible as that first appetizer. Also had some very strange non-Michelin food, notably some very odd bright-green pea soup.
Hmmm, what else. The architecture here is amazing. I love it all (well, nearly). Lovely, lovely Art Nouveau buildings. Tons of people wear fur here, which I find odd. We are talking giant long fur coats with matching huge fur hats. I'm sure I even saw someone with a tippet. Oh, and good luck getting a smile from the wait-staff here. They all seem quite annoyed that you're in their place of business at all. "Service with a Snarl," as Mal terms it.
So Malcolm left today to go to Berlin. I presumably managed to book a flight to Manchester tomorrow - though it's hard to tell, as I had to do it over the phone (their online system didn't like my credit card) and the woman on the other end barely spoke English, I was in a crowded bar and the phone line was extremely crackly. I've just realized that I don't have a clock of any kind, which should make getting up interesting.
Anyway, as it was our last day we went to see an exhibition of photography. The photographer was Jindrich Streit, and man it was interesting. All taken in Czech villages in the '80s and '90s. Lots of pictures of women who look exactly like Baba. Then, after Mal left, I hit the Mucha museum. So glad I did, as I love his work to bits and it was a good exhibit. Lots of prints, of course, but also photographs of his models in his studio and some paintings. There was a particularly good photograph of Paul Gauguin playing the harmonium without any pants on.
I was interested, too, to see that in his later days Mucha felt he should hearken back to his homeland, and started drawing people "with Slavic features". This made me spend the next hour examining passers-by in order to try and work out what Slavic features are, and if I have them.
Anyway, my fingers are cold. This bloody hostel doesn't go overboard on the heating. Off to try and figure out a way to get up on time tomorrow...
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