Monday, August 24, 2009


Going over to a friend's house doesn't usually entail leaving 30 minutes later. That would be rude, unkind, disrespectful. Then again, a typical conversation with someone you just met for the first time doesn't usually follow the pattern of: "Hey, I'm Rafa - want to go to Prague tomorrow?" Which therefore leads you to laugh at the idea, absurdity, and bluntness of the posed question, respond by stating your name and asking if they're actually serious, and when you realize they are, leaving to go home 30 minutes later to pack a bag and meet at the car rental place at the bright and early hour of 3:30 in the morning. That being said, at 8am Andres, Rafa and myself pulled into the parking garage of beautiful Prague on a Thursday morning in August for a nicely spent 24 hour trip.

After making the 4 hour drive in the middle of the night, which isn't such a burden when you get to drive the second half of the way while watching the sun come over the mountains as the other people in the car sleep (actually quite peaceful and relaxing), we arrived in the Czech Republic capital the next morning. What is a burden is pulling into the parking garage and 8am, coming to the realization of why the hell did we leave so early - or late - and wondering how you're going to make it through the day on 30 minutes of sleep. Nothing an hour power-nap can't fix. So by 9am we were out on the streets and began walking through the cobblestone walkways, diverse architecture, and tourist-haven Prague. We started off the day in Old Town Square, admiring the cafe-lined streets, arrangement of architectual styles, horse-drawn carriages, and the famous Astronomical Clock. One of the most interesting things about Prague (which starkly reminded me of Porto) is the variation of building design, from the material used for construction to style to age period and so on. It's as if someone who couldn't make up their mind which style was better or more beautiful took an all-encompassing assortment and slapped them together in one city for a big architectual sandwich. And surprising, it's works. Somehow with all the different modern buildings that sit before towering midieval structures there's a sense of fluidity. I'm not sure how it works, but it does. Maybe it's also kind of frustrating too, but I think it achieves more than it takes away. After spending a while walking around Old Town Square, we stopped for an early brunch at an Italian restaurant for some much needed food. Pretty good - nothing special - but definitely feeds the soul when you're working on almost no sleep.

After lunch we made our way to a Dali exhibition, which isn't something I normally do on weekend trips in Europe. Normally I try to stray away from the museums and instead embrace a more outdoors sightseeing approach. But all in all it wasn't so bad to spend an hour wandering through paintings - maybe I'm more "cultured" now because of it. After the exhibit, we walked throughout Prague to a few midieval churches, structures, and eventually to the famous Charles Bridge. The bridge is lined with numerous sculptures that connect the two sides of the city. My favorite part of the bridge was the plethora of street artists, whether it be painters, jewelers, musicians, or some other sort of craft. Street preformers unfortunately were not to be found, but other than that the bridge was pretty satisfying. On the other side of the bridge, we hiked our way up to the top of the Prague Castle, which itself wasn't so spectacular, but did offer a nice panoramic view of the city. The nice thing about Prague is it's so small that it makes it incredibly easy to walk the entire city (or at the least the part of the city worth seeing). From the view at the top, you could see everything - with the mountains on one side, the river, the churches, ect. Something about panoramic views just makes it nice to see where you've been. Comically, after our treck to the top of the castle, I think we repeated the already said journey through the city a couple more times and eventually stopped in an underground tavern for dinner. After a tasty plate of something that I can't remember at the moment, we walked back across the river to the John Lennon wall which is covered in Beatles oriented graffiti. And pretty much, that concluded our 24 hour excursion to Prague.

Prague, if you haven't already heard, has been pronounced as "the most beautiful city in Europe", "Europe's gem", "the one place in Europe you HAVE to see", and so on. For me, I would disagree with most these statements. Prague definitely is beautiful and is absolutely worth seeing, but most beautiful city in Europe?... I'm not so sure. For some reason throughout the day I got this creepy feeling stemming from all of the dark midieval architecture that thousands of people had been tortured at some point throughout this city's history. Probably right out on the streets. Probably for the amusement of the masses. But putting my weird inhibitions aside, Prague is beautiful and is a very cool city - one you should go visit should you ever get the chance. Just wouldn't personally make my top 5 list. But then again, I'm sure the masses that have visited Prague would harshly disagree and leave me to a midieval torture device for thoughts of even making such a comment.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009