I'm in an internet cafe, on possibly the most un-ergonomic computer set-up in the world, so this will have to be a short update. Typing with my wrists at nearly the level of my shoulders is not great for my OOS, but, on the bright side, at least my feet are enjoying a rare moment of non-activity.
Prague has been non-stop activity because there is so much to see and everything is unbelievably picturesque. As the Programmer keeps pointing out, it's a photographers (wet) dream. I had to stop myself saying 'wow' every time something amazing came into my view because I was beginning to sound like a repetitively squeezed squeaky toy. There are the usual old european city problems - the Metro smells of pee and the cobbled streets and sidewalks are hell on the trolley bags (I feared I may lose a wheel), but the hostel - Arnosta, which appears to be a university hall of residence - is very central. Not that this has prevented us getting repeatedly lost. Old Prague is a mediaeval labyrinth. It reminds me of the middle of York, where I stayed for four months and still had to consult a map to find the health shop that I went to nearly every day. I wouldn't call the Czechs the most upbeat people on earth but you do get service with a smile, except minus the smile. It's probably just that 'god, another tourist with large denomination notes' effect though, because I sat next to a Prague girl on the plane and she was awesome, reminding me several times that Prague is full of crime and it's not like NZ where you can turn your gaze away from your bag for more than a second.
The language is nuts. This is the first time I've gone anywhere that I did not speak at least a little of the language and it's really disorientating. I can recognise a few written words now but have no idea how to say them because the pronounciation is not as in English. Luckily, pinting, miming and using a random selection of German or Italian words works well.... except for that grumpy guy at the market that just grunted and turned his back on me when he realised I was a dirty foreigner. I made him sell me some berries though, just to show that I'm not scared of grumpy old Czech men. It's far cry from my first trip, when I was petrified of asserting myself in the face of the unknown. Now I'm just another pushy traveller that wants the correct mix of berries and orders salad without tomatoes.
The food is a let down after the delights of Seoul, where everything was amazing and the locals could all be a walking advertisement for health and wellbeing. So far I've managed to more or less avoid falling into a pile of refined carbs.. apart from this morning, when breakfast was a delicious croissant filled with some sweet almond stuff that causes happiness. I've also limited myself to one espresso a day. No point in re-igniting my caffeine addiction. I have also found the organic shop and this made me happy. It is a practical replica of Piko Wholefoods in Christchurch, complete with tranquil yoga-chick behind the counter.
Yesterday we saw the 'castle', which is the strangest castle ever, recently restored from near ruin. It's more like a small town - collection of buildings, rather than one edifice. The biggest surprise was the loo, which is all made of black perspex and looks like it belongs in a nightclub. We visited the Lobkowicz collection, which is the personal collection of the Lobkowicz dynasty, which lost all their land, castles and art twice - once to the Nazi's and once to communism, and managed to get most of it back in the early '90's. The collection contains astonishing artifacts, including original manuscripts from Mozart and Beethoven, in their own hand. After that, we hauled our arses up the Astronomical tower to take in Prague from above, then wandered off to visit the chocolate museum and watch the creation of yummy pralines. Then we re-plastered our feet with blister packs and wandered around old Prague for the rest of the evening.
Today we have seen the museum, which boasts a enormous Moa from Novy Zealand as the highlight of its birds collection and next we are off to check out the Jewish sector. Tomorrow, Vienna, where I plan to visit Freuds lab and chase Mozart around the city. Lucky him.
PS: Longer post that expected as it has started to bucket down outside ... even though it's still about 25 degrees C.