Prague Trip Report: Day 2 – Plenty of walking, facing the fear of heights and a portaloo from hell.
by Dr Anthony D. Cliffe
By time the alarm went off at 8 a.m. I think I managed between an hour and two hours’ sleep. It’s always the way, the first night in a new bed and location I never sleep well at all. There is probably some psychological reason for that, probably some sort of survival instinct which doesn’t allow you to drift off into a deep sleep in a new environment. I’ve always been like that and that puzzles me. For someone who sleeps through fire alarms and has no problem falling asleep on trains, in office chairs or public places, you would think I’d have no issues in new beds. I just guess that’s one of my many quirks! The bed was comfy enough, although I do prefer a slightly softer mattress to the one I had and I could have done with a second pillow. I sleep with only one at home but it’s so big it’s the size of two regular ones together. That and a combination of sharing a room with two people i wouldn’t usually share with was enough to keep me staring at the ceiling for most of the night. At around 2 in the morning my bladder decided it was time to have a wee. I spent half an hour weighing up if I could hold on until the morning as I didn’t fancy navigating the apartment in pitch black. In the end I gave up and knew I had to go on a night time mission to have the quietest wee in the world as to not wake my fellow bunkers. I faced a dilemma. I have a photographic memory so that means most of the time I can pretty much remember to the inch where obstacles are, however I hadn’t had time before we went to bed to commit the route to memory. The apartment was pitch black with very little ambient light to see. I didn’t want to use the torch on my phone as putting that on it might as well be daylight and I’m sure neither of them wanted to wake up to a midnight sun! In the end I decided the best course of action was to put my phone on the dimmest setting and use the tiny bit of ambient light to walk to the bathroom. The easiest option would have been to walk through the girl’s bedroom as no doors existed in this apartment, except thankfully the bathroom! As I reckoned ten steps from my bed, through their bedroom, a left turn, another four steps and I knew the bathroom would be there. However I thought it would be a bit weird if I did that and if they happened to wake up while I was walking passed their beds in just my boxers the conversation might be a bit weird ha-ha. Instead I decided to walk the long way around the kitchen. I’m blind enough as it is in daylight and at night it’s more of luck to not bump into anything rather than skill. I walked as slow and as carefully as I could as to not disturb them both. Tiny steps and strained eyes got me to the bathroom, for which my bladder was grateful for. Expert precision weeing in the dark was complete and content with myself as not hearing that I had woke anyone up I saunter back towards my bed. BANG! A sharp pain rockets up my toe and was met by a similar pain in my nose as my glasses and face clattered into something solid. “FUCK SAKE!” I mutter far too loudly. One out of pain and two all my hard work of being stealthy to go the loo had been shattered in a moment. Who the fuck puts a fucking cupboard just outside of the bathroom!? I nurse my wounds as I trundle back to my bed. I could hear no snoring and no one laughed so I assumed I may have got away with it. I plugged my phone back in and tried in vain to sleep, but my toe was throbbing!
By time it got to 5 a.m. I could see the deep black of night turn to a purple colour through the skylight above my head, I gave up trying to sleep. My body is pretty used to the whole first night thing so I didn’t actually feel too tired. When the alarm did go off I wasn’t the only one who barely slept that night. I think we may have got about three hours sleep between us all! Turns out both of them were awake and to their amusement watched me face plant into a cupboard at night and both of them very kindly held back their laughter when it did happen. Instead they saved that laughter for the morning for me, making me very red faced indeed! But i’m well used to these two taking the piss out of me anyway!
For the last hour before the alarm I decided to listen to some music. For a few months now I’ve been enjoying the musical delights of my Bose QC35’s. Sadly I had no room for them in my bag so had to make do with the crappy headphones that came with my Samsung phone. I didn’t realise that even on a moderate volume they leak more noise than a boombox. Something neither Katie nor Laura appreciated much, especially when they were trying to at least attempt to sleep! That was noted and I never used them again for the rest of the trip. That was totally okay as that’s what you do when you’re sharing close quarters with people. You’re still getting used to peoples routines and you need to adapt and compromise so that everyone is happy. Despite listening to a lot of music every day it’s certainly not life or death so I was happy to shelve my crap headphones anyway! Besides in Katie’s dream she dreamt that she was shouting at me because an Asian man was behind me in the apartment and apparently I was very blasé about it all. Subconsciously I think she was angry with me haha! She did apologise in the dream and in person so I guess we were even!
Any lingering tiredness I did have was washed away by the shower. I’m not sure who designed the height of the shower but I had to bend my knees so that I could wash my hair which was interesting! Today was always going to be a late start as we had to wait for Aldo the guy who ran the apartments to come between 9 and 10 a.m. to do some registration paperwork and so that I could pay him. After my shower, the girls got ready and we had some burnt but tasty waffles for breakfast. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a toaster smoke as much as that one without catching fire! A stubborn bit of food was stuck to the element which made a nice smoke effect in the apartment! It did add a cool dry ice 80’s rock music video vibe. Thankfully we had three big open skylight windows to deal with the smoke.
