Jan 03 2008

I heart the Czechs!

Published by at 9:08 pm under Prague

In addition to our legal concerns, our journey to Prague elicited another unexpected challenge. We’d commandeered a flight through RyanAir, a cheap intra-European airline. To keep flight costs low, they levy many nebulous “fees,” and enforce strict regulations, including a weight limit of 15 kilos on any checked bag. At last weigh in, our suitcases were 22 and 18 kilos. That meant, in order to avoid the exorbitant per-kilo overage fee, we had to shed ten kilos — or 22 pounds — of weight.

We attacked the challenge with fervor, as nothing motivates us more than the potential to save money (well, except for food, my greatest motivator). The problem required two steps:

  1. 1. Operation: Purge
    We unloaded the contents of our luggage onto the floor of our room and started throwing stuff away. Anything we hadn’t yet used was gone. I ditched a pair of holey jeans I’ve been clinging to (I have this problem where I can’t throw jeans away. It’s like I view them as old friends, or trusty sidekicks, that stick with me through thick and thin. It explains why I have 15 pairs in my closet, but only wear two). I won’t say that Ben has been carrying around a two-pound tub of facial moisturizer, but if he was, I would have convinced him to ditch that too.
  2. Operation: Reorg (you can thank Ben’s lessons in corporatespeak for that title)
    We looked at our remaining belongings: how can we fit all of this into our suitcase, carry-ons or on our person such that our suitcases weigh 15 kilos? It was like a puzzle! What followed involved much inaccurate weight guestimations and ridiculous suggestions: what if I wore all of my jewelry? Is that suspicious? Multiple belts? The low point was when I sat in front of my bag for 15 minutes stubbornly convinced there was a way I could conceivably wear two pairs of shoes.

In the end, our backpacks were nearly ripping at the seams and we were both wearing multiple pairs of paints and pretty much every shirt we own. We were so padded our arms stuck out from our bodies and I could barely bend my knees. As we stiffly approached the check-in desk, we knew we were still over weight, but had resigned ourselves to being OK with only paying for an extra three kilos.

We heaved our luggage onto the scale and watched with bated breath as the neon green number flashed on the screen. The moment of truth arrived: WE WERE ONLY ONE KILO OVER. Ben and I couldn’t help but cheer at the news, and now consider the accomplishment one of the greatest victories of our trip.

We received a few strange stares when we boarded the plane and started shedding layer after layer of clothing, and the stewardess was a bit confused as to why the seat next to us was piled high with shirts. It didn’t help that I accidentally hit the “call attendant” button while flinging sweaters over my head. Twice.

Our trip to Prague wasn’t as simple as a single plane ride. It was only after an eight-hour bus ride, another bus ride, a plane, a trolley, a train, a metro and a tram that we found ourselves at the door of our hostel in Prague.

Three things happened within the first few hours of my arrival in the Czech Republic that solidified my love for the country, forever. The first happened as we were waiting for the train from Brno to Prague. There, we picked up some gyros for the equivalent of 2 USD. Not only were they delicious, we were coming from a place where the driest, crummiest sandwich will run you 7 USD, minimum. Tastes like savings!

The second occurred when we were greeted by the friendliest hostel receptionist I have ever encountered and she immediately invited us to a Czech Christmas cookie baking workshop that evening. I was like, HELL YEAH. Then Ben was like, BUT I’M LE TIRED. Then I was like, GOOD MORE COOKIES FOR ME.

christmas cookie bakingDespite our exhaustion, I insisted that we stay awake for the treats. Apparently, Czech people take great pride in their Christmas cookie tradition. Families often bake up to 20 varieties, and all vie for who can bake the best tasting and prettiest cookie. A Czech girl who had spent some time in the States compared it to the competition that exists between the tacky Christmas lights homeowners. We spent our evening learning how to make two varieties of Czech cookies, eating the imperfect ones (and all the perfect ones reserved for Christmas Eve dinner that we could get our hands on), and licking the bowls, much to the horror of the Czechs, who insisted that no one does that except for little kids. So I didn’t tell them that sometimes I buy rolls of raw cookie dough with no intention of baking it.

After baking cookies, we wandered downstairs to the hostel’s pub to check out the scene. It was here that I discovered the final, and possibly most lasting, fact that will endear the Czech Republic to me for eternity: the beer is cheaper than water. Seriously. A bottle of water costs about one euro. The beer? about one U.S. dollar. ONE DOLLAR. And I’m not talking about a wimpy pint of beer; I’m talking about a giant, half-liter-sized mug of beer. I’m ALSO not talking about some sorry excuse for beer that actually tastes like pee. They offer quality pilsners, hefeweissens and dark brews for cheap. It was going to be a very merry Christmas indeed!

NEXT: Czech, Please! (don’t worry, more puns coming) »



6 responses so far

6 Responses to “I heart the Czechs!”

  1. Lindsayon 04 Jan 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Hi! Glad I caught you on the phone with ma, Britt! Mom’s fudge is coming out of my ears we have so much. Wish you were hear to indulge as well, but Czech cookies sound just as good and festive. Phil and I are going to Massanutten with a few friends this weekend. We leave tonight! I’m super excited! A free place to stay at a resort with an indoor waterpark, sauna, pool, tubing, snowboarding, warm fire place!! I’ll pray Phil is better on the slopes than Ben. But, that may not be very hard!! (sorry ben, xo)

    Love you miss you.

    P.S. I’ll send the videos when i get back. Promise.

  2. Leeon 04 Jan 2008 at 1:12 pm

    What hostel did you two stay at? Sounds like it’s worth keeping in mind for future trips to Prague.

  3. Benon 04 Jan 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Hey Lee! The hostel is called Sir Toby’s Hostel, and I would definitely recommend it. Super cheap ($10 US per person), free WIFI, a huge kitchen at your disposal, and they’re always planning or suggesting fun activities. I should probably charge them for the advertising, but here is their site: http://www.sirtobys.com

  4. Cousin Lisaon 08 Jan 2008 at 5:56 pm

    I’m glad Brittany has her priorities in order:
    1. Cheap Beer
    2. Cookies
    Even I’m sad about her holey jeans. It’s so hard to say goodbye…
    Try not to get deported.

  5. Giulioon 01 Oct 2011 at 6:22 am

    Guys I had a lot of fun reading this. I am Italian and lived several years in Czech. I love that country too! Your experiences reminded mine a lot. Czech is a wonderfull place and Czech people are ‘weirdly’ funny! They do things you wouldn’t expect -and don’t do things you would expect! They are sometimes ingenuous like kids and sometimes clever-er than a horny fox! I recommend everybody to visit Prague before the Euro arrives! It’s a great place and especially in Christmas (although it can be very cold..!! Sometimes minus 18 Centigrades).
    Be aware : nightlife in Prague is underground (I really mean it) as many pubs are per real underground. Avoid areas for tourists (mainly near Venceslav Square) and go in pubs were real Czechs go. Prague is completely safe (away from tourists areas) and nothing ever happened to us even wandering at 3 AM. Fully enjoy!

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