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I have so much and so little to say at the same time. I took it easy the last week I spent in Prague (+ one overnight visit to Plzeň, the birthplace of Pilsener – thank you Plzeň!). However, I’ve collected some interesting stories about strange hostel people and had some adventures related to the everyday (though still exciting to me) world of food & drink in the Czech Republic.
Regarding hostel residents, I’ll just say that whether Wikitravel.com is a reliable source or not, I’m 120% ready to believe what it says about Brits in Prague. That is, “more than half of all fights reported to Prague police in 2005 involved people from the UK!" I got about 3 hours of sleep the night before last thanks to a "gang" of them staying in my hostel room. Oh well, Czech beer cures all ails (didn’t you know?). The British are also notorious for having their stag or bachelor parties in Prague. I witnessed one where a group of guys were dressed as a male police officers, except for the groom-to-be who was dressed as female police officer. Here’s a picture of a pub, but not with the fake British police guys, just some regular Czechs.
The same night that I saw the stag party (last Saturday), I unfortunately also saw what happens when you’re caught without a valid metro ticket. You see, the system in Prague (as well as in Berlin & Budapest) is sort of an honor system, because you have to validate your ticket in a little yellow box when entering the metro (or tram or bus), but there is no machine or person actually controlling who enters the metro. I often bought a 24-hour ticket, which I would validate once to "activate" it, but then I usually wouldn’t even take it out again during the next 24 hours of metro travel. A couple of people from the hostel apparently did not understand the validation system and thought that just buying the ticket was enough to make them legitimate metro passengers (it is not). Occasionally metro police stop people at exits to check their tickets, and this happened to us on Saturday night. Two of them had tickets, but had not validated them, which as it states on the ticket (in Czech & English) is basically the same as not having a ticket. Anyway, they were fined 700 crowns each (~$47). This sucked to see, obviously, but at least it was not as scary as being stopped by the Militia in Moscow.
The rest of my week was spent eating, drinking, some sleeping, and also taking Czech language lessons for an hour a day (see! I wasn’t completely unproductive!). I’ve gotten so serious about Czech beer that I even made a special trip to Plzeň (again, the birthplace of Pilsener beer), to go to the Pilsener Urquell brewery. Well, I also went there to get out of Prague for a bit, but in the end it was really just a beer excursion. I can’t remember much since they kept feeding me beer all day, so please wait until I upload the pictures for more details.
I also went on a strudel excursion in Prague, which was no less of an adventure than my trip to Plzeň. You see, a couple of months ago I downloaded a Travel Channel show about Prague on iTunes (I don’t recommend the show, the host is irritating), but it did lead me to an amazing strudel place in a practically untouristed part of the city. The attraction is not just the deliciousness of the strudel, but also the sheer size of it. See below – it was as big as my forearm! Mmm… warm apple strudel. That’s a legitimate activity & meal for a day, yes?
Here’s the strudel stand – practically hidden in a residential neighborhood:
And here’s the strudel, pre-consumption:
Here it is again after the first bite:
And here’s what was left of the strudel after my first attempt at eating it (pretty impressive, eh?):
Now I’m in Brno (check the map). It’s in Moravia – the eastern half of the Czech Republic. Prague is in Bohemia, the western half. And yes, this is the same Bohemia that gave birth to the English word bohemian. OED says "ORIGIN: mid 19th cent.: from French bohémien ‘gypsy’ (because gypsies were thought to come from Bohemia, or because they perhaps entered the West through Bohemia)." Plzeň is also in Bohemia.
On Sunday I start summer school in Olomouc, which is in Moravia, not Bohemia. More on Moravia later.