For Christmas, I got Nathan a blind booking trip. That’s where you book a plane ticket for particular dates, and the computer chooses a random destination. You only find out what it is once you’ve confirmed the payment. Possible destinations out of Berlin included Paris, Bologna, Zagreb (which I was rooting for), somewhere in the Alps, Barcelona, and several other less glamorous locales (flying out of the larger airports of Cologne or Frankfurt, you get more options and can even pick a theme–night life, culture, LGBT, nature, and so on). It’s a neat concept, and one that we’d been meaning to do for a couple of years.

When it came down to it, though, Nathan decided he’d rather do a sighted booking. So we discussed some possible locations, finally opting for Prague, which we’d both wanted to visit for several years. The 4.5 hour bus trip (it would have taken as long by plane, but plane tickets don’t cost 22 euros) left at the crack of dawn, which caused me to be increasingly loopy and Nathan increasingly caffeinated in an attempt to deal with me.

The insecurity I always have when traveling somewhere where I don’t know the language at all exacerbated our difficulty finding our flatshare, but we did get there eventually. Our host, Werner, sat us down first thing, pulled out a map, and gave us a historical overview of the city. We knew we’d picked the right destination when he started using phrases like “And then in the year 800…”

On the way into the city, we stopped off at a dark, smoky pub to be introduced to two of the wonderful things about the Czech Republic (and Central Europe as a whole, I suppose): beer and dumplings. Czech dumplings are very different from the doughy monstrosities that are typical in Germany and the US. One dumpling is about the size of a premature human child (unlike a human child, the dumpling is served sliced). Because they’re yeast-raised, the inside is dry and bready rather than sticky. The major benefit to this is that you don’t hate yourself after eating 2 of them. And since we were in Rome, so to speak, we said, “You know what would go really great with all of these carbs? MORE carbs!” Thus opened the floodgate of Czech beer, which, by the way, is cheaper than tea* and . not subject to the same purity standards as German beer.

The next order of business was to meet up with Nathan’s former roommate, Petra, a native of the Czech Republic who does urban planning and enjoyed dropping the names of the various government officials he’s collaborated with. We had a beer or two in a cafe that happened to be owned by a friend of Werner’s, who had featured in our historical briefing. One of his projects is to scatter pianos around in random outdoor spaces around the city (country?), which turned into a fun scavenger hunt for Nathan. Once we’d finished our drinks, we strolled up to the castle, where Petra took us to a brewery for –you guessed it– more beer! The room was tiny–there were three long tables and one smaller one, plus a small bar, but all were occupied or reserved. So we perched at one reserved table until the party arrived, then moved on to the next. By the time they arrived, Petra had sweet-talked another party (they seemed to be friends of friends) into letting us share their table. The elaborate seating was totally worth it, though– not only was the beer out of this world, but after Petra left us, Nathan declared, “Tonight I’m going to eat something that slept in a forest,” and then ordered wild boar. I had some cucumbers with vinegar. In other words, on this day, everyone got exactly what they wanted.

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There we are!

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Beer. Dark beer. Light beer. Wheat beer. Sweet beer. This was at the castle brewery (there’s a sentence…).

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Near the castle. It looks a lot like Kazan’!

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The steep steep path back to the city from the castle, and also one of the rare occasions in which I am in possession of the camera.

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The foyer of our apartment building….our lives are all like that.

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Mom will get annoyed if there’s no caption on this so….This is Prague.

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*Yes, I know, the phrase is “cheaper than water”. But people say that all the time about Germany, and it is patently–indeed, by law–untrue. The cheapest drink on a German menu has to be non-alcoholic, which leads to weird situations like water or hot tea being cheapest, beer second cheapest, and different water being third cheapest, or, my personal favorite, bars offering cheap milk to encourage people to forego the frugal option and get real drinks.

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