DAY 30: First Day in Prague
8am. Time to vacate Berlin. Left from the Alexanderplatz train station directly to Berlin central. Booked a ticket one-way to Prague in the Czech Republic. 4.5 hour direct ride from Berlin. Easy. The trained pulled up and I opted for one of the cars that only a few people were piling into. There didn’t appear to be too many people clamoring to visit Prague if my car was any indication. That changed quickly...
“Ticket, please,” the attendant said. I obliged her and upon handing my ticket back, she said:
“You’re in the wrong car. This is first class.” That made sense. It did cross my mind how unusually spacious this train was for second class. Gathered my belongings and followed behind two young women in the same situation I was. The girl leading the way carried an overstuffed rolling bag so that doubled the length of time it took us to transition. We traveled through car after car, the first couple becoming more luxurious. Then, the corners became narrower. After that, families of people crammed into the ends of cars began appearing.
And then we knew we were in second class the moment we arrived. Tight hallways with compartments on the right side containing six reserved seats inside; Each one fully booked. People lying on the floor, using their luggage as pillows. Others sat on fold out chairs attached to the wall. It was hot. There was hardly room to squeeze past other passengers so I made camp not far from where my two female leaders had their reservations booked.
Threw my headphones on. Stood at the window. Watched the view outside. I didn’t mind this. Preferred it, I think. More of an experience than sitting alone in a luxurious first-class car. The view outside consisted of small towns and open fields. Felt different than anything I’d seen in Berlin. I preoccupied myself with reading Jules Verne’s '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' or Stephen King’s 'On Writing'.
We arrived at Praha hlavni nadrazi around 3:30. Couldn’t have been more different than Germany. I stopped at the ATM to withdrawal some funds. It was interesting wrapping my head around Prague’s currency, the Crown. The exchange rate was 25 crowns for every 1 Euro. In other words, if you extracted about 40 Euros (which is 44 US dollars), you’d walk away with a single 1000 Crown bill. That was surreal to see for the first time. Interesting to wrap my head around.
I navigated the streets on the map before leaving the station. Purchased a single one-way bus ticket; Should’ve purchased a 24-hour one. I took the tram for a time until reaching the stop I suspected I should disembark at. This city felt stuck in a specific place and time. Graffiti on many of the apartment buildings and shops. Cracked painted walls. Fading color. It wasn’t difficult to find my new “home”. Once I settled in, I headed over to the mini-market around the corner. Everything I could possibly need was within a short walking distance. Only a 40-minute tram ride into downtown. The owners at the mini-market were very kind and helpful but they didn’t speak any english. Needed to study the language. Now the language barrier really comes into play.