Sunday, August 20, 2006

Heading East Part.2


Why is it that hostels all have the most nonsensical check in/out times? I arrived in Copenhagen today at 8.30AM, went to my hostel only to be told I can't check in until 2PM which irritated me greatly. The place is in a great location though, right in the centre of town, so I can't complain I suppose. Last night was an interesting night, I got to Berlin hoping to be able to easily booking myself a couchette on the Euronight Express from Berlin to Malmö (in Sweden, but only 20minutes from Copenhagen) but wound up having to pay €30 for a proper bed as the couchettes were sold out. It hurt my bank account, but it was nice to have my own room with a nice bed and even a shower in the hall. When the conductor came around asking for my ticket he also asked me to sign a boarding card for a boat telling me that about 3AM we will be setting sail. Just what I needed; having to wake up mid-slumber to climb onto a boat. Much to my surprise, the train actually pulls onto a boat, sails for a few hours and pops back off in Sweden without us having to ever leave our cabins. I didn't even know that was possible! I sincerely hope they made the peasants in the second class couchettes wake up and pull the train on board manually.

Anyway, Prague...

On arriving into Praha my first destination was Dejvicka (pronounced *David's Car*, later to be known simply as The Car) to meet Colin at a pub. Now I was incredibly happy to see Colin again because the last time we parted ways we didn't get much of a chance to say goodbye properly as we had been out that night and a series of events led to me standing on the street alone at about 5AM whilst my him and my other housemates were already on the night bus. I didn't get home until ages later, everybody was tired, went to bed etc etc.... This time we could have a proper send off and we went about it in style. The first night was pure Prague party carnage. Again, accounts are not necessary; anyone who knows me and Colin will pretty much get the idea. Sadly, this left the next day as a bit of a write off, however, sticking to my rules I refused to waste a day and about 9PM I headed out alone to see the City by night leaving Colin and Neva to watch a film on my portable DVD player at home. I decided not to get too adventurous and just headed up Prague castle which I had heard had its ground open until 11PM each night.

Let me say beforehand, if you ever visit Prague and do not visit the castle by night, you may as well have not bothered going. Of all the things I did in my 5 days here, this is the one thing that will stay with me forever. Climbing the old castle steps I completely neglected to actually look behind me until towards the top, an Australian couple about to stroll back down commented on the beautiful view. I turned around and uttered a brief poem which I felt summarised succinctly my emotions at this exact moment in time and space. I like to call it, "Holy Sh*t". Fortunately the couple found this as amusing as I, and I continued to climb until I reached the gates. At around 10PM the castle and grounds were near enough empty which made for an almost ghoulish atmosphere as wandered through the small 'village' that is the inner castle grounds. At the centre of the grounds lies the single most impressive religious structure I may have ever seen. As I turned the corner to view the front of the St. Vitus Cathedral my earlier poem ran through my head but didn't seem to do it justice (plus I doubt Jesus would have appreciated it much as a poem). Standing by the base of the entrance I felt dwarfed in a way no building has made me feel before. I mean I grew up in Hong Kong, so I am no stranger to buildings far bigger than this, but St. Vitus has a presence that makes you feel completely powerless and humbled. Maybe it is a religious thing.

I must have been there for the best part of an hour before some armed guards started to usher me away to close the grounds. I went back and tried to put the place into words but felt it best if we just went again tomorrow by day. We went back and it didn't seem to have the same aura. Maybe it was the hordes of like minded tourists or the lack of dramatic lighting but it simply wasn't the same. We spent the rest of the day doing the usual tourist route over the Charles Bridge into the old town to watch the Astronomical clock chime the hour, I bought a copy of The Trial at the Franz Kafka bookshop and we had a few beers in some nice bars and restaurants.

The rest of my stay passed in much the same way, chatting away the days in the sun with Colin and Niva, enjoying the finest Czech Pilsner, accidentally finding ourselves in the nudist section of the local swimming lake and that sort of thing. I have to say, Prague is one of the greatest places I have been in the world, and one I would jump at the chance to back to any time soon but after 5 days I had already blown my chances of seeing Berlin and didn't want to do the same with Scandinavia so off I went...

...and now, here I am. Copenhagen is calling me and I only have 3 minutes and 12 seconds left on this account, hopefully the sun has tried to shine whilst I have been in here otherwise it could be a damp day, but either way I am sure it will be fun.

1 comment:

minxlj said...

My latest trip was to Prague, and I have to agree it's an incredible place (I have some selected photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/minxlj/sets/72157594363338957/)

St Vitus is astonishing, as are most architectural views in Prague! It's definitely on my Top 5 list (with Berlin, Copenhagen, San Francisco and Cape Town!)