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BOHEMIAN PRAGUE-CITY: IS THIS THE REAL LIFE? IS THIS JUST FANTASY?
The #3 tram suddenly pulled up and following my impulse, I got on board and hoped for the best. As I got on, a little old woman tried to get up and motion for me to sit in her seat, seeing my giant pack, but I refused and motioned for her to sit back down, giving her a reassuring smile. Oh come on, did you honestly think I would steal a seat from a cute old woman?
The Czech are my people.
By the time the ninth tram stop came, my stop, I was incredibly glad I had not decided to walk. As it was, I still wasn’t at my hostel and had to drag myself another mile, almost entirely uphill through some rich and fancy neighborhood until the giant twin towers of the A&O Prague Metro Hostel rose in front of me. Sweating and panting, I dragged myself into the air-conditioned lobby, checked in, and took the elevator up to my room.
The west side of the river is also home to Petrin Hill, large park the ascends a good distance above the city of Prague, culminating with a giant lookout tower called Petrin Tower, modeled after the Eiffel Tower. Climbing the hill to this tower with my back facing directly toward the hot afternoon sun was less than pleasant, but the views at the end were worth it. From the top of the tower, which I climbed legally and even paid to do I would like to point out, the entire city of Prague stretched out before me, an endless sea of red rooftops I had become accustomed to seeing in all these old European cities. While the top tier itself was incredibly crowded with little kids up on the tiptoes and tourists pushing you out of the way so they could get to the open window and look out over the city, I discovered a little bench inset into the metal wall of the spiral staircase (comprised of over 300 steps, by the way) where I could sit and look out through the rather large metal gratings without anyone disturbing me. If there’s anything I’m good at, it’s finding areas away from people. I sat in that little spot for near an hour, taking photos, doing some writing, and just enjoying the cool breeze that made the day bearable for the first time. That reprieve from the heat alone was worth the 2€ I spent on the ticket.
Having crossed the Vltava River on a different bridge earlier in the day, I had now looped around and would cross back over it on the famous Charles Bridge, named after King Charles IV, under whom its construction began. The Charles Bridge is a conglomeration of just about every identifiable trademark of European cities: tourists, artists setting up stalls trying to sell their wares, beggars, statues, and even a couple churches at both ends of it. And man is it crowded. You wouldn’t believe how long I had to wait to actually get the chance to touch the falling priest on the statue of John of Nepomuk. Legend has it that touching the falling priest will bring cool luck and ensure your return to Prague, while touching the dog or the woman will bring bad luck. Considering all three figures where rubbed to a shiny gold, people either didn’t know the legend and touched all of them simply because everyone else did, or they really liked to test fate. I don’t like to say I believe in luck but my life has also presented too many instances of both for me to take any chances.