MONDAY: A four and a half hour train to Prague proved uneventful but had beautiful scenery from Dresden onwards, which I admired in between defacing Douche-Barn leaflets. Emily highly disapproved of my shameless enjoyment in drawing evil eyebrows, a moustache and a top hat on a fat-faced Aryan child, but nothing could keep me from being amused by it. Small things, small minds, etc.
On arriving in Prague, we traipsed off hostelwards, accompanied by a nice-smelling and really rather beautiful Norwegian boy who was unfortunately heading to a different hostel. But, as Disneyworld Paris has told me from a young age, it’s a small world after all and we bumped into him again on a pub crawl which we’d headed to with Anna, the girl we’d met in Berlin. Having absorbed him into our motley crew of Brits, Americans and Australians, we got on with the important task of draining the bar’s sangria supplies, before one of the American guys produced a small bottle of absinthe. As it was handed around the group, each person took a sip and winced; that is, of course, until it got to yours truly, who downed the remains with not a single shudder or show of discomfort. I was lauded as a hero, and quite rightly too.
As we ventured into a labyrinthine bar and then a specialist vodka bar, Emily and Anna bonded over their similarities, most notably their own litheness. As this was a conversation I could not be part of, I wandered off to be ‘treated’ to a round of tequila shots by Absinthe Guy, who gleefully reminded me in what order the salt/tequila/lime routine was done (it had been a while). Emily and I found this gave us the Dutch courage to bicker with strangers; she with a Mexican guy about the trials and tribulations of English history, and I with the Norwegian guy about football – bizarrely, he was a Man United fan with a soft spot for Spurs.
En route to the next bar, I got chatting to a group of Geordies, one of whom was particularly easy to talk to and definitely worth avoiding the dancefloor to converse with; while Emily and Anna fleed a discogoer with wandering hands, we discussed Football Manager, the North, and Countdown (he bore a distinct resemblance to a Countdown friend of mine). Sadly, between one bar and the next, my ginger Northern new best friend disappeared into the night, never to be seen by me again.
By the time we reached our last stop, a club, my eyes literally could not stay open, even after rubbing them furiously. By the time I started trying to sleep on the stairs, Emily suggested I return to the hostel, although she had just bumped into a friend from uni by pure coincidence so was keen to stay out. Despite having only been to the hostel once, and being very tired and still mildly tipsy, my memory played a blinder and guided me back safely.
On being joyfully reunited with the hostel WiFi, I discovered that the exploits of my second televised Countdown game (a ‘closely-fought’ game that ended 112-19…) had earned me my first random add, before less joyfully having to negotiate the dilemma of dorm room etiquette – did I choose the lesser evil of waking everyone up by scrambling around in the dark to find my pyjamas, or freaking out our antisocial Chinese roommates by sleeping in my underwear? As usual, I opted for the choice that required the least amount of effort. Sorry, roomies.
…Oops, we’ve clearly outstayed our welcome here and the waitress clearly wants us to clear off. Update more later.
A Jen whose hand aches from writing all of that
Later: Mistral Cafe Restaurant, 17:50
Stumbled upon a cheap but spacious and clean restaurant that serves mostly Czech cuisine: far more appetising than the KFC up the road, and not much more expensive. I had the ragout (a classic Countdown word) for about £3.50 – who knew that a meal heavily reliant on onions and mushrooms (two foods I’m very picky about) would prove so delicious? Turns out ragout is a potato cake, an unappealing description that massively undersells it. Czech cuisine 1, German cuisine 0.
Today’s adventures have involved climbing the nearby Clock Tower and then sampling divine if expensive milkshakes at the Hard Rock Café. We’ve wandered past some exciting shops including a marionette shop and several absintheries, which sell a variety of absinthe-infused foods including ice cream and slush puppies. We have eagerly added it to our list of places to visit.
The city itself is full of beautifully ornate buildings that crop up in unexpected places, though also has its share of shabbier architecture. The main square is home to two incredibly grand churches as well as the Clock Tower – whose scale and breathtaking detail clash a bit with the tacky little souvenir shops dotted about, the windows of which are heavily vajazzled with crystals.
We’re off to the Ice Bar with Anna tonight, a venue recommended by my friend Tamsyn, who was here a few weeks ago. It sounds exciting, though if there are any more “I’m so skinny” conversations, we may not all return from it…
A ragged-out Jen
4th September: Outside Petrínská Observation Tower, 15:59
The observation tower looks like a poor man’s Eiffel Tower, but the panorama at the top of the tower is stunning: you can see how much bigger the city is than it feels at ground level. We got the funicular railway up the hill after fiascos with ticket machines that only accept exact change, station workers who had no change, and a poorly ventilated station which made me want to pass out. Change in general is a nuisance in Prague – you get scowled at for having the temerity to produce a note, because whoever’s serving you rarely has any coppers on them.
