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Czech Republic

I was robbed of my Prague experience almost exactly 2 years ago due to a sticky situation involving a 70lb suitcase and perhaps a bit too much alcohol the night before.

Anyway, it’s about time I went back to finish what I started. And what better time than this particular weekend, when one of my best friends (hi Dustin) from my hometown was visiting this side of the pond?

I went into work at 6am that Friday morning – because 1) I wanted to maximize my weekend, and 2) I was just being stingy with my PTO, haha. There’s something nice about being the only one in the office though. No one constantly hovering around my desk, and I can shamelessly play my music as loudly as I please.

After 8 incredibly sleepy hours and no lunch break, I hopped on a bus and took a glorious 5 hour nap. The next thing I knew – I was in Prague.

We had dinner at a random Italian restaurant close to our place, Cicala Trattoria. Looking in, it appeared completely empty and really didn’t resemble a restaurant at all. It was something more like what you’d imagine a grandma’s living room would look like. Before my doubt got the better of me, an old man led us down into the basement, where a very quaint, homey restaurant was nested – the room filled with warm lighting and the hum of soft conversations. And the coolest part (although random), lots of pictures of Morgan Freeman on the wall – and Morgan Freeman makes anything cool. I guess he likes this place.

Later that evening, a series of mistakes (i.e. following a travel guide written in 2003, and assuming nightlife started around 2am like in Berlin) led us to an extremely kitschy bar-club hybrid. Mostly because it was the only place that was still open. We were easily the youngest people there, which is unusual. Fun night, regardless – or maybe it was that extra shot the quirky bartender poured us because he didn’t have change for our bill. (Clever).

The next morning, we managed to lug our hungover bodies to a very cute brunch spot called Café Lounge. After a few glasses of water (much-needed), coffee, and a disappointingly tiny poached egg tartine (delicious though) – we were good to go.

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I can’t say getting up and ready to leave Berlin Saturday morning was the easiest of all things, after the pub crawl the night before. Missed the first train that we had originally booked, but was able to catch the next one for only an additional 8€.

This was the first time that I’ve trained internationally in between countries in Europe, so it was a little bit confusing finding our way around the Hauptbanhof station (which is a massive 4 story train station). We were waiting at our platform, and our train never came. As each minute passed, we were getting more and more anxious. This man comes by and asks us for any extra bus passes that we wanted to get rid of–we didn’t have any for him. I think he noticed that we were a little nervous, so he helps us translate the sign and lets us know that the train has actually switched platforms to one that was two stories above us. “If I were you, I would hurry on up there.” We caught the train maybe 5 seconds before it started moving. That guy really saved our behinds. Thank you random stranger, and sorry we didn’t have an extra bus pass for you! Hopefully good karma will come around to him.

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The train is split into cabins, each with 6 seats (facing rows of 3 seats). Walking through these “wagons” made me feel like I was on the Hogwarts Express. Haha how big of a geek would I be if I said I wish carts would wheel by and sell me chocolate frogs and butterbeers?

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The 4 hour train ride didn’t seem too long–slept for most of it. It was really interesting seeing how things changed once you crossed the border from Germany to the Czech Republic. There were fewer and fewer buildings, and a lot more nature and open space. The train passed by a lot of mountains, open fields, and bodies of water. Really beautiful scenery to wake up to if I might say so myself.

It was really exciting when we arrived at the Hlavní Nádraží station. The station sort of feels like an older and smaller Taipei main station. A lot of small restaurants and shopping. The first stores I noticed getting off the train was Burger King and Sephora–but beyond those, you’ll find some shops that are a little more local.

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Weather was pretty overcast when we arrived. Once we exited, I really felt the “coldness” of Prague that a lot of my friends had told me about. I don’t know if it was just because of the time we had arrived or what, but the streets were absolutely deserted. It was a huge culture shock, after having lived in Berlin for the past month.

All the buildings here are look really old, in a good way. Once you step outside you really feel Prague’s sense of history. It was actually one of the few places that was left almost completely undamaged after World War II–so you’ll see a lot of old buildings and history that was preserved. That is definitely one of the more special qualities about Prague. On the other hand, one of the more frustrating things about Prague is the absence of street signs. It was horrid trying to find our way around the city to get to our flat–we gave up half way and ended up taking a taxi. Their street signs are on these plates that are on the walls at every intersection, but they’re extremely difficult to find sometimes.

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