Image: Flickr / Roman Boed

LitSoc go to Prague: culture, kilts and coaches

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here are several ways of getting to Prague from our small, midlands campus on a Saturday night: plane, train, luxury private jet. We opted for the for the 22-hour coach ride.

Five countries and too many hours later, we piled out of the bus and into our beautiful hostel in New Town, amidst countless absinthe-filled corner shops and strange, unexplained mushroom sculptures. Undeterred by the exhausting journey, which comprised mostly of sleeping, eating crisps, and loud Disney singalongs, we still managed to haul ourselves out for some 1am sightseeing to the historic Charles Bridge.

One excitement-induced, and completely unnecessary sprint across said bridge later, we faced the choice between the only two places open on a Sunday night: underground Legend bar, and McDonalds. After some discussion, we decided to brave it and headed straight for the alcohol. What followed involved multiple selfie-taking, outsized (and definitely underpriced) beers and ciders, trying (and failing) to pronounce some basic Czech vocabulary, and some very strange looks from the regulars.

The next day, we finally proved once and for all that an English degree is actually useful: courtesy of Poetry Week, the Cafe Louvre made our first morning by exchanging coffee for poems. We then undermined this throughout the rest of the trip through our mathematical ineptitude when it came to splitting any bill, leaving more than one waitress slightly less than impressed.

The next day, we finally proved for once and for all that an English degree is actually useful: courtesy of Poetry Week, the Cafe Louvre made our first morning by exchanging coffee for poems.

Nevertheless, revived and eager to go, we headed off to the Old Square where we signed up for a Walking Tour, led by our love-interest for the following few hours, Alex. When we weren’t being distracted by our tour guide, we discovered that there are two names you have to know when in Prague: Jan Hus, father of the region’s anti-Catholic Hussite rebellion — which sparked the first of the city’s (disturbingly) many defenestrations — and Charles IV, after which approximately half of Prague’s landmarks appear to be named after.

Our first night, we ambitiously signed up to one of Prague’s popular bar crawls, which began with an hour of unlimited, free absinthe shots and vodka, and ended in a five-story club whose playlist reminded us nostalgically of Disco Dave… Inspired by the alcohol, we decided to make friends with our fellow-pub crawlers, only to discover that, having just left the Bubble, everyone seemed to be from Warwick. Yes, Warwick Athletics were there too. They took a plane. We estimate that there were five people on that pub crawl who were not from Warwick. They looked confused.

We soon discovered athletes weren’t the only ones who followed us to Prague. It gradually dawned on us that there were an extremely disproportionate number of men in kilts, for Eastern Europe. Predictably, the explanation was football. While the local Czech people seemed apprehensive of this unusually-clothed invasion, on the bright side, we discovered that Prague at night really is very beautiful, even when running away from drunken Scotsmen.

In the morning, after recovering from our hangovers with a healthy dose of bacon, we continued our wanderings. Wandering soon became eating, and with traditional Czech offerings such as literally knee-sized portions of pork, there was little time for calorie-counting. Even less once we discovered the Trdlnik, a churro-like cylindrical pastry filled with ice-cream or chocolate, which lived up to its Buzzfeed fame. Everything was cheap, delicious and utterly unpronounceable.

Everything was cheap, delicious and utterly unpronounceable.

Food aside, from our explorations we discovered the ever-present history of Prague; from the baroque, French-style restaurants, the ancient Jewish Quarter, the millennia-old castle and cobbled streets to the former KGB building, now, ironically, a McDonalds. Some of this history proved to be disturbingly present however. After visiting the Holocaust memorial exhibit in the Pinkas synagogue, which featured an exhibition of children’s drawings from the camps, we realised this coexisted with a darker side of Prague as we passed a shop with its windows smashed-in, with a swastika and the word “Jew” painted on the side, 1930s-style.

After visiting the Holocaust memorial exhibit in the Pinkas synagogue, which featured an exhibition of children’s drawings from the camps, we realised this coexisted with a darker side of Prague

This shocking event highlights an easy to forget reality – that Prague is a city where hen nights can coexist with past suffering and discrimination.

Nevertheless, it’s a trip that we got so much out of, and as we waited on the hostel steps for another 22 hour trek home, we were already feeling nostalgic for cobbled streets and drunken Scotsmen. And anyway, what better way to forget about revision?

 

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