The future was with Fate. The present was our own. The Poison Belt
Only two of us ended up going to Prague, as our other friend stayed in Budapest and we decided to meet up in Vienna. Our itinerary was to leave Wednesday afternoon at 3:30pm on a bus from Budapest to Prague, arriving around 11:30pm. The bus, one of those nice chartered buses, is actually a really good way to get around these three “Golden Triangle” cities (Budapest, Vienna, and Prague) because they’re so close to each other and the buses are so cheap!
Well, this bus had free hot drinks (hot chocolate, coffee, mochas, etc), movies, free headphones, all the works. And we were the hottest we have ever been. I don’t really know why we didn’t ask them to turn the heat down, probably because it’s the first time we’ve felt that kind of real heating since winter started here in Palestine, but really, it was almost disgusting how oppressively hot the bus was. And 7 hours of sweating later, we arrive in Prague. Actually, funny enough, my blackberry sends me text messages when I arrive in a new roaming zone, so I realized when we got off the bus that we had actually traveled to 4 countries on that one bus: Hungary, Austria, Slovakia (we stopped in Bratislava for some travelers to get on and off), and finally the Czech Republic!
Once in Prague, we went to the hostel that had been recommended to us by many friends (thanks guys!), the Czech Inn, grabbed a drink at the bar downstairs and then crashed for the night. We had planned to only be in Prague the entire next day (Thursday), planning to leave Thursday night at midnight to get to Vienna by 5am on Friday morning. So we knew we needed to get our sightseeing butts in gear early Thursday morning.
We started out with a 2 hour walking tour of the downtown, old city of Prague. Of course, we’re used to “Arab time,” so having to use public transportation and of course find our way around the city to the main square where the free walking tour was starting, we arrived about 15 minutes late. Thank goodness these guides wear bright yellow jackets and we were able to jump in without missing too much. We walked around, saw again some amazing architecture, walked through the Jewish Quarter, the old Jewish ghetto of Prague, which was an interesting contrast to think of the wall built to keep the Jews in this certain area of Prague, without allowing building or development or economic investment… and think of the wall between Israeli and Palestinian lands and the restrictions on building or development or economic investment for Palestinians.
The walking tour was great, absolutely freezing. At this point, I had gotten used to wearing under armour under all of my clothes, layering a ton, wearing my friend’s wool coat, I stole my friend’s wool hat to wear, gloves, and two scarves, one of which I wrapped around my lower face/nose. It was a great look, but wow, it was cold. Some pictures from walking around in the morning:
We took a coffee break, to warm up, after the first tour, and decided to go with the same company for an afternoon, 3-hour walking tour of the Castle District. What a great decision. Like I said yesterday, there is just something magical for me about castles! Plus, there were these amazing churches in addition to these beautiful castles, so the walking tour was definitely worth it. And, it’s up on the hill on the other side of the river from the rest of the city of Prague, so we got amazing views. Too bad it was so overcast and gloomy looking, because the pictures don’t capture it!
Then, after the tour ended, we had dinner, went back to our hostel to chill out until we would leave around 11pm to get to the bus station for the bus to Vienna. We get to the bus station and have to wait around for the bus to show up. This being not tourist-season, and us not having any problems before, we hadn’t actually booked anything for this trip before showing up – no hostels, no bus tickets, etc.
Of course, the bus is sold out. So we’re stranded, at 12:30 in the morning, in Prague at this deserted bus station. We’re supposed to be meeting our friend in Vienna in about 5 hours. So we get a taxi back to our hostel, get another two beds for the night, and quickly get on the internet to book tickets for the next bus or train to Vienna. All the buses for the next two days from Prague to Vienna are booked solid. The next train was going to be almost $200. We decided to cut our losses and stay an extra day in Prague and take the bus the next afternoon back to Budapest. We quickly book the last two seats on the bus back to Budapest, and go to bed. But this actually allowed us to enjoy another day exploring Prague, and we saw two phenomenally beautiful churches and had wonderful coffee and cake.
Then we walked across the Charles Bridge, which is known for its crazy beautiful statues!
I’ll leave you with some more views of the streets of Prague, and another fantastic basilica we walked into. Our bus ride back to Budapest was relatively uneventful, though there were not hot drinks and it was almost just as hot on the bus as the first one.
It was a wonderful, wonderful vacation, 5 days away from my usual routine, everything in the past 7 months. Neither of us had any trouble at all, so surprisingly, at Ben Gurion when we arrived at 4am in the morning, which was thankfully just a perfect ending. We came back to the most disgustingly cold, rainy, hail weather in Ramallah, but the past couple days it has been mid to high 60s and sunny. My roommate and I took a spontaneous trip to the beach in Tel Aviv on Wednesday afternoon and I actually was sweating in my bathing suit! So amazing.