It’s got to the point now where I can count the number of days I have left in Salzburg on my fingers. It’s strange to think that very soon I’ll be leaving the city I now consider my home, and you could argue that all the activity and travelling I’m doing this month is a sort of preparation for ultimately not living here any more.
After our Scandanvian adventure, it was back to reality on Friday, with the search for Munich accommodation back on. Other than a trip to the gym, this dominated my day. Saturday was Toni’s last full day in Salzburg, and she had acquired free tickets to Salzburg Zoo, in the grounds of Schloss Hellbrunn, so her, Adele and I took a trip there. The zoo itself was fairly disappointed, and resembled more of a farmyard at times, but it was a beautifully sunny day, and we spent a while just sat in the grounds, reflecting on our time together in the warm sunlight. On heading back into the city, we grabbed some lunch to go and wandered around for a while, before going our separate ways for a bit. Later that evening, we all met at Toni’s for her final night, and watched movies together before falling asleep. The next morning, we waved her an emotional goodbye, but knew that we’d be seeing her in a week’s time when we hoped to meet up in Prague. That evening, I went for my first long run of the year – now that the snow had melted – and was more than a little pissed off when I returned to find my laptop had ceased to function. Monday therefore became a day of chasing around the city after a repair shop, whilst taking advantage of Adele to search for accommodation in Munich, before I decided I’d had enough and went to the gym.
Tuesday was a day of admin, and Adele and I spent the morning wandering around the city on various errands. I also got the news that my laptop was fixed, so picked it up before heading to the gym again. On Wednesday, the hunt for a room in Munich finally concluded as I secured what might be the smallest room in Europe. Nonetheless, just knowing I have a roof over my head was a relief, and I went for a celebratory gym session (I might have a problem…..).
On Thursday, after a morning of life admin, Adele and I took the train from Salzburg to Regensburg through beautiful Bavarian countryside. With only a slight hiccup (we accidentally changed onto a train headed back into Munich), we arrived at Katie’s place and headed into the city centre to grab some dinner. That night, we crammed into Katie’s cute but tiny apartment, and I experienced the luxury of sleeping on a cold, laminate floor. Needless to say, I woke up the next day not feeling 100%. Nonetheless, whilst Katie did a morning at work, Adele and I wandered around Regensburg. It’s an understated, pretty city, with a maze of narrow cobbled streets, and was all but deserted. At lunch time, we headed to the supermarket to pick up some supplies, then met Katie at the bus stop to catch the bus towards Prague. The journey itself went surprisingly quickly, and after a few hours, I woke up to Prague at night. From the bus station, we walked towards our hostel for the weekend, a hipster, indie affair, and pleasantly comfortable. Then, we met up with Jan who gave us a night time tour of his home city. We took the tram towards Prague Castle, and walked through the empty albeit illuminated castle grounds, taking in the architecture. On the edge of the castle grounds, we had an incredible view of the city, including the golden-roofed National Theatre and the Eiffel Tower replica perched on the adjacent hillside. From here, we walked through the Golden Lane and Mala Strana areas of the city – think colourful houses, cobbled streets, hills and far fewer tourists than in the city centre itself across the river – down to the iconic Charles Bridge. Jan took us to his favourite watering hole just under the bridge, and we drank a few (unbelievably cheap) beers and ate some traditional food (fairly similar to Austria, but somehow with even fewer vegetables). By this point, it was 11pm, and we took a late stroll across the bridge, now almost entirely free from tourists. It offered a beautiful view of the castle, the city and it’s many spires from all angles. From here, we walked through the old town itself towards the Old Town Square, the centre of the city and the main tourist hotspot. At midnight however, it felt more like a gathering of locals than of tourists, and we were able to gaze up at the St Nicholas Church and the old city hall unimpeded by selfie sticks and camera flashes. Having already seen a lot of the city, we decided to head back to the hostel, ready for a full day of sightseeing on Saturday.
The next morning, we woke up (relatively) early, and had a quick breakfast at the hostel before heading out into the city. We headed first into the old town again, and walked around the pretty streets for a while, peeking into a chocolate museum, a few art galleries and various Czech shops before reaching the Old Town Square which now, in daylight, was chocablock with tourists. Nonetheless, it was still beautiful and the sun illuminated the colourful buildings in a magical way. On the side of the Old Town Hall we saw the astronomical clock, the oldest still operating in the world. We then wandered towards the Jewish Quarter of the city and gawped at some spectacular architecture and synagogues, before I got the call that Toni had arrived in Prague. It had only been a week, but seeing her again it felt like it had been so much longer! With no time to lose, we took the tram together to the Kafka museum, and who should I see there, but Lucy!! I’d heard just a few days ago that she would be in Prague with her job at the same time as me, so after months of trying, we finally met up! After the silence of the museum (which was very well put together and super interesting), we walked around the city, taking photos and catching up, before grabbing a burrito lunch and a coffee in the old town. Here, I had to leave Lucy for a while as she had to get back to work, but we arranged to meet up later that evening. The rest of us spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering around some more, through Little Italy and eventually to the John Lennon wall. It was a shame to see what was once a very spontaneous piece of art be so overwhelmed with tourists taking selfies, but at the same time, I appreciate that it’s an evolving, on going piece of art. The John Lennon association is fairly negligible at this point, it’s become more an installation reflecting the current zeitgeist.
By now, the time had come to try a Trdelnik, a traditional, hollow Czech pastry filled with chocolate or vanilla. We salivated over these at a small riverside cafe, watching the sun set, before having one last wander through the city, then catching the tram back to the hostel for a nap, and to get ready for that night. It’s no secret that Prague is the party capital of Europe and, as much as that really isn’t my kind of scene, I’d have felt like I’d missed out if I didn’t at least sample it so, after a few beers at the hostel, we headed first to a pub, and then onward to the club where I’d arranged to meet up with Lucy earlier. The music here was really not my thing, and once Lucy left at 3am, I was more than ready to leave as well, but thought I should stay for the sake of my friends. Not too much later, Katie expressed her sentiments toward going back to the hostel, so we left the others to do what they would with the remainder of the night.
With only a few hours sleep under our belts, we woke up at 9am on Sunday to check out of the hostel and caught up with the details of the night before over a very strong coffee (the highlight of which was undoubtedly Adele somehow finding herself at the Norwegian embassy at 6.30am….). The sun cast a magnificent light over the city, so we decided to head to the castle once more, via a few more parks and churches. Here, we took in this magnificent fortress in the daylight, and went to the viewing point to point out everywhere we’d been that weekend. Then, we walked through the Mala Strana area again, and had lunch at a cute, hidden creperie not far from the river. By now, we were running low on yet another ridiculous currency, but still had just enough for one last Trdelnik in the sun-drenched old town. After one final stroll along the Charles bridge, it was time to head back to the hostel to pick up our things and go our separate ways. Katie left first on the train towards Regensburg, Toni took the bus back to Dresden and Adele and I booked a last minute bus directly to Salzburg. We got back to Austria at 1.30am, and I’m not sure if I’ve ever been as tired as I was then – it was so intense I fell asleep immediately. I’d do it all again, however, and more. Seeing friends from all different circles in the same city was so weird, but lovely, and I’m glad we took this spontaneous trip to a city I’d never really considered visiting previously, but I’m so happy I did.
If I had to describe Prague in one phrase, it would be “overwhelmingly ornate”; take that as you will. It is a truly magnificent city; everywhere you look there’s another impressive building, and it would take a week to experience all that it has to offer. It is a city of many personalities – sometimes cultural, sometimes historical, arty, drunken, foodie – and I look forward to going again sometime soon – there’s still so much I want to see!