Hello again, it's been a while! Here is a link to the photos from our Prague trip at last:

I have finally figured out a way around the lack of a caption option on the google photos albums. I just made comments on the ones that needed some more context, so if you end up just looking at that, the story will hopefully be a bit more complete.

After the short week, Adam met me and my full backpack at the Hauptbahnhof in Rostock on Friday afternoon (November 5th) and we boarded our train headed toward Prague. We were in a compartment again, this time with a family preparing for a weekend of hiking—it's always entertaining for me to try and figure out the stories of my fellow passengers, so when I wasn't listening to my audiobook, I eavesdropped a bit (hard not to when you are that close to people.) I think I concluded it was a dad, his two sons and another man who might be their uncle? Anyway, they disembarked just before we crossed the Czech boarder, just after Dresden, whose Hauptbahnhof sported a gigantic Christmas tree, though it was barely November. We eventually made it to Prague, and navigated our way to the hostel where we met up with Laura once again. We checked into the hostel and settled into our bunks for an early(ish) night.

It was very interesting to notice the drastically different pace compared to our Zell trip with Maggie, which was characterized by rising early in order to fit as much in as possible each day. Laura has never really been such a morning person, which I had sort of forgotten since college. This encouraged Adam and my late-sleeping inclinations as well, so it was after 10 by the time we left the hostel the next morning. We decided we wanted to explore the famous Charles Bridge, and Prague Castle for the day, so we made moves in that direction to explore breakfast options.

This turned out not to be the wisest move, since that area was much more crowded with tourists, and therefore more expensive too. Compared with Copenhagen prices however, (where Laura had just been) it still wasn't bad, and after some wandering about, we found a place that had lots of options and was relatively empty. Just before ordering, a guy Laura knew from our hostel wandered in as well, so he joined us at our table. Mack is from Cape Cod, and had quit his job to do some traveling for a while, and was very nice. It's always funny to me how we probably never would have met or had any reason to interact if we had met in the states, but somehow meeting someone from your own country while abroad draws you together. Since he had essentially the same plan for the day as we did, we ended up sticking together after breakfast (not as good as the cafe in Copenhagen, but filling and pretty tasty.)

Charles Bridge was interesting—full of statues and beautiful views of the Moldau River, glittering on the wonderfully sunny day. It was also (due to being a beautiful sunny Saturday) FULL of people which, especially after so many months of avoiding crowds was a bit overwhelming, so we didn't linger so long as we might otherwise have.

charles bridge looking up the hill
Halfway across the bridge, looking up the hill towards the castle

Once on the other side of the river, we began to wind our way up the hill towards Prague castle. Once we made it to the first lookout point, we were surprised (but then again, not that surprised) to find a Starbucks—pushing, yep you guessed it: pumpkin spice lattes. Adam and Mack gave in to the basic white girl lurking in their heart of hearts, and ordered the syrupy orange "coffee" while Laura and I visited the bathroom. Although I have now seen Starbucks in countries all over the world, I would venture to guess that very few on them contain spiral staircases. This one did however. The juxtaposition between how uniform and American the store itself was (aside from also selling Czech pilsners) and then the fact that it was feet away from a centuries old castle compound was pretty funny to us. After enjoying the pumpkin-adorned view from the Starbucks terrace, we headed up to the castle. We passed a very interesting…altar? Display? Celebrating the defeat of the communist party in the recent Czech elections, featuring, in addition to candles and fake flowers, what appeared to be an actual severed pig's head, just casually hanging out on the edge of the square. It's just not something you see everyday I guess!

We didn't actually end up going inside the castle itself, but we went inside the walls and saw into the stunning cathedral, with all of the impressive stained class windows soaring to the gorgeous vaulted ceilings that one comes to expect of medieval European churches. Laura and I ventured up (and up and up and up) the spiral staircase to the lookout. It was well worth the climb to get a view of the city on such a lovely clear day.

After descending the tower and the hill, it was time for a snack for Laura, since she had gotten filled up on her gigantic latte before eating any breakfast, and I had had to finish a lot of her food. After getting one of those spiral cut fried potatoes on a stick, she was satisfied, and we headed back to the hostel to chill a bit. We began to suspect that Mack and his friend Alex were following us when they walked into the Vietnamese restaurant where we were eating dinner…or maybe it was that it was just really near the hostel.

We had a couple beers at the hostel before setting off for the club with a bunch of the other hostel guests. At the subway station, as we were all chatting, it came to light that one of the kids, in addition to graduating high school with Adam's sister, Mack's friend Alex had also worked as the official photographer and taken his picture at the graduation at his college the year before—a small world moment, to be sure!

