My first few days in Prague were very interesting. I flew independent of the arranged group flight suggested by USAC and a few days before most of the other students. I arrived at my apartment after successfully navigating public transportation from the airport (I had help). Then I had to talk to a bartender in the establishment next door to my place to get my key. My building was empty for the next three days except for myself. Luckily my place came fully furnished but I still went to Ikea for towels.
Despite my lack of sleep I had an amazing amount of energy when I arrived. I spent those first four days familiarizing myself with my neighborhood. Tourist attractions could wait: I was living in Prague. One of the first things I found that brought me instant happiness was the park two blocks from my home. It’s nothing spectacular but it has a nice fountain at the center, many benches, and it sits opposite a beautiful church. This became an important part of my home like my backyard. I ate baguette sandwiches (very popular here) and drank lattes while people watching. The park continues to be a source of comfort, happiness, and inspiration.
In those first few days I learned to accept the fact that I didn’t know the language. I couldn’t read the signs but I memorized the routes I took. Unfortunately the closest McDonald’s became a landmark that reminded me I’m close to home (I don’t eat there though). The only Czech I knew before I left home was ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘please’, and ‘thank you’. The latter two were particularly difficult for me. I also took a look at the alphabet through YouTube videos but I still couldn’t form words. Now, after taking my two-week language intensive course life is a bit easier.
I didn’t want to celebrate my first night alone so I searched the program for other early arrivals. Sure enough, there was a couple, Sammy and Gabe, who had also flown in on Wednesday. I emailed them and next thing you know we were sharing our stories over beer in the bar beneath my apartment.
By Friday night I was ready to experience the Prague nightlife I’d heard so much about. Sammy and Gabe weren’t available so I tapped into the local Couchsurfing network through their Hang Out feature. This app and what I call a sub-app, connects travelers who want to share beers, go do tourist activities together, or simply walk around. There I found a group of people looking to go out and within the group was an Austrian who I’d given directions to in the metro the night before.
I met so many amazing people that night and the next. There is a large expat population here as well as a constant stream of tourists from around the world. I met Daniel from Cuba who grew up in Italy learning Russian from his mother. He also spoke Czech and English. He knew several other Italians living in Prague, some of which I met. In another post I’ll discuss the international food here. I met a stag party from England and a citizen from Hong Kong who learned his English in Australia. I spent most of my evening meeting people from several different countries. Then there was the nightlife!
I think on Friday we must have gone to four different clubs. Popo’s is where we started which is a great underground bar to hang out in groups and drink cheap beer in the heart of the city (Old Town). Then we went dancing at Hangar, a PanAm themed club where even the waitresses are in costume. The last place I remember the name of was called Fancy, also a great hip hop club. Saturday I discovered La Bodeguita, Lucerna, and James Dean Club. The first is a Cuban dance spot. The second has a huge dance floor and plays throwbacks but sometimes charges a cover at the door. The last bar, James Dean, looks exactly like it sounds but they play modern dance tunes downstairs.
Those first few days were thrilling and I had the chance to get to know a very interesting city. Prague is full of winding roads that lead you to hidden places of interest, you just have to be willing to look. It has been fun finding something new every day and meeting other travelers. Do you want to know about the places I went? What the food is really like? Cultural differences from the U.S.? Ask me anything in the comments below or simply tell me what you thought!