Sometime after 9 Aldo knocked. Thankfully the smoke had gone and only the slight odour of burnt sweet waffles hung in the air. When I opened the door I was greeted by Cisco Ramone’s doppelganger from the Flash. I mean scarily alike! I guess if Star Labs ever falls through that it’s good to know his dopple is running apartments! Nice enough chap who took the payment and paperwork and explained some places to visit on his map. I committed the map to memory which is just as well because I forgot the map and it stayed on my bedside table for the rest of the trip by accident! There was a safe in the room and whoever used it last didn’t reset it so we couldn’t access it, it needed a key to be reset. It took him five minutes to root through his bag and his millions of keys. In the end, typical, that the only key he didn’t have was the one for the safe. He apologised and said he’d come back later with it. No big deal but it just meant we had to carry all our money and passports with us for the day ahead.
The day ahead we decided would be that we’d just go walking today and have no real plan. I’m glad we settled on that as that’s the first day thing I always do in a new city. Walking in new cities is the only way to see everything, get lost and discover new things. Before that though we needed water and food for the day. Oddly enough in Prague there was a lot of British brand shops. There were a few Costa Coffee’s, an M&S and more Tesco’s than probably in the entirety of Merseyside. They were everywhere! We got plenty of water for the day from this supermarket called BILLA, as I’m glad I’m not the only one who drinks a lot of water! Unlike some weird human Cacti, yes Laura I’m looking at you! Our water consumption habits actually became quite a talking point on this holiday. The things you learn about each other hey! I was still hungry and decided to take a punt on this pretzel type bun which I thought had poppy seeds on it. After our shop and our way back to the apartment to drop the water off did the full realisation of how much we were ripped off last night dawned on us. Water, breakfast and crisps came to about £3 compared to one bottle and crisps at about £8 last night! So top travel tip always shop in proper supermarkets abroad and not rip off merchants aka Twenty4Seven! Bastards!
In Europe a simple task of buying water is a bit of a minefield. Certainly something we would learn to our detriment the next day. I knew that in Europe they have three water systems. Blue bottle tops are still water, Green is a mildly sparkling one and Red is drop a Mentos into a coke bottle kind of fizz. I made that mistake in Amsterdam last summer buying a red top and I nearly died from the explosion of water from opening it!
Back in the apartment we ate our breakfast that we picked up. Sure enough my “it kind of’ looks like a Pretzel” certainly tasted like a pretzel however…they were definitely not poppy seeds. I have no fucking idea what they were or what I ate but they were not poppy seeds! They looked like tiny black croissants and had a weird sweet taste to them. I’m still undecided whether I liked it or not, it had the weird can’t put your finger on it kind of taste which kept making you want to eat more so you could decide! I never did reach a conclusion. One water I did pick up was some mint water. For those who know me, know that I am addicted to anything mint. Yet, this was horrifically bad! Imagine pouring toothpaste into water and then drinking it. To my horror that disgusting water didn’t even top tomorrows one!
Eventually we headed out for our first full day and had our first Selfie of the day. For the first proper time we could get a real feel for the city in daylight. It is such a beautiful city. I always thought Amsterdam was the prettiest city I’d ever visited but Prague makes it look incredibly plain in comparison. The mix of architecture, different vibrant colours and cobbled streets are just stunning! Our first stop was Prague’s most famous landmark, the Astronomical clock. It was a real shame it was shrouded in scaffolding, what a time to do work at the peak of tourist season! At 11 a.m. we all gathered around for the show of the clock. Well wow. Wow as in pretty disappointing. I expected so much more. Turns out it’s voted one of the most disappointing attractions in the world so good to know I wasn’t the only one but I am certainly glad to say I got to see it!
We walked for miles and miles in the city, taking pictures, getting lost, chatting and having a laugh. It felt so good to be in a beautiful city, with the sun on your back with two of the best people. It felt so good and that feeling never left me until I said goodbye to them both at Liverpool airport!
I wanted to see Charles bridge which is one of those bridges that Prague is famous for. I obviously mentioned it a few times as I was accused of being obsessed with bridges. So anytime we spotted a bridge I would make reference to it and take a picture of it. Who doesn’t love a bit of structural engineering and a bit of Bridge Porn? Charles Bridge was massive and busy but had some great views and even better buskers! The bridge spanned over the river into the other part of Prague. We stepped off the bridge and wandered around until we found a nice park and a view to have some of our lunch which consisted of better Paprika crisps and some Bruschetta bites.
The heat of the day was certainly building by time we finished our lunch and after walking past possibly one of the oddest statues, we stopped to discuss what to do next. I read somewhere about a really good view point towards the castle which was a mile and a bit behind us on this side of the river. We headed that way until the tower of Petrin loomed up in the distance perched high on a mountain. Okay, technically it was a hill…but a really big fuck off steep hill. It’s still a mountain to me! I had seen pictures from the top of the tower and it gave amazing views of the city. We decided to head that way instead of the castle and it was a good decision to do so. There was a long queue for the tram that took people up the 1000 foot climb to the top of the hill. A) No way were we going to pay that and B) We’re all fit and young individuals who are on holiday to walk and explore. So we were all in agreement to walk to the top. We set out with all the bravado and gusto as the pavement turned into dirt tracks and the dirt tracks turned into nothing but dried mud and stupidly steep gradients. The inner geographer was loving the hike through the forest and the views behind of the city as we got higher and higher were amazing but my chest, with a 10kg bag pack full of water and camera gear felt like it was going to implode. Eventually we made it to the top and walked into a spectacular garden and much needed benches for a rest. I knew I’d walk a lot this holiday, I just didn’t expect to climb a mini mount Everest. That garden and bench was so peaceful that I feel we all could have stayed there all day as the sun beat down on us. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the sun, the warm wind and the distant chatter of people as they walked through the gardens.
