Saturday, July 12, 2014

[PRAGUE] How Deep Is Your Subway

The deepest subway descent I’ve ever experienced was in Pyongyang, where I thought the tour guide was leading us in a journey to the center of the Earth. I thought that was normal for North Korea owing to its weirdness, which is why I was a bit surprised when I had some sort of a déjà vu in Prague. Their subways are just buried so deep under the Earth, good luck if you easily suffer from vertigo. Do not go here just for the subway experience, though. Prague is definitely more than that.

Perhaps my decision to enroll in an intensive summer course in Vienna was a good thing after all. Establishing a base in the heart of Europe meant my weekdays were reserved for the classroom, but my weekends were free to be spent on travel. Three weekends; three countries! One weekend was already reserved for Slovakia because of Xiamen friend’s birthday. Switzerland was out of the question because it is effing expensive. And so I was left with Hungary to the east and the Czech Republic to the north.

From Vienna, you have several options if you want to go to Prague. Avoid trains if you could because they will cause a serious dent on your budget. If you are living the life of a student, maximize those funds by taking the bus. I think there are three different bus lines plying the route but the return fares are almost the same, which is around 45 euros. It takes four hours to get from Vienna to Prague, and another four hours going back. I left Friday afternoon and came back Sunday evening.

The trip itself is cool, with lots of oddities along the way. I never really figured out where Austria ended and the Czech Republic began. All I knew was that there was a big place that looked like a theme park, giant dinosaurs and all. And then we were passing by small villages with billboards of scantily clad girls along with what seemed to be their phone numbers. And then there was this charming little town which had a medieval feel. And then Prague! Did I mention it was raining?

What I quickly noticed was how we were greeted by state of the art buildings which looked very modern. It was easy to realize, though, that it was the new part of the city, where large multinationals flock to take advantage of Prague’s young population and cheaper costs of production. You see, Prague has a good reputation as an outsourcing hub in Central Europe, but this is just one of its recent claims to fame. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Prepare to be amazed once you get to the city center itself.

Crossing a bridge, we then found out where the old world magic resides. As you go further into the heart of Old Bohemia, you discover why everyone is raving about this city. I mean, come on. Anyone you know who has been to Prague would most likely bombard you with anecdotes on how amazing everything is, to the extent that you would think it is just all hype. Well, I’m here to tell you from firsthand experience that they are not lying.

If ever you find yourself in the heart of Europe and left with just one city to visit, let it be Prague. You will not be disappointed. Why? Well, let’s leave that for the next blog entry, because if we include that here this article would be reduced to a photo blog. Prague is photogenic like that. Oh yes, prepare your extra gigabytes, you would be needing them. Promise! Arriving late at around 8 PM, I decided to have dinner and call it a night.

All I wanted to do the next morning was chill, which is a no-no if you are in Prague. Allot at least a day for picture taking because rounding every corner is a photo-op waiting to happen, seriously. But because this is me, I had to do what I know how to do best. Go to the mall. I know, right? WTF. I went to Palladium, which is said to be one of the city's high-end shopping centers. I spent an hour there tops. I just needed to have lunch, okay. Afterwards, in an unexpected turn of events, I stumbled upon the Old Town Square. Are you ready for my raves?

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