After sleeping a few hours at Zurich station and dreaming of the brilliant experience I was about to have on my way to Prague, I awoke to the shouts of two backpackers being frog marched down the concourse by three Swiss officers, who seemed to be carrying a bag of drugs. I gathered my belongings and headed off to find my luxury high speed train to Prague, however I was gifted with a Russian mule. Many people would shudder at the thought, but I was ecstatic to being riding in this old stallion. I felt I was really leaving the creature comforts of the west behind. I boarded my train and met my travel companion for the night, Erika. Erika was a very petite Japanese photographer who travelled the world taking photographs for postcards; I personally thought she was a spy. We chatted for a while as we watched the station slide behind us and later learned we were the only tourists on-board bound for the East.
It’s a night that I will never forget! We yanked down the window so that the whole cabin was literally thrown open to the outside world. Then we shared chocolate and sherbet lemons. We watched as the Swiss Alps slowly glided by capped by the light of the full moon. The fragrant scent of freshly cut grass from the many farms and the cool mountain air rushed past me. It’s a feeling I can even remember now when I close my eyes. Every stop we made, Erika and I would throw our heads out the window to talk to the conductors or maintenance men working their nights away.
Before our journey started out, our conductor advised us that both locks on our cabin door should be locked at all times and that if we needed to use the bathroom, to leave any valuables with him. He was a very trustworthy man… I hoped. I fell into the most serene sleep and awoke to the conductor knocking on our door to give us breakfast. The scenery had changed dramatically outside from the Swiss Alps to the dry barren woodlands of Eastern Europe. I parted ways with Erika at a small town in the Czech Republic and watched as she walked off into the unknown. I then continued on the rest of my four hour journey in the thoughts of independence and knowing that I could disappear right then and there, with no one knowing anything about it.
On the spur of the moment decision of coming to Prague I had no time to find out any information about this magical city. No guidebook, no idea of the language or currency. I was literally going in blind. All I knew was from the small bits I had seen over the years in brochures etc. I arrived into Prague at lunch time and caught the underground towards my hostel, feeling very worried about being mugged. A false perception I had gained about Eastern Europe. I checked into Miss Sophie’s and was blown away. This was more like a boutique hotel then a hostel and was cheaper than anywhere I stayed before. The beds were great and the shower heads were literally the size of dinner plates. The underground sitting area was funky and a great chill out location.
I spent my first afternoon in Prague at the National Museum taking in the history of Praha, as it is spelt in the local language. The Museum has a few good exhibitions however was mainly directed at geology. The staff were friendly and the location is great, it looked straight onto Wenceslas Square with fantastic views. Wenceslas Square is the heart of shopping in Prague and as I found out later in my journey, it is also the political heart for the freedom of the people. Prague so far was blowing my mind in every conceivable manner and I had great expectations for what tomorrow would bring! But if only I had not eaten that dodgy sausage…