It is quite challenging to describe such a great, historical city with only a few words. But if I had to do it anyways, I would probably go with something like;
“Bernard, Kozel, Pilsner, Budvar, Krušovice and Staropramen.”
Hmmmm, wait… I only wrote down six Czech beer brands, didn’t I? Let me try that again. :)
Tall baroque buildings, cathedrals, restaurants, bridges, and finally, yes, beer. This is what Praha is all about. Oh, and apparently also masses of tiny, confused and inappropriately dressed Asian tourists, wandering the streets of Prague.
It’s been a while since Maja and I started planning our trip, and after several different options of various locations and types of transport, we finally settled for Prague and train. Indeed, as always, there were ups and downs, that were mostly related to the biggest rule we set: we travel cheap. Did we manage to follow it? Keep reading.
The first issue we encountered was before we even left Ljubljana, thanks to the justice system offered by our dear national railways. (please, note the incredibly obvious sarcasm). Why so much whining? I’m glad you asked!
The return ticket to Prague turned out to be double the price their website stated few weeks earlier, not to mention the fact that the lady at the window did not give us the return ticket from MB to LJ, which of course we paid for. Yes yes, I should’ve noticed that, but I didn’t. I guess my expectations for them to do their job were too high.
The pricier ticket did ruin the enthusiams a bit, but it didn’t stop us from visiting the land of beer. Luggage, check. Camera, check. Booked our hostel on a January -50% discount, check!
Off we go!
After 11 hours and 3 different trains, we arrived at Hlavní Nádraží, the main railway station in Prague. Since it was the already in the evening, we didn’t have the time to do anything but to find our hostel – Clowns and Bard – located in Prague 3. (Probably meaning third closest area to the old city centre, but not really that case). Thanks to Maja’s orientation with a map, and my ability to type the name of the street in the Google Maps on the tablet we found the place shortly. I wish I took a photo of theentrance to the hostel, but I didn’t. It looked like one of those places you really don’t want to visit. A gray metal door, similar to the ones you usually see in the movies in the end of a long dark dead-end street in NY, where Russian mafia has their illegal poker room. It only had a sign that said “Ring here”. And so we did. The doors unlocked, we entered. Frankly, it wasn’t any better than the first impression I just described. The stairway led us to a basement filled with cigarrete smoke (reminder: Czech Republic does not have the law that prohibites smoking inside). We were received by the receptionist, who just finished a round of table soccer. Unusual. At least the price in hostel was accurate. Oh, wait.. IT WASN’T.
The 50% discount that the good sir at hostelbookers.com claimed isn’t calculated in the price displayed yet, actually was. So once again, we were faced with a situation where we had to pay twice the amount that we expected, only that this time we didn’t even have enough money to pay for it so we took a nervous walk downtown, searching for a free Wi-Fi. We found it, standing outside a fancy hotel, “Googling” a new, hopefully cheaper hostel while freezing our asses off. After a while, we found a so-called Chili Hostel for 4€ a night in Prague 1, meaning the old city center. We only stayed in the first hostel for one night and the room in Clowns wasn’t really heated either. It was freaking cold. Fortunately, this was the last bad thing in the trip. It was all uphill from here. :)
Snapshots of our room in Clowns and Bard where we stayed our first night
Knowing that we are staying only this one night we didn’t even unpack ourselves, because next morning we already on our way to new, hopefully better Chili Hostel. We took a metro to the other part of the city, I loved it. I’m sure I can speak in the name of every fellow citizen from Ljubljana, we want this! There is almost zero waiting, and mainly, it does not just happen to be 10 minutes late. Sound familiar? Yeah, me too. But shit like that doesn’t happen there. In addition, it’s a lot less complicated, since there are only 3 lines that cover pretty much the whole city and the prices are very affordable as well. We found the hostel, left our luggage and went for a walk, since the earliest check in was at 2pm. Only two blocks away, we found this interesting looking building.
We followed the Vltava river and eventually came to the famous Charles Bridge (Karlův most). The bridge is filled with tourists, artists and people rubbing the statues. I’m not really sure what’s the point to touch the polished part of the statue is, although I think it’s supposed to bring you good luck. I touched it and felt ridicolous doing it. It was also snowing for the first two days, so the Prague castle (Hradčany) couldn’t be seen from the bridge, but one of the images below is going to have the castle in it, because it was taken later on. Photos time!
Homeless man and his dog.
From the Charles Bridge, Maja took me to see huge creepy babies with no faces. I know, what the actual f***. So ladies and gentlemen, I present to you… This!
Timing was right to go check out our new hostel which thankfuly happened to be a lot warmer, better AND cheaper. Yeeeah! For lunch, we tried searching for an affordable traditional Czech restaurant, because we were in Czech Republic after all, but our paths led us differently so we ended up in a Thai restaurant, and believe me when I say it, I do not regret the turn of events. The meal was delicious! Maja had a chicken soup with noodles, while I had rissoto with shrimps. I know, rissoto AND shrimps. Awesome. The next day, we took a trip to the Old Town Square and the Prague castle. On the Square, we were able to see the famous astronomical clock everybody is talking about. As an astronomical clock enthusiast, I have to say the clock is nice. Honestly, the way I see it, it’s just a complicated clock on a wall. Here are some shots, no clock photos though.
