Fall Break | Prague

Now let me end with the beginning, though to be quite honest, the details of the start of fall break have already grown hazy in my memory. We left Rome on a Thursday night, catching a night train to Prague in the Czech Republic. With heavy packs weighing us down, we boarded the train to find other passengers in our seats. They refused to leave and it seemed as if our journey was off to a rocky start. Unsure of what to do, Melissa and I stood debating, as the minutes till departure quickly ticked past. A boy approached us, “Excuse me,” he addressed me in English, (he was an American student as well) “But my friends have two couchette tickets that they aren’t using. Would you like them?”

M and I were shocked.

Seats in a sleeping car for free? We had planned to sit up all night, but suddenly a new possibility warmly thwacked us in the face. Thanking the boy profusely, we ran down to the length of the track and hopped in our new car, moments before the whistle blew and the train began to move.

I remember the train ride vaguely…we shared our compartment with four other American students studying in Rome who were on their way to Munich for their fall break. And when the night was nolonger young we enfolded the bed-like couchettes and slept through northern Italy and Austria. I recall waking up to the heavy sound of pounding on our door as the Austrian police routinely checked passengers passports. As I handed him my documents I caught a climpse of snow covered hills and mountains rising and falling as the train shot through the countryside and around the Alps. I rolled back onto my bunk with a contented sigh and let the motion of the train soothingly rock me back to sleep.

We arrived in Prague on Friday afternoon and. I recall following the directions from the train station to the metro stop and from the metro down the street to our hostel door. It was late afternoon and we walked along the Vltava quietly. I remember staring at the red geranium filled window boxes having an instant love affair with the serene grey beauty of Prague.

We visited Prague castle, saw a dozen churches or so, ate several picnics, ventured into the old town square and watched the famous astronomical clock strike the hour. We toured the oldest synagogue in estern Europe as well as the chapel where John Huss lived and preached before he was martyred. We ate heavy meat and potato meals inside smoky pubs and loved every moment of it. We bought artwork on the St. Charles Bridge and found an English bookstore tucked in the alley of the castle grounds.

Someone once said that “Prague is the Paris of the '90s,” and though it is no longer the nineties, I cannot help but nod my head to such a declaration. I have never been to Paris, but I have now been to Prague. There is quietness, a ancient dream like quality where somehow modernity and history can coincide in a beautiful unrushed existence. It was hands down our favourite place we visited on the trip.


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