MEGA QUICK RECAP: On Day 1, Alfie, Dave and I were forced to sleep rough. On Day 2 we irritated some Australians.
It was our last full day in Prague, and so far our breezy trio had seen not one jot of the city – save for the various doorways and alleyways that we shivered in trying to snap up a wink of sleep in the midst of the bellows of Storm Herfna or Heroshi or whatever it was called. Crap storm anyway. I’ve had more ferocious bouts of wind. Goodness, aren’t I rather forthcoming and jubilant today? That’s what happens when I have my first coffee in a week. Better than crack. Not that I’ve ever smoked crack. As far as I know.
We got up and skipped showering because sleep is so delicious and why the hell would anybody ever choose to cut it short for the sake of mere personal hygiene. Met Hannah and Eva and Charis at reception after breakfast and we all flounced merrily away on a little bus that took us into the city centre for the walking tour. Turns out Prague is very pretty in the daylight. Only took three days for us to actually see the sun up.
Our 3 hour walking tour was led by a little merry Czech woman who I admittedly loathed initially due to her incorrigible pep, the same sort of bottled pep you find in tour guides and hostel workers and bungee jump instructors the world over; fake pep, ‘on’ pep, performance pep, and I was still hungover and sleepy and surly. To be fair to her, she completely won me over as the tour progressed, warning us about tourist traps and telling us folk tales. She was actually pretty rad (yeah, that’s right, rad. I’m bringing rad back). Her name was Luzia.
At the end of the tour, during which we took in such sights as the Astronomical Clock, ancient churches and townhouses, cathedrals, statues, and a monument to my boy Kafka (who I still haven’t forgiven for ruining my Euro-trip back in March when I naively brought along his anthology for some light holiday reading). We visited the Old Jewish Cemetery, and marvelled to learn that the Jewish Memorial in Berlin is modelled on the higgledy-piggledy collected graves of the long-deceased Czech Jews, who were not allowed to bury their dead anywhere else in the city, and so were forced to stack them up. Some graves go nine coffins deep. It made me so sad. People are cunts, man.
We learned about the three famous defenestrations of Prague. At first when Luzia said this word, we collectively assumed she was trying and failing to pronounce ‘demonstration’. However, it turns out that ‘defenestration’ is a wonderfully specific term for murdering someone by hurling them out of a window. I guess the term comes from ‘fenster’, which is ‘window’ in German. To be de-windowed. The people of Prague have a long and proud history of solving disagreements by one disgruntled party slinging the other out of a window. I dig it. Very swashbuckling.
ASIDE: I was trying to wrack my brain to deter whether I myself had been defenestrated, but alas, no, at least as far as I can remember. However, my brother has. When my two younger brothers were aged around 7 (Jack) and 9 (Charlie), in a heated row Charlie smote Jack across the cheek. Jack retaliated by shoving Charlie and, though it is to this day the subject of debate as to whether it was intentional, Charlie was defenestrated. He stumbled backwards, smashed through the living room window and landed outside in the garden, in one of those confused moments that is extremely quiet, and then explodes into chaos and screaming and parental smackings all round.
There was thankfully no blood but a lot of tears, and with the safety of hindsight today we can all sit around and laugh about the time Charlie was forcibly lobbed through a window in the culmination of an argument over the Playstation.
ASIDE ASIDE: Actually, my father has also been defenestrated, at least partially. He was trying to slay a fly by crushing it with a tissue held in his palm, however the crafty fly landed on his bedroom window (our house was old and freezing and had very thin glass). With my mother watching, my father gallantly lashed out at the fly, successfully murdering it, but also successfully smashing his entire forearm through the window. This time around there was quite a lot of blood and a healthy amount of nausea induced in all who bore witness.
Much to my mother’s delight, he also once wound the car window up on his own head while attempting to park, which I suppose is a combination of self-defenestration and self-decapitation.
Luzia wound up the tour with a lovely speech by the river outside the opera house under a gorgeous blue sky peppered with idle clouds. She had spent the tour bashing communism and capitalism in turn – it seems the Czech people have languished under both – leading me to wonder what the hell her beliefs were. However, she brought it home by suggesting the socialism was the answer, which of course made me fall irrevocably in love with her.
After, the six of us made friends with an extremely jolly American called Mike who had been on our tour. Mike was brilliant, and earnestly said things like ‘hashtag FOMO’, which is under normal circumstances the fastest way to make me hate you, but Mike pulled it off with such pizzazz that I couldn’t help but love him.
We found a little restaurant near the river and the seven of us ate goulash and drank brilliant Czech beer together, and learned that Mike was in the city to give a lecture called ‘Unlocking the Creative Power of Drones’. Then we got into an hour long conversation about the merits and ethics of Pornhub, as well as our own porn tastes, much to the chagrin of the rest of the diners.
The girls left us to go on a castle tour, while we remaining dudes drank a little more and moseyed across the river, drifting up to the castle. We bid farewell to Mike at this point, who we swapped details with. Alfie, Dave and I trudged up to the castle and took in the views – breathtakingly wonderful, now that it was daylight and we were not drunk and miserable and freezing at 5am. Dave and I are fucking useless with money, so Alfie paid us into the castle. We wound our way up a never-ending spiral staircase and emerged at the highest point in all of Prague, and were humbled into silence by the stunning vista. Pure sky, wide river, red tile roofs, steeples and bridges and little ant tourists and no sound at all save the lapping wind. Yum.
