Nom de Plumage

February 17, 2013

The Paris of The North – Prague

Locomotive Class 363, Orient Express, Praha-Sm...

Locomotive Class 363, Orient Express, Praha-Smíchov train station, Czech Republic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fast train approaching Prague's main station

Fast train approaching Prague’s main station (Photo credit: czechian)

A last act of kindness or regret for my leaving, my roommate offers to drive me to the train station. Ok, she has for the past five days taken my patience to a new limit and made me question her sanity, as well as mine. But ultimately and most importantly, I do like her and feel very sorry for her and her predicament. Whether her situation is entirely of her own making or of circumstances that got beyond her control, her passion and commitment for justice has cost her her home and her freedom. A high price to pay in anyones book. I know that she craves human companionship and a friend to listen to her and that is a small asking on her behalf. So, my patience is tested, but I have a home to go to and a family waiting there.

There are times when I have either gotten too complacent or not studied my journey enough and small mistakes ultimately occur; like today. After I am dropped off at Westbahnhoff train station, I went in search of the platform from where my train shall depart. I look and look and finally came to the quick realisation, that I was at the wrong station. To make matters worse, being a Sunday, there was no-one to help me. Slowly, my stress levels rise and I need to think quick. I run some distance, slow and hard because that is about as quick as I can run carrying a heavy back-pack, to the platform where an u-bahn is about to depart. There is no direct route to Mielding Station. The time is 9:10 am and my train for Prague leaves at 9:30 and I am not 100% sure of my direction. After a few stops, the u-bahn pulls in to a station and I see on the other side a sign that says Mielding. I jump off, run up the escalator and down to the correct platform and jump on to an u-bahn. Problem; it was going the wrong way. Now I start to panic and my story ends predictably, with my missing the train by mere minutes to Prague.

Thankfully, I had no booking and lost no money, but I had to wait three hours for the next train. Ordinarily, this would not be a problem, but sitting in a station with a cold draught constantly coming in from the wintery conditions outside, made three hours pass very slow. All I could really do was sit (rigorously minding my luggage) and read my book.

Eventually, my train departs Vienna at 12:30 pm, bound for the unknown city of Prague. Modern, quiet and empty, my six-hour journey was both pleasant and filled with trepidation. I could not open my book to continue reading, for the scenery that lay before me, was changing and becoming unfamiliar. The further the train travelled, the denser the forests became and the snow thicker, the more nervous I became. Prague is a city that is still unknown, compared to other more popular cities of Europe. With the demise of communism, the doors of tourism have opened and what started out as a small trickle, has now become the must see destination. The ‘Paris’ of the north, a city untouched by the masses, non-conformed by modernism and perfectly preserved, it is these qualities that set me on the train bound for a new discovery. In saying all this, I cannot help but feel some kind of fear for a country still new to the modern world and one that is known so little about.

The train arrives at 6:00pm into a massive station. My first task is to change currencies. The Euro is non-applicable here and the Kroner is very strange to me. With the relevant currency in my purse, I needed to get the metro to my hostel and this is  my first major challenge. I asked for no help and am determined that I should first try before I should seek assistance. It was a challenge, but I observed the ‘locals’ and kept my wits about me and to my surprise, I brought the correct ticket (using a machine) to the station I needed and found the metro/platform that I needed. A few stops later, I get off and find the exit. The directions to the hostel are basic, but it is now dark, cold and the ice is slippery and treacherous and my boots are not safe for such conditions. I walk one direction slowly before  I realise that I am going the wrong way. I turn around and walk the other way. The weight of my back-pack and the slippery ice, make the journey slow. The underlying fear of slipping over and breaking something in a foreign country, is a tourist no-no. My hostel is before me and I am greeted by a friendly host and shown to a huge, clean and comfortable room.

Although the room is satisfactory, it is cold with the absence of heating. I thought that a hot shower would warm me up before I jump under the covers, but alas, I  am thwarted by luke-warm water, which made for a very quick shower. Colder than before, I did the only sensible thing and that was to borrow a quilt/blanket from another unused bed, to warm up. Blessedly, the heater kicked-in at midnight, but by that time, I was dreaming like a fiend.

English: Information board about departures at...

English: Information board about departures at Prague´s Central Train Station (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1 Comment »

  1. […] The Paris of The North – Prague ( […]

    Pingback by Web Camera Praha Hlavni Nadrazi (Main Train Station) – Kouty – Hlavní Mesto Praha – Libeň | Live view of the world now — February 25, 2013 @ 12:10 am | Reply

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