We felt able to relax at the club, since they checked vaccine cards at the door, so we had a wonderful time dancing the night away. We formed a fun little hostel dance circle and boogied away the hours. After walking home at nearly 4 am, we collapsed into bed after making sure to drink enough water that our future selves wouldn't be in too much pain. I didn't actually get out of bed till after 11 the next morning, and when I checked my phone, all those tiny swaying dance steps, and the trek back to the hostel after midnight had added up to 16,047 steps before I even got out of bed for the day!

We eventually did manage, however, to drag ourselves out of bed. Thanks to all that water right before finally going to sleep, none of us felt too bad either. After stumbling through the grocery store without speaking a word of Czech, we managed to get the pastries we wanted, and had a lovely pastry breakfast (brunch? lunch?) on a bench outside the church that was right near the hostel.

Church near our hostel
A ready-made breakfast pastry picnic spot!

Given the time of day, and how light our pastry breakfast had been, we decided to move on to lunch right away. We found a nice Pho place and had some delicious Vietnamese soup to warm us up after the walk there. We lingered over our meal, and enjoyed rehashing the night before as well as strolling down memory lane. The result was that there wasn't much daylight left to us when we finally strolled out of the restaurant. I wanted to go see the botanical gardens however, so we headed in that direction.

The sun was in the process of setting by the time we arrived at the gardens, but dusk is as good a time as any to smell roses, and we meandered our way through the terraced pathways and enjoyed the changing leaves as well as the flowers and even rocks they featured. I had read the information online incorrectly, so unfortunately the indoor greenhouse closed earlier than we thought on Sunday, so we didn't get to go inside that, but it felt nice to stroll around and get some fresh air nevertheless.

After some more strolling through the city, we were ready for another meal, so we made our way to a traditional Czech restaurant we had heard was good. We enjoyed the classically good pilsner in the adorably squat glass mugs with big curved handles. Adam was very impressed by the beer "scorecard" as he called it, where the waiters checked off which beers our table had ordered. We did not "win" however, since we were very far from checking off all the mugs on the sheet. Our hardy meals showed up and we all tucked in happily. I was thrilled to be able to order a giant chunk of fried cheese with buttered potatoes as my entree, Laura gave Schnitzel another chance after her disappointing experience with it in Rostock, and Adam had…pork chops? Some kind of meat thing anyway—I was just happy to share some of the sauerkraut that came with it. Another delicious meal, and it felt like a very appropriate thing to do in Prague—perhaps the most "authentic to the place" meal we had yet eaten on our travels, and a good way to round off our last evening in the Czech Republic.

Czech dinner
Fried cheese and potatoes, what more could a girl want?

We went to bed early enough to be able to get up in the morning and see one more sight before our train left just after noon. Laura hadn't gotten much sleep the night before, since her bunkmate had been coughing a lot in the night…(the girl assured the hostel she had gotten a negative Covid test…) so Laura decided to sleep in. Adam and I headed for Vyšehrad—a castle compound which, I must say did a great job of being impenetrable, and I guess that was probably its defensive goal. It was quite frustrating to navigate however, since we were not in fact an invading army but rather some rushed tourists with limited time before our train took off. We made it up the hill and inside the castle walls, but google maps really led us astray when it came to actually finding the churches we were seeking, so unfortunately we had to give up and turn back before we figured out which level we were supposed to be on to get where we wanted to go. There was a a good lookout cover the city and some lovely yellow leaves though, so it wasn't a total bust. Also just being inside castle walls is already pretty exciting, honestly, even if Rostock's own city wall had numbed me to that wonder a bit.

We made it back to the hostel for final check-out and to pick up our bags and exchange some photos and hugs with Laura before rushing off to the train station. Once again, google maps was not on our side as it led us down a very pedestrian unfriendly route which left us on the wrong side of a very busy street with no crosswalk…We did at last make it to the station, and heaved ourselves, panting, onto the train just before it pulled out. The ride back was uneventful, other than the rainbow we saw arching through the gray skies—the kid in me is always thrilled to see a rainbow. They are just rare enough to feel like magic, every time, and I hope that is a wonder I never will become numb to.

We grabbed some hummus and bread for dinner in the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, and ate on the platform. The Berlin-Rostock train was unfortunately not an express and let me tell you, I had no idea there were quite so many little towns between here and there, and although I'm sure they are all very charming, I was really ready to be home already, since it felt like we had been traveling for days rather than hours somehow. The worst bit though, was waiting the half hour for the tram that then spit us out just in time to wait another chilly 20 minutes for the bus that would finally take us home sweet home.

We had some worried moments when we found out a few days later that we had been exposed to Covid in Prague, but luckily Adam and I both tested negative and neither of us had any symptoms. I am happy to say I got my booster shot on December 14th as well, so while I will of course continue to be careful, it's nice to know I have renewed my protection as well.