Back on ground level, our legs now ruined by 40,000 stone steps, we found a little cafe in the grounds of the castle where we could use the bathroom. While we sat there sipping plastic cups of mulled wine, Alfie spotted that the guy behind the till had long rolling papers. He casually enquired if the cafe owner knew where we could find weed. The cafe owner shrugged and handed us a couple of nugs for free, because apparently that’s a thing that happens in Prague castle. We thanked him and thanked him and tried to buy him a shot, but he politely declined with a smile and we made our exit.
We smoked on a hill above the whole city as the sun went down and talked about our lives. Alfie is considering buying a van and just fucking off. I’m thinking something similar. In this day and age, who isn’t? Only difference is, most people just dream of it – but I believe in Dave and Alfie. I know they’ll make it happen, and I look forward to future adventures with them. They’re the easiest pair to travel with. No plan, no stress, just aimless wandering and inexplicable good fortune. Or maybe it’s not good fortune – maybe it’s just not minding what happens, one way or another.
It got dark as we made our way back. Dave made a picture by placing a sheet of paper over an iron grate adorned with the emblem of the city and rubbing mud over it. We ducked into shops and idly browsed, we salivated at the food, and we called into a bar for a couple of lovely dark beers each. We found a pair of mechanical statues in a quiet square which cracked us up; they were stationary except for their robotic dicks that rotated, spraying one another. It was so silly and we got a lot of photos.
We floated to the Charles Bridge, but took a wrong turn and stumbled across a riverside filled with a cacophony of swans. The air was filled with the sound of gobbling. Somebody had thrown about a hundred loaves of bread into the water, and a thousand swans and countless other little birds were splashing around nibbling. Nobody was eating the crusts. We watched the beautiful birds for a long time, until another animal arrived and made the majestic flock seem boring: a fucking beaver. I’ve never seen a wild beaver; it was massive. The hefty beaver muscled in and gave the swans a good seeing to, ate its fill of bread, then took to the inky waters and swam away into the night, casually decking any bird in its path.
We crossed the Charles Bridge after. Alfie and Dave were lovely and mellow, and I had been too except for that my bladder had betrayed me once more, as it has done my entire life. I get no warning. I go from 0 – ‘GET OUT OF MY WAY IM GOING TO EXPLODE’ in about 30 seconds. It baffles my friends but it’s just a fact of life; all the men in my family are the same. So naturally then, as I was squirming and hopping, Dave and Alfie decided it would be a nice idea to touch every statue on the bridge as we crossed. The utter, utter bastards.
The bridge is about fifteen metres wide. There are about 20 statues on each side. The bridge is at least a hundred metres long. As I was cross legged and muffling my screams, feeling panic rising in my chest, Dave and Alfie made their gentle, ponderous journey across, lazily stroking each statue, meandering to and fro, happy and soft, happy happy, softly softly, and all the while I was following behind trying not to FUCKING PISS EVERYWHERE. I could no longer hold it and sprinted away to the far side of the bridge, hoping to find somewhere – anywhere – I could go.
15 minutes later I found my friends, still on the bridge, happy happy, and told them I had done a very bad thing. I could find nowhere to relieve myself, and was forced to decant in a place that was definitely very not okay. I told my friends and they were mortified, and I bowed my head in shame. I will not tell you where I had to go. It is maybe up there with the most heinous things I’ve ever done while travelling. I am sorry. I am very, very sorry. I am just the worst person. Jesus.
Back at the hostel we met the girls in the midst of a hostel bar pub quiz. They were sitting with three guys they’d met in their dorm. I approached the table in as non-threatening a fashion as I could muster, because I know that guys see competition everywhere, and at a table of 3 guys/3 girls, a fourth guy is always going to piss off every male present. I hate this fact, but that’s blokes for you. To combat this I offered each of them my warmest greeting and shook their hands.
Aaaand then this English wanker apparently thought it droll to proclaim that my hands were very soft, mocking me, and referred to me only as ‘Soft Hands’ thereafter; an almost-insult-but-not-overt-enough-for-there-to-be-any-real-trouble-in-case-I’m-low-key-mental. It’s so predictable and lame; I always feel like David Attenborough watching this shit unfold; I feel like a yawning Terry Wogan watching Eurovision. Men are so dull. I rolled my eyes and drank my beer.
We all headed out later on to a bar called James Dean, where I got drunk and lurched into my usual lecture that occurs any time the actor’s name pops up – that I’m reasonably straight, sexually, but would almost definitely swing for James Dean. Come on. Who wouldn’t? Wonderful Mike joined us at 3am amid much hugging and cheering, and around the same time everybody had tired of the stale ‘LadBible’ banter of the English guys. Upon realising that popular opinion was turning against them, they fucked off without ceremony – which I observed in the corner of my eye with silent orgasmic satisfaction.
We drank until the bar closed, deep life stories were exchanged like currency, and we staggered back into the hostel with Mike in tow at around 6am. It was a wonderful, wonderful day; totally made up for all the homelessness and whatnot on the first night. I’ll give Prague its dues, it’s a stunning city with good people and a fantastic culture, but the weekend wouldn’t have been one eighth as enjoyable without my mates.
Dave, Alfie, Hannah, Eva, Charis and Mike – you guys are fucking brilliant.