I know I have promised to write more often when I’m in Europe, but to be frank this is the first time I have had some down time, just sitting down for a few hours and staying awake. Other times I had been simply walking around exploring and getting lost (my laptop lying forgotten in the hotel room) or collapsing either on a train couchettes or on my hotel bed out of exhaustion after the said walking.
So many things have happened over the past few days, and most of them have been really good. Apart from that day in Paris when we were panicking because we thought that we were going to miss the train but we actually ended up really early at the train station; or the time in the train from Paris to Berlin when I did not know I had to activate my Eurail tickets at the train station and almost cost my family a total of EUR 1,000 just to buy another set of tickets (luckily the ticket inspector took pity after a little bit of pleading, tear shedding and some help from a nice German passenger who shared our compartment). But other than those minor glitches, we have seen beautiful buildings and structures, eaten yummy food and ice cream and taken in much history lessons.
The point is travelling had been good so far.
The city was very pretty alright, and I loved the rustic and ancient feel of it. But I think everyone has their own kind of luck with a city – some places are just meant to make your lives difficult and you just want to leave. Just like how Pisa was to me five years ago (I will write a post about my disastrous time there one day), by the end of it, I felt my money was cheated dry and I could not wait to leave Prague.
It started the moment we reached Prague. Our train arrived at 11 30 pm and we got there with no Krona. We had no idea how to take the metro either and it seemed that it was going to stop running soon. So we decided to take a cab to our hotel. For less than ten minutes’ ride, we were charged by the taxi driver 400 Krona (EUR 15), when in fact it should have cost around 100.
After rationalising and comforting ourselves, it was not so bad really, considering there were no other taxis and we had to get to the hotel anyway and five of us could squeeze into the cab with our luggage and would have otherwise needed two taxis in normal circumstances. So being charged twice the price did not hurt that bad.
Then came the second day when it rained on us for half a day, and we were drenched whenever we tried crossing the road. But it was alright in the end since we improvised and took the tram from one end of the line to the other and got to see the not so touristy part of Prague. We met a nice guy along the way as well who explained to us a little bit more about the ‘working class’ area where we ended up in.
And also because I got to have some ice cream and trdelník, it was a good day after all.
The real disaster came just when we were about to leave the city this morning. We were rushing to take the Metro to Central Station. We went down two escalators with our massive luggage each when I was stopped by the station controller.
The thing that you have to know is that we had purchased the 24-hour public transport tickets the day before and had every single one validated and stamped when we boarded a tram. There was never an inspector throughout the day before when we were going around the city. However, as luck may have it, when an inspector did turn up, we discovered that we had misplaced one of the tickets and were accused that we did not have one of the tickets validated. Because of that, two of us were fined 800 Krona each (EUR 35). That’s 70 euros gone instantly because of a non-compassionate, non-understanding, non-smiling bearded metro inspector. What angered me even more was that, after closer scrutiny, the ticket that was accused not to have been validated did have the time stamp on it. But because we would have missed our train to Vienna had we taken more time to argue, we decided to leave it as it was and left him and the country alone 70 euros richer.
(And as I’m writing this, my mom just told us that we left two of our cakes in the hotel fridge in the rush to get out. It was some Czech cake and another one a cherry chocolate cake. I’m trying not to think about how good and comforting that would taste now.)
I would have loved to say that I love Prague just like how everyone else has been going on about the beautiful sights and the cheap beer. But right now, when I remember the city, all I could think of was the 70 euros that were forced out of me and the two massive cakes sitting in the hotel fridge. I hope some nice housekeeping lady will get to have that. At least that would make me feel slightly better.