The ice bar was fantastic. We spent 20 minutes in temperatures of -7•C, drinking shots from ice cubes carved into glasses, surrounded by walls, ornaments and a bar made of (you guessed it!) ice. Afterwards we went to a pub in the square and discussed our lives, travels and men, during which I realised that Anna is in fact not American, but from New Zealand. Oops. I’m so useless at working out accents. I really warmed to her, but she’s heading in the opposite direction to us now – as we head north to Poland, she’s heading south to Austria.
Off to the castle next – all downhill, thank god. Our legs are shaking from walking up and down the tower, but we will persevere, before probably returning to the restaurant from yesterday and pub crawling again (though I can’t be arsed to be out too long – I’m definitely prematurely middle-aged).
A jelly-legged Jen
5th September: Absintherie, Franz Kafka Square, Prague, 14:43
The good news is that I stuck to my resolution to not stay out too late last night. The bad news is that this was less down to tiredness, boredom or middle-agedness than being down to me being a menace to society and myself after making significant inroads into the free bar. There were all the hallmarks of an embarrassing night out: crying in the toilets about man troubles (I really am Bridget Jones mk 2), asking an Australian if he had any family in the UK because he looked quite a bit like a total bastard I know back home, in those words (he didn’t), trying and failing to mount a bar stool and, finally, submitting the sangria-and-shot-filled contents of my stomach to the toilet bowl. Mm, purply red vomit.
According to Emily, who had come to check on me with a group of starstuck Irish and Scouse Countdown fans, the highlight to all this was me bragging between chunders about how they should feel privileged to watch a minor daytime TV star throw up, a boast that finished with a rebellious flourish as I ripped off the toilet seat and crawled out. Good God.
After this Z-list meltdown, Emily made the executive decision to drag me back to the hostel and put me to bed, a decision that involved her getting a free Segway ride in the main square and me ranting at her because she called me Jen, i.e. the derivative of Jennifer that I’ve insisted on being called for the last decade. I have absolutely no recollection of this, but she can quote it word for word as: “My name’s not Jen! It’s Jennifer! People only call me Jen because I hate being called Jenny!”. Having stumbled back successfully into the hostel and been laughed at by the reception staff, Emily spent an hour trying to coax me out of falling asleep on the hostel toilet through a variety of methods, among them slapping, singing and threatening to take photos, but more kindly managed to convince the staff to give us an extra hour before checkout the next morning. Despite the slapping and threats, I was rather grateful that she looked after me.
Shame to end the day like that after an amusing afternoon walking back from the observation tower. We walked past a couple on a park bench who were indulging in some heavy petting that was probably illegal in public – I’m pretty sure no woman in the history of the world has ever looked so unimpressed with a man licking her breast as the woman in the park – and having a very serious discussion about the hypothetical possibility of a wasp flying up a woman’s crevice and impregnating her. Relieved as I am to learn that wasps cannot impregnate humans, I am still never squatting outside.
In recent Countdown news, I offended some and delighted others of the general public with my errant cleavage in today’s game – my brother kindly messaged me to inform me it was “disgusting” – and managed to use my wit and charm on a randomer who called me a “slag” on Twitter to convert him to what has been dubbed ‘Steadmania’. I.e. by the end of our conversation he had declared me his favourite contestant ever.
Today, though, it’s my knickers and not my cleavage I’ve been showing off in real life, as we took advantage of the gloriously sunny weather to take a pedalo ride around the river, neither of us wearing tights with our dresses and probably offending passers-by. We weren’t bothered though – it was a relaxing way to see the city and looked good in our photos, which obviously in the Instagram Age is the only important thing in life. We may have ruined the experience for others though by singing loudly throughout, paying tribute to our churchgoing childhoods by signing some anthemic hymns, before celebrating the city’s Bohemian history by singing Bohemian Rhapsody, and finally moving onto a lairy rendition of Hakuna Matata.
We have to leave the Absintherie now as, despite me barely having finished my absinthe ice cream (nice to begin with, nasty aftertaste) and the shop being otherwise deserted, the waitress has informed us that it is “not possible” for is to sit here unless we have a drink. Pretty sure she’s just holding a grudge after I paid for a 39 crown ice cream with a 200 crown note and she had to pay the other 161 crowns back in change. The Czechs really do hate giving change.
We’re off to Krakow tonight on a night train – I’m looking forward to it, as I feel we’ve outstayed our welcome here. Plus the likely horrors of a £4.50-per-night hostel will have to be seen to be believed…
A very embarrassing when drunk Jen
TO BE CONTINUED IN KRAKOW… DON’T GO ANYWHERE, PART 4 WILL BE UP SOON!