The Fortress was one of the most undersold sights of Prague, in my opinion, and it was raining while we were there. It lay on the southern outskirts of the city up a steep wooded hill. Aside from ramparts, there was a large gothic cathedral and beautiful views of the river bisecting Prague. Hannah watched as a wedding in the church concluded, both reflecting on our own perfect day and that our first anniversary is coming up soon. I looked at Hannah and said, “How about a trip to Scotland for our 1st wedding anniversary?” With a laugh she said, “That sounds good to me,” giving my arm a squeeze.
After our exploration of the fortress, we walked along the Vltava riverbanks on our way to the Prague Castle. Our luck continued.On Saturday mornings, Prague hosts a local farmer’s market with long rows of tents along the river. Hannah stopped in at a few tents as others began to close. We broke up the 4 kilometer walk with a cheap pleasant beer from a riverside café. Beer in Germany and Czech Republic have been far tastier than what we’ve had in the United States. Back home, we really did not drink beer much, but now we have found ourselves actually buying beer from the grocery store in both countries. For perspective, beer in both countries cost as little as about 50 cents and cheaper than water at times.
Our luck that day did not end there. Upon arriving at Prague Castle, we were surprised to learn that viewing all of the grounds and attractions of the castle were free, and the government senate chambers were open, which was a rarity. It was apparently a day designated by the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic to allow the public to view it all for free once per year. After viewing the senate rooms, the rain began to pour. We ran into the main cathedral where a surreal picture played out. Cold, wet families huddled in groups around granite pillars. Above them stood long stained-glass windows whose muted color illuminated the wet faces of refugees seeking sanctuary.
As we exited the cathedral, piles of white crystals lay throughout the streets. At first, I kicked one thinking perhaps it was salt in preparation for overnight cold. To my surprise, it was ice from the storm, in May! We hurriedly walked down the steep stairway from the castle grounds to the subway. During our subway ride, a short, elderly man began to exit during a stop and yelled, “My wallet, my wallet!” He and his wife and daughter ran back on the train and began accosting a man who they believed was a thief. Upon realizing it was not him, they redirected their attention to a different man to my back left. He had moved to the corner. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw brown leather bounce off the floor near the man and into the crowd. They hurriedly collected the wallet and ran out before the door shut. Everyone watched the man in the back corner for the remainder of the trip. Thankfully, our stop was next.
For anyone curious, Hannah and I have some general methods and habits around crime avoidance. I actually do not carry a wallet. Inside my phone case, I keep my US Passport Card and Student ID (discounts on things). Hannah carries her purse with a limited amount of cash for the day (about $40), one credit card, and her IDs. We do this for several reasons. Many countries assume a patriarchal society where the man carries the money and pays for things, which in turn would make him an obvious target for thieves. This way, the loss for us is minimal if I am robbed. If we both have an issue, we have not carried all our documentation or money. There is an even bigger risk to us if robbery occurs because we do not have a permanent mailing address or easy way to get new credit or debit cards since we move every 4 days. This ensures that we have redundancy in place for any unfortunate situations. It is a reality we must live by in order to minimize liability. We would recommend every traveler find a similar system and always “watch your pockets” as we often tell each other daily.
Lastly, as I write this blog entry, I am sitting in the kitchen having breakfast. It is about 9:30, and my sleeping beauty wife is playing catch up on her sleep before another rainy day in Prague. A South Korean woman sharing the flat is cooking behind me. She took food to her partner in their room and reappeared a moment or two later with a pickle jar. She could not open it and asked if I could. I obliged and she offered me some, which I declined and continued on with my typing. The previous two nights, we stayed up and enjoyed long conversation with David and Fanou, a French couple on holiday. Earlier in the evening, an Australian couple told us they were on their 7th month of travel. We asked them for any advice as our travel continues. The best advice they could give was “anticipate failure”. We also met an American couple pursuing Master’s degrees abroad in Dresden Germany. Interaction with locals and other travels is a key reward of our journey. Their experience, lifestyle, and perspective is refreshing and has in turn created some of our fondest memories.