Tuesday, June 7, 2011
The most memorable moment of Prague was not getting nauseous from two shots of plum brandy and a tall glass of dark beer on an empty stomach hours within arrival, nor was it the lovely view of the rooftop houses against the azure sky that temporarily numbed my back pain from excessive walking. No, the most memorable and bizarre moment was sitting in a stranger’s house in the suburbs of Prague after hours of bar hopping, talking ever so casually about relationships and looking up infatuation in the Oxford dictionary. We left promptly, feigning sickness--too wierd (Oh Prague, how you blind me with your beauty).
I’ve heard so much about how pretty Prague is, that my expectations were sky high. It's definitely gorgeous in its own ways: the rippling waves on the Vltava, the really good jazz music on the Charles Bridge and at this rad jazz club, the romantic sunsets and delicious dark Kozel beer.
Yet somehow my breath wasn’t taken away. When we climbed down from the top of the hill, back onto street level, we couldn't escape the ubiquitous graffiti (though there was some good artists out there), there wasn't a lot of greenery in the new town and the winding streets threw me off. I swear, it took Milos and I four days to find the same bus stop just to take us home every night. I knew my bearings in Paris, but I had such a hard time deciphering Czech that I blatantly gave up on our second day.
To be honest, the food didn’t win me over either. I didn't like the heavy meat dishes, potato and bread dumplings, or the sauerkraut (the sheer thought of cabbage gives me the chills since my one horrid experience where I laid in bed doubled over from pain for days. Sour cabbage, if you're listening: I hate you). The food for the most part was mediocre. We were probably so spoiled with French delicacies (chocolate, baguettes and butter, and more chocolate) that Czech food just didn't satisfy.
Though I will give the Prague credit for a few things. The best dish for instance was when I was recovering from my wretched dinner of alcohol and pretzel sticks. Milos’s cousin Alexander took us to a pub (whose name doesn’t stay with me) three stories high, crammed with people, a thick cloud of cigarette smoke hovered in the air. When we were seated, Alexander rattled a few menu items to the waiter and within minutes, dishes magically appeared before our eyes: pork sausage links and mashed potatoes topped with fried onion, thick fries with cheese, and tortillas with spicy salsa. Oh mi oh my, the mashed potatoes were a hit. My eyes widened with each bite, the crispy onions was such a surprise contrast to the silky starch I just couldn’t put my fork down.
There was also Trdelnik. A yeasted roll of dough dusted in cinnamon sugar and baked on hot cylinders. We found another shop that sold these but cracked it up a notch by slathering the insides with nutella or caramel. I hear that these treats were a traditional Christmas food, until it became so popular people decided to sell it all the time—which I concur.
Prague also offered plenty of interesting occurrences. One warm day we were strolling along the Vltava, on the new side of Prague when the sun was setting. It was that part of the day when the sunlight isn’t too strong and illuminates everything in its path with a golden glow.
Once bypassing the Duck Lady (she was suddenly began screaming in an unidentified language at the ducks minding their own business on the river), we stumbled upon a charming cobblestone restaurant patio. We sat on a bench and admired the view of the trees, the flowing water, the sunset.
The view was beautiful, but not more long. A group of shirtless (and unattractive) men clearly drunk out of their minds were acting like imbeciles and yelling nonsense. Seated next to us on the bench was a bear, posing for picture (yes, you read that right). This sad looking man with a mullet was crouching and snapping endless photos of his fluffy toy. No more than five minutes passed when one particularly rotund and intoxicated fellow with obscure tattoos emblazoned on his chest grabbed the bear (who we dubbed Misery Bear) and found it a new home...on its lap. He bellowed in British accent, “Oy! Why you taking photos? Is this your bear? Can you take a photo of me and your bear?”
Poor Mullet Man. He mumbled something and tried to claim his furry friend. We left and walked through the curvy streets in search of icy drinks.
We returned the following day for dinner praying that the raucous morons had found somewhere else to party (preferably a black hole). Alas! They had! As we waited for our meal to arrive, the sky changed from gold to orange to purple to a deep emerald. The food was forgettable, but the two men at the table next to us appeared to be picking up two Russian ladies were trying to make the night unforgettable.
There was another time we were walking away from the clock tower, through the hoards of tourists when a tall breaded man walking towards us shouted towards Milos, “Want some mariWANA?” Wow. I didn't know my friend fit the stereotype for pothead.
But the most frustrating and head scratching part of our stay has got to be on our last day when we were scheduled to leave to Budapest by train. Desperate to make sense of the Czech language and signs, we searched for the correct platform to leave from. We failed. We asked the information desk (the man not once made eye contact with me, instead, kept his stone cold eyes on his computer screen) and were informed we had to make a transfer at Breclav to catch our second train to Hungary. Transfer time: 3 minutes. The woman next to him nonchalantly said, “No worry. You miss, next train in 2 hours. You ok? You wait. Yah?”
Forgetaboutit! We played it safe and waited for the next direct train a few hours later. We plopped onto the grassy park nearby and sunbathed, reading up on Budapest, excited for things to come.
Prague was memorable in terms of the people we met, saw, and eavesdropped. But Paris definitely swooned me and my tastebuds. Recipe here!