Paris of the 90's
So, what first struck me when I entered the arrivals terminal at Václav Havel Airport, were the select few people sat awkwardly, smoking in a glass room. A room which was built into one of the long, clinical white walls, with heavy windowpanes. You know the kind, the kind that resemble something out of the Starship Enterprise.
I’d been dying for a cigarette for hours!! Especially now that I’d nursed my hangover from our Pre-Prague sesh, with junk food and more beer. Sat smoking indoors, in a very public area felt so alien to me, despite the fact that I’d come from an age where smoking in pubs and clubs was the done thing. What was even more alien to me was the fact that I felt bad for smoking indoors, I should have been like ‘Fuck yeah!! Smoking inside!!’ When actually all I wanted to do, was to go stand outside in the carpark, and peacefully smoke there without all the pleasantries of avoiding eye contact, or closely sharing seating with a complete stranger.
So, my travel buddy and I were staying at his parents house, over in the beautiful little suburban area of Prague, called Pruhonice, 1 of 10 Praguian districts. With only a handful of scattered houses, 1 bus route and homes a remarkable 250 acre nature reserve, Pruhonice for me is quintessentially what European countryside is all about.
Despite being practically, in what seemed the middle of nowhere, the next town over houses one of Prague’s largest shopping centres. With Chodov tube station below, and accessible by local bus routes – Chodov shopping centre is the epicenter of affordable shopping and delicious food!! Just to put this into perspective for you.. A slice of pizza is 12p, a 30 minute tube ticket’s 18p, and if you weren’t already wowed enough, a bus ride is 14p.. Which understandably leaves you with more money than you planned to need. So with all these Czech crowns weighing you down, what is there to get up to in Prague, or as it’s locally called: ‘Praha’? As I’ve said, a bus and a tube into anywhere within central Czech is beyond affordable, which makes sight seeing easy AF.
We emerged from the tube station like 2 cocky pigeons with our chests all puffed out. Jack knowing the city like the back of his hand, and me just being English. Dipping into the nearest Starbucks, because I obviously couldn’t get a Starbucks at home if I wanted one.. And then strolling down the Pařížská Street, with a Mango cooler in hand, Prague seemed so recognisable to me. It had such a knowing to it, like home. I almost felt like it was drawing me in.. It had such a familiar face. ‘Hello Prague!!’ I wanted to yell, but instead I just silently filmed our descent into this historic city.
Our first stop was to Lennon’s Wall, located not far North East of Charles Bridge. Charles Bridge – A bridge that Brunel would have been proud of. You can see this part of Prague featured in video for the INXS 1987 hit – Never Tear Us Apart, and what a tune that was right? As an avid Beatles fan, Lennon’s Wall is somewhere I have dreamed of visiting for quite some time. As we made our way though the cobbled streets, which I likened to the streets of Oxford, we were met by a slow group of middle aged sightseers, all chattering, and pointing in that classic sightseeing way. One of the male members of the group lost his footing, and stumbled over one of the unlevelled cobbles and began to fall. We captured the moment in our minds in slow motion, and then he was down. Rolling around and wincing out in pain. With his hands over his face, as if to hold the river of blood from pouring from a great, unprecedented gash. Another group of people came over to offer some clearly unwanted assistance. Peering through his fingers, this man was visibly embarrassed from his oh so graceful fall, and bloodlessly stood up and shook himself off. In this whole unhurried crescendo, this man’s bottle of Coca-Cola had rolled it’s way across the cobbles and landed at my feet, and like any good passer by I tried to help in anyway I could and picked up his scattered possession. With this embarrassed man stood in front of me, I held out his bottle to be faced with an ungrateful face. Chattering started again, in a language I didn’t understand.. As they passed looks between themselves, and then back at me.. ‘TAKE THE BOTTLE, YOU UNGRATEFUL PRICK’ I thought. But lesson learnt, next time someone falls and drops their shit, i’ll kindly step over them and leave their drink to roll right into the gutter.
Don’t let this little story dampen your shared experience of Lennon’s wall – that’s my job!!