After a while we decided to move on as it really was a possibility that if we didn’t move, we may still be sitting in that spot now! By this point I really needed a wee (drink a lot of water and it’s got to eventually go somewhere!) and by time we got to the tower my bladder was in emergency mode. Like a shining mirage a set of portaloos appeared by a busker who was singing Imagine by John Lennon…very very badly. Sadly I couldn’t imagine the horror I was about to witness. In I went in a rush and then the scene in front of me unfolded. You know in those movies were the character realises something and then the whole background zooms in as the camera shows their face contorts into horror? That’s what happened. I honestly don’t think I have ever been in a toilet as filthy as that. I actually felt like I was contracting a million diseases just standing there. There was shit everywhere. In my head I had Gordon Ramsey going “Look at the fucking mess in here! Wow.” There was even mould growing on the door so fuck knows the last time this toilet was cleaned? 1000 BC maybe? NASA wants to look for signs of life on the hostile environment of Mars. Fuck that guys. Alien life forms are living in that toilet! Right under your noses. Just make sure you manage to cover the nose up first!
After exiting and feeling like multiple showers in Dettol wouldn’t be enough to clean myself and purge the horror from my memory, I had to make do with dowsing my hands in Anti-Bac hand gel which I never go anywhere without. Katie exited the other one and judging by her face and the hands reaching for my gel, it was good to show we both had a shared PTSD whenever we now see a portaloo!
From one horror of shit to the next feeling of not wanting to shit myself due to the horror of heights. I don’t do heights. I mean I can stand on glass floors and fly planes upside down without a bother. Yet I can’t step on the second step of a step ladder without having legs the consistency of Jelly. So, naturally the idea of walking up a spiral staircase on the outside of a mini Eiffel tower on top of a 1000 foot hill was a great idea. In fact going up I was amazed at how unphased I was by it all. On one of the highest bits I even had the courage to stand on a ledge and look down. With nothing but my knees below the safety barrier. Much to poor Katie’s heart rate haha. Who is this Tony and where did he come from!?
The views were stunning and I recommend visiting the Petrin Tower. We all made it to the very top and oh boy was that high! That’s when suddenly any bravado or courage I had dissipated rapidly. I didn’t notice it at first until Laura mentioned that the entire building was swaying in the wind. Fuck that right off and get me down ASAP! That was not a pleasant feeling at all. I may have got up that building fine but going down the outside, looking down with the wind at your back trying to push you, urgh, all aboard the nope train. My legs felt like lead and jelly at the same time and took a whole 30 minutes to recover once we eventually got to the bottom! Fortune favours the brave…just. However I am glad for the experience. Amazing views and certainly a story to tell.
After that dice with heights we headed back to the apartment which was a 3 mile walk from where we were, stopping off in a supermarket to get more water and some snacks for the evening. Turns out in Prague beer is in fact cheaper than water. A bottle of Budweiser worked out as 26p! 26!!!
After a refresh, a change of clothes and a nap (I didn’t even hear Katie get into the shower!) and some chilling we headed out for our evening in Prague. Whenever I go to any new city, I always buy a hard rock café T-shirt from that city if they have one. It’s something I’ve done since I was a kid and I never really know why I started that collection but it continues to grow! Prague had a Hard Rock so I wanted to go visit the shop to buy one. I guess somewhere the translation was lost as I always visit a Hard Rock for the shirt but I don’t always eat there. They thought I did both, which was fine because Hard Rock café food is the best food going! Laura had never visited a Hard Rock café and Katie only once many years ago. So we booked a table, I got my shirt and we enjoyed a fabulous meal and drinks for prices way way cheaper than any Hard Rock I’ve ever been in. Full meal and drinks for £13 whereas Katie for a full meal, big cocktail including a kick ass glass to take home, only came to around £18! It’s unbelievably cheap here! Once again Hard Rock never disappoints!
After an hour or so there we headed out for a night-time walk around the city. Prague by night as just as beautiful as Prague by day. In fact it often felt busier at night! The bridge was still alive with people at 10pm, the buskers were still playing and the soft glow of the street lamps just made the whole experience a real amazing one. God I love this city!
After sampling the delights of Prague at night we headed back to the apartment for more snacks, cards and more laughs. A truly brilliant first full days adventure. Eventually the lack of sleep over the 48 hours, the travelling and walking over 13 miles that day caught up with me and I was ready for bed. I looked forward to a good night’s sleep.
I did sleep…until a Chinese Laura appeared in the dead of night in the apartment…