It sounds a bit spoiled to contemplate expressing my sadness at leaving Paris with Prague on the horizon, however, as we left the tiny room at The Five Hotel that had become our headquarters for the 4 nights we stayed I was definitely in mourning. The only consolation was that we were headed for, what someone told me, was the most beautiful city in Europe. I found this difficult to believe as I sulked on the RER back to Charles de Gaulle airport. For my sake only, I whispered to her that I would be back and set out to find Terminal 3 to begin the next leg.
Security for travel within Europe is highly uneventful, it reminded us of the lines at the tiny Kamloops airport and we settled in to wait for the flight as we had arrived much too early in anticipation of a more difficult tribulation. For the most part the flight was quite ordinary with the exception that the tall folks may want to be more discerning about their carriers, as Cameron’s knees were jammed into the seat in front of him. But we made it to Prague in one piece and for only a fraction what we would have going the same distance in Canada. It was dark and overcast as we touched down so it was impossible to get a glimpse of the city. My first impression of the Czech Republic was, ‘holy shit, we’re not in Paris anymore.’ In other countries I’ve visited, I’ve known bits and pieces of French and Spanish. Here, it’s a whole new level of humility and as we walked through the airport trying to decipher signs I started feeling very small and insignificant. Not that I have an air of self-importance about me but I think I put a lot of stock in the simple things, like articulating myself appropriately. The great thing about international airports is that they do tend to direct people in various languages, English included and we were able to make our way to the car rental place. Yes, without a clue as to how to read or write the language or as to what any of the signs mean, Cameron was about to shoulder the task of getting us around the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany.
As we pulled out of the parking garage he merged smoothly into traffic and hit the highway. Google maps does a great job of navigating so it wasn’t long before we wound our way into the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen in Europe. It was difficult to take it in at that point as I was charged with interpreting directions being read aloud by my phone. Besides the narrow passageways and the alarming snake-like train/tram things creeping alongside the car, it didn’t seem long before we were pulling the car into a parking stall, albeit a ways down the street from the hotel as it was situated in a walking-only corridor in Old Town. We had made it on our own and there is truly something to be said about that!
We found the hotel to be, literally, a hole in the wall of the alley and hiked the many stairs up to reception to check in. The fellow was kind and thankfully spoke English very well. I asked how old the building was and I think he said 14th century. It reminded me of the inn that the hobbits stayed in their first night into the trip, old and rustic but cozy and safe. However, there were no Nazgul on our trail so that was a definite bonus. In spite of the biting cold, ok, so it was maybe 2 degrees C, and after dark, we wandered out of our hotel only to stop dead in our tracks at the sight of the archway for the bustling Charles footbridge. We meandered closer, noting the beauty of the thing lit up against the black backdrop a square opened unveiling many more buildings on which to feast our eyes.
Another moment of sheer delight and spectacle ensued as the Prague Castle came into view beyond this now small-seeming specimen of gothic architecture. I have only ever seen pictures of fairy tale castles, yet lit up in all its resplendent glory across the Vltava river was the most amazing building I have laid my eyes upon. To this point, I know I have already said that, but this time I mean it more. We walked many more Old Town streets, shared a delicious Czech dessert called Trdelnik filled with ice cream and brownies and retired to our room sated and appreciative.
It was a magical and beautiful first evening in Prague, soothing my heart and soul as the pain of leaving Paris faded and a new bond was formed with this spectacular city.