I woke up on the morning of my departure early. I wanted to make sure that I had plenty of time along the way to Prague to get lost, be confused, and make mistakes. The train journey was only four hours, but I had to catch the tram there, and then a metro and another tram on the other side too. I was really nervous that arriving in Prague would be just as frightening as arriving in Berlin had been.
Anders, true to himself, sent me on my way with a packed lunch fit for a queen. “It’s a long journey,” he asserted as he carefully placed a slice of blueberry cake first on a cardboard plate, wrapped it in baking paper, and then placed it carefully in a paper bag (all recycled and reused might I add).
When I arrived at the train station to catch my Eurostar I was suddenly so excited. I jumped up and down a little on the spot and grinned manically to myself. I’m doing this! I’m travelling! Interrailing here I come! “There’s a room over there if you’re cold ma’am.” The voice came from an American man waiting on the same platform as me.
“I’m OK, but thanks.” I smiled. He raised an eyebrow and nodded.
There was no official announcement when we crossed the border between Germany and Czechia, but I could tell by looking out at the landscape and architecture through the window.
In Germany everything was formalised, well thought out, there were sign posts everywhere and which way. Dead leaves were picked out of bushes (I actually watched Anders do this one morning as he complained that he was becoming too German), the S-Bahn was always on time (in my experience!), and the trains and buses themselves were clean. In Czechia, it was as though they’d slotted houses into the places that were available. Trees grew up alongside buildings. Forestry backed right onto houses. Although more built up than the rural areas the train had passed through, Prague exhibited this same charm. It was as if certain things had been ‘just left’.
I reached my hostel without a glitch. I had planned each bit out the night before as best I could, and much to my pride and joy, I had succeeded.
When getting off the train in Prague at Hlavní Nádraží I felt myself reaching for my phone to call Sion. I was nervous. But I stopped myself. You can do this. Just keep going.
I walked through the station trying to decipher the signs. I took some money out.
There is 30CK to £1. That means that when I withdrew £50, I withdrew approximately 1500CK. It felt like a huge amount of money. Getting my head around the conversion took a while.
In Czechia there are two types of normal travel tickets. One for journeys over 30mins, and another for journeys under 30mins. You can only buy tickets from machines, and you can only pay with coins.
Hlavní Nádraží is Prague’s main train station. This resulted in many tourists, including myself, all standing round staring at the yellow machines, in utter bewilderment.
I was confused, and I’d even texted Lili earlier that day to ask her to google the tickets for me so that I could be sure I was buying the right one.
After several moments of deliberation I bit the bullet and bought my ticket.
The platform was a series of signs pointing in different directions all with words I didn’t understand. I was supposed to be catching the Háje C. I looked for the correct sign. The corresponding arrow.
In Berlin, the S-Bahn was regular, on time, and efficient. There were always seats available. I’d gone from being scared and unsure of myself, to being confident at boarding and using the public transportation services there. Now I was faced with a new set of rules, and a new environment.
In Prague, every metro I saw pull up was jam-packed full of people. It was the same system, but the difference unnerved me.
I squashed myself in through the doors and tried to hold my position at the front in the hope that I would be able to get off faster and easier when my stop came around.
I got off at I. P. Pavola and boarded the number 22 Nádraží to Krymska. Two stops in and the bus was stopped. All the passengers were loaded off and onto the street while the police came on and stayed on board with one singular passenger and the driver.
I asked a passenger getting off how far Krymska was. “It’s literally just over that hill. It’s not far. Just walk in a straight line.”
I got off and started walking. Five minutes later and I was on Francouzska Street with my hostel, the Czech Inn, in view. I was overjoyed. I had done it! I had successfully and independently got myself from Berlin to Prague. I was a fucking success!
Having checked in (pun, pun, pun!) I wandered the streets outside in the last of the evening light.
I rang Mum.
“It’s like Doll’s House World Mumma. It’s beautiful. Everything is just so quaint. Even the smallest of buildings are beautiful.”
That evening I found a small bar up the road called PAX BAR. I bought myself a beer and sat and read my book. It was quiet, warm, peaceful, and I felt so utterly content.