Monday, October 09, 2006

Prague - The Arrival and Accomodations

We boarded the train to Prague from Vienna in the evening. I remember during the train ride watching the sun set over a river. I was quite uneasy about Prague. We were going to Eastern Europe. The Berlin Wall had fallen only two years earlier. So what could we expect as far as acceptance of Westerners. Plus it was the first place where no one from our group spoke the local language.

The train car we boarded even had a distinctly communist regime feel. Drab color, old and bare furnishings. The language barrier became apparent when the boarder guards came through the train car. We could not communicate to them even in sign language. And they were all business. No joking around. Straight faced and to the point.

We arrived very late into Prague. It was 10 or 11pm, but the tourist office had already closed. There were guys coming around offering places to stay. At first we shook them off and were minorly annoyed by them as they kept coming back. But after an hour not knowing what to do, we started discussions with them. We finally picked one guy near midnight when we realized it may be our only option.

We followed our guide out of the station into the dark winding deserted streets of Prague. I have never been more scared in my life. I felt sure it was a set up. I had a feeling that at any moment a gang would jump out and beat the heck out of us. Yes, we were six young healthy guys, but still thats no match for a few guys with bats or worse, guns.

My fears were relieved when we arrived at our destination. A woman in a nightgown invited us into her home and had us sleep in their beds. From what we could tell, the husband worked nights, so she slept on the couch while giving up the other beds in the apartment. That was really odd to sleep in complete strangers beds. On top of it we woke up to them having made us breakfast. It also turned out to be a great location close to all the major sights. It was a bit more than we wanted to pay and they insisted we pay in Western money. We thanked them as best we could for all the hospitality and the next day we found a place through the tourist office that was farther away and more in our price range. Up on the hill across the river past the palace. It was a hike, but that wasn't a hastle as long as we didn't go back often.

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