Friday, August 28, 2015

Prague... Trains, Pubs and Hills - Day one

Today was our last day in Berlin - well not full day but partial day as we didn't have time for anything really in Berlin.  We woke up about 20 minutes before our scheduled train to Prague was to leave, so obviously we had to reschedule that.  We left the apartment around noon, headed to our new favorite coffee and tea shop down the street, and after some great conversation, coffee, breakfast bread and breakfast juice we were off to Berlin's main train station, Berlin Hauptbanhof.  We missed our next scheduled train by seconds by the time we got to the station, so we booked yet another train for the next scheduled time to Prague and vowed not to miss this one.  We hung out around the train station for another couple of hours, so we had some lunch, took some pictures, looked around at some of the stores.  Hauptbanhof Berlin is a huge train station and it has all kinds of shops to buy pretty much anything you might want.  Shoes, souvenirs, groceries, food, clothes, books, drug-store like items, they've got a shop for you.

We made the third attempt easily, and settled into our section quickly.  It's a six seat section of the car, with windows on both sides, and on one side the window is actually a sliding glass door.  The train is similar to the old European style trains I've seen on TV or movies before, where there is a walkway on the right, and these 'rooms' on the left are for groups of travelers.  We started off with five of us in the 'room', then after a couple of stops one got out and another person came in.  I took quite a few pictures on the train ride, it was about five hours long.  You of course could get up and walk around, use the restroom, etc.  I did that a few times.  Not good to do when the train stops though because confusion with people trying to leave or get on the train usually ensues.  About 1/2 way to Prague after the last person joined our room, we started talking to the two other people besides our party.  We learn that one of them is from Czech Republic but lives in Dresden, and the other is a young Irish girl that has unexpectedly needed to travel alone to Prague.  We invite the Irish girl to go have dinner with us after we all settle into our places, and she gets my information so we are connected.  The train ride was uneventful and on time, we arrive in Prague around 7pm, chat with Catherine (the Irish girl), make a plan and head to the apartment.  We pass by the largest Jewish synague on the way to the apartment, and pull our luggage across the small cobblestone sidewalk, occasionally walking on the larger cobblestone street.  About seven minutes later we are in front of the apartment, and our host greets us outside.  She takes us in and shows us around, leaves two keys and bids us adeau. 

The apartment is on the third floor, reachable by stairs or this tiny lift (elevator) that is controlled by this magnet key.  The lift has barely enough room for my 26" suitcase, backpack, me and Inka (my host).  We had to leave Jared and Ashley behind the first ride.  We go through another door to the hallway of our apartment, this hallway is shared with another apartment and is very sunny, all windows.  We go into the door of our apartment and see the two bedrooms, the 'great room' and bathroom.  This place is maybe 700 square feet big.  The kitchen is open and doesn't feel that small, although we didn't cook in it.  The second bedroom is so big it has a couch, dining table and chairs, a desk with a vintage Mac computer, two armoires and a queen bed.  Two sets of huge windows fill an entire section of the wall, and the ceiling is lined by beautiful crown molding and centered by a vintage light.  The flooring is herringbone wood, looks like it took forever to lay down.

We met up with Catherine after getting our stuff in the new place and went off in search of someplace to eat.  By now it's about 2130 (930 pm), and the area around the hostel where Catherine is staying looks pretty low on restaurant prospects that are open.  We walk around for a bit until we finally find a pub that is serving food, however, the place is full of smoke as all the people in the establishment are smoking away.  Oh yeah, I forgot you could smoke inside in Czech Republic.  We are all so hungry it doesn't matter, we pile in and enjoy a wonderful meal.  It's bright but hazy from the smoke, and I can feel it reach my throat as I breathe.  After eating the food we decide to head outside and find a bar for some more to drink (minus the smoke maybe).  We walk up and down streets for about two hours until we finally find a place that is both acceptable in terms of smoke AND has an outdoor area to drink in.  We hung out there until about 0430 (4:30am) when they closed.  We walked Catherine back to her hostel, and chatted some more until about 0530 (5:30am) when we finally headed back to our apartment and crashed.

Observations:
  • Train rides through Europe are delightful
  • Belfast Irish Women are awesome
  • Man there's a lot of smoke everywhere... so many smokers that smoke inside
  • It is kind of warm here...
  • I think we scored on our apartment


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