Thursday, 3 October 2013

Europa Day 3: Prague - A Walk to Remember

Zooming by the Vltava this afternoon.

Post a core strengthening class at the gym I discovered close to the hotel, I decided to check out the antiquarian bookshop I'd spotted earlier. 

You will NEVER guess the content of a book I saw there. 

Uncanny. Very Uncanny.

What are the odds that I'd find a book on Kuwait in a second hand bookstore in Prague?! Of all places.. I've never even seen this one in Kuwait.
Having made a decision in the morning not to get carried away while shopping, I'd left with just about 500 crowns. 200 went to the gym. Of course I couldn't leave a bookstore empty-handed...

My loot.

With just 50 crowns jingling in my pocket, I debated whether to go back to the room, pick up some more cash and have a meal or risk going out into the unknown in search of adventure, somehow making the money count. 

I'd been cozying up in my comfort zone for far too long. I picked the latter. And then I saw this:

Great advice :)

But what does one eat besides junk with just 50 crowns (about 750 Kuwaiti fils)? The answer lay into two ginormous peaches and a large bottle of mineral water (neperlivá!) bought at a fruit vendor's. Fruit is unbelievably cheap here; I even had some change left over. I set off, munching my juicy peach.

The roads all seemed to be going uphill into a residential area. My legs didn't bother me at all. What might have been an arduous task a few months ago is now just a walk in the park. Guess all the running has paid off! 

Twilight set in and I gleefully stomped the leaves that had been cast aside by the boughs above. It was a lovely area to live in, except for the cars that kept whizzing by. It wasn't even cold. Here's the funny thing about Prague. It isn't as chilly after the sun sets. The wind dies down. It's odd, but I'm not complaining.

I came across a park that seemed to be laid out upon a hill. I climbed up the track, a little nervous now that it was dusk. Since I was a child, the mother would stop me from walking from under the branches of a tree around maghrib (evening prayer) time, warning me that the djinn residing amongst its trunk would possess me. After I read a story by Ruskin Bond in which one of the characteristics of a djinn was that it liked long black hair falling loosely over a girl's shoulders, I started taking this a little more seriously. Call it superstition or whatever you will, but I took extra precautionary measures by putting my hood up, running whenever the track had branches overhead, and praying the ayat from the Quran that wards off evil. No djinn was gonna take over my mind, no siree. 

I left the park, continuing my ambulation and taking turns that led uphill, thinking I'd get a great view of the city from the top. But it never came. As soon as my feet reached the 'top', the paths just went downhill or straight past more houses. There was no view to speak of, just picturesque homes. Unless I trespassed into a private garden and climbed up to a rooftop, I wasn't gonna get a view.

So I took another path that led downhill in the direction of whence I came (or so I thought) to go back to the hotel. Trouble was it didn't lead anywhere to familiar territory. I was well and truly lost, with no 3G—and therefore no Google Maps—and not a soul in sight. Another funny thing about this city? The residents all vanish soon after sunset, as though there are vicious vampires on the loose or some such fantastical creature that has the place terrorized. Even the cars had stopped whizzing by. I like silence as much as the next person, but it wasn't very comforting then. Think more on the lines of unnerving.

A different path went past ramshackle houses and a howling dog. Wary now, I ventured on into uncharted land, hoping to get out of what gave King Minos's labyrinth a run for its money. I walked for about a kilometer and sighed.

The path went uphill again. 

I walked on, finally catching a glimpse of the city from between two houses. No sooner did I have my iPhone positioned and ready to click, a dog started barking furiously from behind the gate, giving me a minor heart attack. View be damned. I fled. It wasn't that great a shot anyway. I walked in the middle of the road keeping well and truly away from the gates, lest I disturbed any more overprotective hounds.

When I reached this point (pic below) I got slightly desperate. Where the hell was I going and would I ever find my way back to the hotel?

Kolonial Charlie. Like Charlie Chaplin.
I've no idea what this is.

And then, hallejulah! I saw a middle aged lady walking in my direction. I darted towards her keeping her well in sight, half afraid she was an apparition that would disappear. I asked her where the mall in the area I was residing in was. She didn't speak English. Another apparition appeared, a man in his early thirties perhaps. He didn't speak English either. I thought of walking back, but then one of them mentioned 'tram' (thankfully most terms of transportation are the same in Czech) and I asked where the stop was (I had a valid day pass). The man asked me to follow him and I thought well, what's the worst that could happen?

Don't answer that.

He led me to an eerie looking flight of stairs going down and instructed to follow the route to the tram stop. I skipped down them, calling upon God to protect me again.

From the top..

..and from the bottom.

It was freaking creepy.

Finally, I was back in civilization. There was a drunk old hobo at the tram stop who started calling out in Czech as soon as he saw me. Suspecting he was passing racist slurs and afraid again, I paid him no attention and hurried on. I passed a restaurant and debated going in. "You stupid fool," I said kicking myself, "you only have 10 crowns!!" I had to cross the road to get to the tram stop. Trouble was the hobo was there too. And he was still going on.. Thinking I'd be safe around the two women that were waiting there, I crossed the road. If he was being racist I wasn't offended as much as I was scared. I didn't give a damn about what a sloshed vagrant was saying, having seen a lot worse in the desert from Arabs and my own countrymen (Indians.. most racist people in the world!). I couldn't understand it anyway. Thankfully, the tram came a minute later and I drowned the unpleasantness by listening to the Man of Steel OST.

There were a couple of street musicians on the way to the hotel. I love the street performers in Europe. Dropped the rest of the miserable amount of change I had for them.

I entered my room a few minutes later with my mind well and truly under my own control, unpossessed by the supernatural, and unhurt.

Lesson learnt: Stay off the streets of creepy residential areas after dusk when alone.


  1. better books is hoping you BOUGHT THE BOOK

  2. You walked along Na Plani in Smichov, Praha. The building you saw was a pub:,_Na_pláni,_koloniál_Charlie.jpg

    You were perfectly safe - there's almost no street crime in Prague. I would however advise taking a map (they're free from most tourist info places) since off the beaten tourist track (which this most certainly is) it's less usual to find people who can speak English.


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