Old town square (Staromestske namesti) and Church of Our Lady before Týn in the background
Inside the St. Vitus Cathedral, which is inside the Prague Castle
Since I’ve already told you what we ate the day before, I might as well do it for everyday, and make this whole thing a “Where and what was Klemen eating?” kind of post. We decided to eat cheaper that day, because we wanted to go to “Sushi all you can eat restaurant” on the last day, which costs more than our usual meal so we found an Italian restaurant. We both had spaghetti and it cost about 100CZK per person, which is around 4€ or something like that. Cheap! But we didn’t want to live too healthy for ever, so we had an American style dinner in KFC later on. Seriously Ljubljana, what’s with all the Mcdonald’s, when this is so much better? :)
The last day we went the remaining, for us less important places we hadn’t seen yet, like the Jewish Quarter and a small hill above Prague, where I needed to take a photo that you’re going to see below from. By the way, the stories about the Jews being rich aren’t fictional, I counted 7 Porsches and 3 Bentleys in only one alley, while other cars weren’t Clios either. Of course, the stores also changed from Žabka and Billa (Grocery stores) to Prada and D&G. Otherwise, there was nothing really interesting about the Jewish Quarter, but hey, maybe that’s just me. After I took my shots from the hill, we were ready to go eat but my dear tripod wouldn’t close, so I had to carry it around town for the rest of the day and the next day on the train. Below, a shot from the hill.
Now it was finaly the time for all you can eat lunch, and yes, we did “eat it all”. :D We could barely walk afterwards, thanks to all the sushi, soups, meat and fruit. Besides the Chinese and Japanese food, they also had a few Korean dishes, although they appeared to be quite spicy, but it still got Maja excited. The last “tourist thing” we did in Prague was the search for the Lennon Wall, which we did not find the first day. To be honest, we weren’t really successful at finding it this time either. Thanks to the tip from the tour guide on segway we found it later on. Yeah, they even have tours on Segways, it’s hilarious. The wall is not amazing really, but whatever, it is a wall with Lennon on it, so I’ll give it the credit. :) We caught our train home the next day, and thanks to the lady that didn’t give us the return ticket from MB-LJ (lame), we had to find ourselves a cheaper ride back home from Maribor. While waiting for the Austrian train in Wien railway station, we used prevozi.si and found 3 guys who were going to a party in LJ. Guys, you’re probably not reading this, but nevertheless, thanks again! :)
Soooooo, to sum it up… Comfortable, cheap life and less than a euro for a beer? I’m pretty sure I could get used to that. ;)
Tuesday, June 5th. The day I’ve been waiting for ever since I heard that THEY are coming to Ljubljana for the first time. Who is coming? Well, Dropkick Murphys, of course, ddddd! :P For those who haven’t heard of them, the Dropkicks are an Irish-American folk punk rock band from Boston, who have been around for long and successful 16 years. They consist of 6 active members, of which only Ken Casey, the bass guitarist and vocalist, is an original member of the crew that formed the band back in ’96. But you can look all of the info up on the Wikipedia, I’m going to focus more on the concert itself.
Me and Lea arrived at Kino Šiška about an hour early, nevertheless, the parking place in front and the bar were already crouded with fans wearing band shirts from the previous concerts, while some of the “hardcore” fans even took the look to a whole new level by wearing irish green kilts. Also, unlike the last jazz concert report that I wrote, where I told you that the people were mainly drinking wine, this time, all you could see everywhere around you were people drinking beer, specially Dublin’s well-known Guinness Draught. For a brief moment you could almost forget that you’re in Slovenia, not Ireland. ;)
Opening show was performed by the Parkington Sisters, a band of 5 sisters (this time performing only 4), who are touring with the Dropkicks in Europe for the first time and also play during their show later in the background as their melody in the back as well. They prepared the public for the main act really well and heated the atmosphere with folk/country sounds, playing their original songs as well as some known covers that public could sing along like “Dirty Old Town”, which is most known performed by The Dubliners. They finished off thoughtfully with a song that probably everybody knew… The Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash. :) Just for an “intermezzo”, the guitarist Rose, who you can see on pictures below shaved her head for charity a week ago, when perfoming on the Rock AM Ring Festival in Germany to show her support for cancer.
Everything was ready and set for the Dropkick Murphys, and when they did come on stage, the public went wild. The set-list was quite long and it mostly consisted of their most famous songs like “Going out in Style”, “Irish Rover”, “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya” and others. The lead vocalist Al Barr praised the public’s feedback after the first song with something like: “Can someone tell my why haven’t we played in Slovenia before? You guys are awesome!!”. The show kept on going strongly for the whole time, except for a few acoustic songs, just to let the people relax and breathe for a few moments and just enjoy the pure beauty of Irish folk songs, but not too long though, because right after that, it was punk rock to the fullest again. The band did not refuse fans from getting on the stage, Al even let a fan to sing along. Stage diving was not a rarity either, people kept on climbing on the stage and jumping off it, and just let themselves surf on the hands of public throughout the hall. If I had to judge by their facial expressions, I’d say the feeling was probably more than just great. Their serie of original songs ended with “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” which is most known for its appearance in the Martin Scorsese’s movie called “The Departed” that was awarded with 4 Oscars. (I did not even need to use google to know that, take that! :P). They played two more additional songs and dedicated the first one to the ladies and asked them to join them on stage. It didn’t even take 5 minutes and the stage was full with women joyfully singing along. The band didn’t want to let the men down either, so Al Barr asked everybody to climb on the stage for the last song and “test the quality of the stage” that Kino Šiška has to offer, and the song was “TNT” by AC/DC.
I can say that we all hope they’ll be back in Slovenia in the future, but until then, next stop… Flogging Molly in Ljubljana in September!
See you there!