Original posted on London to New York blog, March 25, 2010
Prague, Czech Republic
A VARIETY of things are already becoming second nature as we settle into life on the road.
The constant packing – or, to be more accurate, shoving stuff in – my bag to get it down to the bus on time, making sure you are not last through the door of your hostel room in the race for the best beds, the post breakfast snooze as we bed down for a day on the bus and the frequent changes of currency.
Rolling out of the Czech Republic and into Poland, we headed out of the land of the Krone and into the world of the Zloty.
Border crossings have been signalled not by passport control – yet to be asked for by anyone official as we cruise across the EU – but by the service station stop and a new problem.
As we rush to use the facilities, we discover they want a cash contribution which catches out those feeling smug at changing our Krone into Zloty late last night.
They want coins, we only have notes which sparks a frantic – thankfully, given our needs, not that frantic as they let us pay on the way out in Poland – hunt for coins of various currencies for something they will accept.
After his diplomatic victory over the Germans last time, Mike appears to be saving his finest moments for border crossings.
His plan after this latest one is the instigation of a Piss Pot on the bus to collect a variety of coins to ease the weary traveller’s path in their hour of need.
It is a small point, but one which should make it into guide books.
Those of you paying attention will remember crossing into Poland follows two nights in Prague, which certainly did not disappoint after being given a big build-up by various people before departure.
It helps the Plus Prague hostel is clean, well-equipped (although the much-anticipated swimming pool was sadly closed) and comfortable. Each dorm room of four comes with its own loo and shower, which makes life a lot more comfortable.
We headed out for a tour of the city’s castle and St Vitus Cathedral which, as well as being beautiful in their own right, provide staggering views from their hilltop setting over Prague and the Vltava River. It is almost a town in its own right perched on the hill as the city sprawls out below in all directions.
With a bit of sightseeing/orientation and cheap beer and pizza back at the hostel under our belts, a group of headed out to The Cross Club.
A rabbit warren of tunnels and dingy corners running over several floors, much of it decorated with moving car parts, it certainly caught our imagination. What was supposed to be a couple of quick drinks ended in the early hours with the first sighting of a lubricated Marius – the alter ego of driver Martins when unencumbered by the constraints of driving the next day.
Thankfully, the following morning provided a semblance of a lie-in (since when is being up just after 8am a lie-in?) and a lovely spring day sightseeing in Prague’s delightful old town, taking in the Charles Bridge – sadly partly scarred by building work at the moment – the town square with its crowd-pleasing, if slightly underwhelming, astronomical clock and Wenceslas Square, scene of much looking out and all major rallies which have dotted the recent history of this city.
It is a gorgeous place crying out to be explore, which saw the entire group dispersing across the city and clocking up the miles on foot.
Not sure which made a couple of the groups’ eyes go wider (names must be left out to protect the innocent), the sights at the Sex Museum or The Medieval Torture Museum. Not sure they were able to tell some of the exhibits apart.
Last night was pretty quiet, a couple of beers in town and a meal as thoughts began to leave Prague and turn to our next scheduled destination.
Sadly, the trip to Krakow took a bit longer than planned so the planned outing to Auschwitz, which has been at the back of my mind all week, had to be postponed by a day.
The prospect of visiting such a place produced a sudden change in mood and tempo – at least until the temptations of free welcome shots and a few beers in the hostel bar last night – and a mixture of anticipation and unease…