My train ride to Prague was enjoyable. I had the company of two Danish girls, Ida and Cecilie. As we moved south from Berlin to Prague the scenery became more and more beautiful. At one point the rail ran through a wide valley, paralleling the high rocky cliffs on the opposite side of an adjacent lake. The towns here are quaint and idyllic, and I was glad to be coming into such beautiful countryside. Finally, we arrived in Prague and parted ways, they to a hostel and I to my couch surfing host’s flat. Petra was also hosting a French Canadian named Melanie, and that evening the three of us feasted on beer and roasted pork at a nearby beer garden, all for just a few dollars. I soon came to learn that beer here is cheaper than bottled water, and while the food in the city center is more expensive than in the smaller towns, it’s still very affordable.
The next day, our first full day of exploration, Melanie and I toured all over the city together. In the morning we sat in a park and feasted on freshly baked pastries. We took a free guided tour throughout the city, and afterward had a traditional gulash with dumplings for lunch, with a Pilsner (brewed in the Czech Republic city of Plzeň) to wash it all down. We then made our pilgrimage to Prague Castle on the top of the hill, crossing the legendary Charles Bridge with its 30 statues of saints lining both sides. The cathedral in the castle is magnificent, and the views from the hilltop look out over the entire city. Up at the castle we met a couple from the States. All four of us were searching for the monastic brewery said to be up here near the castle, and in time we found it – and enjoyed it. We all settled in for some beer tasting. I was hoping to behold some monks in brown robes stirring vats of wort and adding hops to their brew, but alas, we were presented with modern equipment and non-monkish servers. Abbot Kaspar Questenberg constructed the brewery in 1628, and the beer is just as good today as I’m sure it was all those years ago.
In the evening Melanie had other plans, so I joined Petra at a beer garden for some kielbasa and beer. Early the next morning I was off to the city center again, and decided to explore the castle grounds one more time. The castle hill is such a beautiful place in the fresh morning air! I wandered for several hours, enjoyed more pastries while overlooking the statue of King Wenceslas, paid a visit to “Piss” featuring nameless statues peeing in a pool shaped like the Czech Republic, and finally caught a train to a little town called Votice, where I was to work on a farm for a while.