Once again, my ‘Diary of a Backpacker’ series is currently still being published on Scotcampus.com. You can read this article on their website here.
- How we got here: train
- Where we stayed: A+ Hostel (ironically, as far from ‘A plus’ standard as you can get)
- Attractions visited: the Astronomical Clock, the Town Hall tower, Museum of Medieval Torture, the John Lennon Memorial Wall, the Jewish and Spanish synagogues, the Jewish cemetery, St Charles’s bridge, Prague Castle
- Best way to navigate within the city: everything is relatively close by, so by foot
We decided to journey within your medieval quarters to learn more about your culture, and not your beer. We knew you were synonymous with stag do’s and hen do’s… the kind of events neither of us have ever planned for ourselves but have endeavoured to avoid collisions with on this trip. (They’re everywhere.) And we did learn something. Your towns buzz day and night with life and colour; the ever prominent ghosts of your feudalistic past walked alongside us between walls on each narrow street.
But we won’t be back.
We began our adventures in Prague with dinner in the hostel restaurant after a busy and stressful check in which had ended in room keys being flung at us above a complaining gentleman. Unlike previous overnights spent in family-run or relatively ‘homely’ environments, A-Plus Hostel was a company who no doubt have other hostels across the world. The rooms were filled with merely five bunk beds and an inadequate number of power sockets – the signs of a place built for the touch-down traveller.
The following morning we journeyed into the ‘old town’ by foot, around 15 minutes away, phew – because by now I had learned by travelling that I do not enjoy walking for very long periods of time, and toilet breaks are likely (much to Stewart’s dismay). My first impressions of the town were positive: lots of people, nice surrounding countryside, and huge buildings of what look like The Nightmare Before Christmas descent.
The Astronomical Clock hovers not as far off the ground as you might think. In fact, had one of us been on the upside of 6ft 6”, we’d be a piggy back ride off touching the sacred timer thousands of people flock to see every year. However, on this day at this time, an abnormal volume of tourists were gathering beneath the clock in anticipation. The chime of the 1 o’clock bell dinged and at once doors on each side of the clock opened to reveal little robotic jester, priest and animal puppets that danced for the excitable crowds until the end of the sequence when they disappeared behind their tiny arched doors. The Crowds ooohed and ahhhed, and then, like clockwork, they lost all interest and dispersed, leaving ample room for me to get a good photo (see my Instagram!).
We climbed to the top of the Town Hall tower, the building the Astronomical Clock is attached to. This granted us the best views of Czechoslovakian country that we had on our trip, and for only 4 euros I would definitely recommend doing it – and taking the fancy lift up *wipes non-existent sweat from brow*.
We followed this adventure with another: a pedal-o boat ride. For 10 euros we enjoyed free reign of river beneath Charles’ bridge, another huge tourist attraction because of its impressive arches and black stone composure. On one side of the river, a beautiful clock; on the other, a real-life castle and the John Lennon Memorial Wall. Ideal.
On the way back to the hostel, we narrowly avoided most of the P.A. staff selling tickets to death- I mean, uh… Prague’s notorious pub crawls. After seriously considering it, we actually decided not to bother embarking on one of these unique, character-building excursions. They aren’t for everyone, especially not those on a daily budget. I would happily break the bank for a nice overpriced pencil case in Hungary, but to me paying money for entry to five bars and limited free drinks not even to my taste just isn’t for me. But I’ve heard they’re good – so, enjoy!
Our next day brought us to visiting the Castle which, like Edinburgh, you can pay to enter or get as close to it as scrounging allows and then enjoy the walk back down the village tourist street. We then visited the John Lennon wall, which was truly unique and beautiful and, being a fan of the Beatles, is probably my favourite place on earth (ever).
On this day we also purchased a group pass for the Jewish Cemetery which gave us access to the actual cemetery and various synagogues such as the Spanish and Jewish ones: the two we visited. It cost us 12 euros with a student discount and given the length of time we spent in and around each place just fascinated, it was definitely worth the money.
Our two days had been pleasant, so we booked a third – before wishing we hadn’t. Unfortunately, we were robbed in our hostel on our last (originally unplanned) evening. We returned to recharge only to find our bags emptied on the floor and our possessions scattered across four different bunks. Many of our things were broken. And, from the police report, between us we had just short of £1100 worth of gear stolen from us.
I would like to take this opportunity to discourage you from ever staying at A Plus Hostel in Prague should you get the opportunity. Although the staying experience was clean and had everything we needed, the staff are too quick to disassociate with their guests when turmoil like this occurs. We actually had to beg to borrow the receptionist’s mobile phone.
When we reported the incident, “you should’ve put it all in a locker” was all that she could find within herself to provide comfort – and it’s true, we should have. But, above the complaints of existing guests at our rowdy check-in, they failed to inform us of any safe depositary areas of any description.
And the police didn’t speak English.