Lennon’s wall was just, well.. Everything I wanted it to be. You’ve never seen such an inspired piece of art. The trees that run alongside the road here are chalked a rainbow of colour, to as high as the arm can reach. With end to end brightness in abundance, this cosy back street is filled with lyrics and murals, and scrawled largely across the middle of the wall “WAR IS OVER”. Coming here and placing my hands upon the paint, with all the other people to have stood before and after my place, I couldn’t help but feel.. The only way I can describe it.. Hypocritical. Painting over and over again the words ‘war is over’, and only half addressing the issue. Rather than facing ‘war’ head on; accepting that ‘war’ isn’t really over. Visiting this wall makes you realise that, even with all the love in the world, and a backlog of revolutional lyrics.. Nothing will stop war. Nothing.
Maybe if you’re looking to pick up the pace a bit ‘Segway central’ might be for you.. If you want to be nearly ran over, or pestered by city tour salesmen.. Head over to The Old Town Square. A square brimming with selfie stick couples, and horse and carriages.. This place is a gleaming contrast between olde Praha and 21st century life. The Old Town Square is home to the famous Astronomical Clock Tower, also known as the Orloj.. Which let me tell you.. Is worth the queue, and the climb. But, take it from me, don’t do it with blistered feet and a full bladder.
From here you can see pretty much the whole of Prague. Beyond looking downwards at the tiny ant sized groups of musicians, bubble making men – being chased by hordes of children, and the ever flowing tide of tourism. To the East is The Church of Our Lady before Týn. Its Gothic spires that tower over everything else in the vicinity. To the North.. Prague Castle, situated in the old town.. A spectacle to behold in any dusky evening in this beautiful city. And the West, Petrin Hill & Observation Tower.. Likened to the The Eiffel Tower. The Petrin Observation Tower is set in landscaped gardens, which make for a pleasant stroll all year round, given you’re not covered in blisters and saturated in your own urine.
City streets lined with bars, restaurants and pretzel stands, for any great foodie this city is perfect for loading up and chilling out. As Prague is popular with stag weekends and boys holidays alike, you won’t be surprised to hear there are a fair amount of UK themed establishments over here. Despite being spoilt for choice, we ended up in a popular Irish pub. Where we sat, chatted, smoked.. And enjoyed 4 beers and a large nachos between us – Which came to as little as £20!? 20 POUNDS!? Unless you’re indulging in the spa like aromas of your local Wetherspoon’s, There’s nowhere in my knowledge in the whole world that’s more pound stretching.. In agreeance?
Any bromance filled getaway wouldn’t have been complete without matching tattoos of an inside joke.. We found ourselves being guided blindly by google maps into a lane just off of The Old Town Square, and into a half record shop, half tattoo parlour. Waiting just inside stood a heavily tattooed, and equally heavily pierced Czech man finishing up with a customer. Once he was free, we explained what, how and where we wanted it, and bargained a price. We booked in and returned the following day to this dark and dingy mongrel of a shop. Jack went first, as he didn’t want to.. and I quote.. “Pussy out”. And I sat and watched. As sweat poured from his forehead as the scary, brute of a tattoo artist effortlessly sent jack into a world of unescapable pain, by beginning this tiny Jellyfish tattoo on his boney little ankle. Biting his hand, as to escape from the pain for a moment.. Jack’s clenched fist, resembled the shake of a shitting dog.. As I sat laughing, I filmed for our holiday vlog, forgetting it was my turn next.
Nothing could have prepared me for what came next. And like a pro I sat through it, and came away unscathed with an ankle tattoo matching that of my friends. It’s not until after we had both emerged from said dark and dingy mongrel shop, I commented on how I didn’t see the scary, tattoo brute change the needle.. Which was a little concerning, but didn’t dampen our trip in the slightest, as I know my friend is a clean boy, and always wraps before he taps.
I concluded my trip with a golden tan; Sat in his parents garden with the occasional dip in the pool. The much needed relaxation venue, that eased me back into the monotonous drone of everyday life. Prague is a beautiful city, with much to offer anyone who buys into its admirable charm. Whether you’re visiting for business or pleasure, there are many stones left unturned in little old Praha. The people of this city are busy wrapped up in themselves, which pretty much leaves you to roam freely without much hassle. The public transport leaves you with nothing but questions about Britain’s carnage inducing commutes. The architecture is entirely stunning, which makes for a fantastic photography destination, and money seems to go a long, long way. Despite The Czech Republic joining the European Union back in 2010, The Czech’s refused to give their currency up just yet.. Which is great news for anyone planning a trip here in the near future!!