To get to Prague from Krakow, we decided to take an overnight train – hotel and transportation in one! Since we are cheap, but not that cheap, we elected to splurge on a 2-person sleeping compartment so at least we could get a little rest without worrying about our belongings (something that is apparently an issue on trains in this area).
And since we both enjoy an evening cocktail, we decided to buy a bottle of wine for the ride. The train departed Krakow at 10:15pm and was scheduled to arrive in Prague at 6:54am. Plenty of time for sleep, we thought! We had no idea what to expect from our sleeping compartment – the last time I slept on a train was in Vietnam and that was a mostly unpleasant experience so I had low expectations.
But we were pleasantly surprised to discover that our little cabin had two bunk beds each with soft pillows and duvet, a little closet and a small vanity with a sink. The bathroom was just next door in the hall. All in all, not bad. Not fancy, but comfortable and certainly very functional.
As the train departed the Krakow station, we popped the cork on the wine and settled in for the ride. I had an article to finish for a deadline the next morning and Shannon climbed up to the top bunk to do a little reading. After an hour or so, the wine was gone and we were both ready to turn in and get a little shut-eye.
Unfortunately, though the beds were comfortable enough, the train made multiple stops at brightly lit and noisy stations throughout the night and neither of us was able to get much sleep.
The air-conditioning wasn’t very good on the train so we had the top of the window cracked open to let in the cool air outside. A perfect solution (when we were moving at least), but it meant we had to leave the window shade up. So, every 30 minutes or so when we pulled into a new station, it was like someone shining a floodlight into our eyes. There was even one station where we stopped for almost 45 minutes.
Arrival in Prague
Somehow, we still arrived in Prague right on time a little before 7am but we were both exhausted. We found our hotel (the Sheraton Prague Charles Square) on foot after getting only a little lost – seems our navigational abilities are not enhanced by lack of sleep.
Since it was so early, the room wasn’t ready yet but they offered us the use of the spa’s shower facilities to freshen up and then access to the lounge for breakfast while we waited – good enough!
After hot showers and a hot breakfast, we had our new room and we were ready to take on Prague. This was Shannon’s last day so even though we were tired after our long train ride, we were determined to get out and see as much of Prague as we could in a day.
Since she had done extensive research on the city, I let Shannon navigate this time and it was nice to just follow and not have to lead for once. Our first stop was Prague’s Old Town square…beautiful, but a bit of a letdown after the incredible square in Krakow.
Next, we walked along the river to the famed Charles Bridge. It wasn’t quite what I expected but maybe that was because half of it was covered with construction scaffolding.
We crossed the crowded pedestrian bridge and began the steep hike up the hill to Prague Castle. Sidebar: I’m beginning to think the same guy created all these Eastern European cities – Old Town Square, river through the middle, pretty bridge across it, huge castle/fortress/church, etc on top of massive hill overlooking the rest of the city, cobblestone streets. It all equals a LOT of walking…and I have to say I am really tiring of cobblestone streets.
The weather in Prague today was sunny and beautiful but also quite hot. So, we did the obvious thing and got cold beers for the walk. Prague is, after all, known for its beer and we didn’t want to miss out on anything.
The cold beer was a big help and fueled our climb to the top of the hill. We were rewarded with magnificent views over the red-tiled rooftops of Prague. Simply fantastic and well worth the extra exertion.
Later we did a little souvenir shopping since this was Shannon’s last stop and then headed back to the Sheraton to clean up for dinner and visit the lounge for free wine and food before heading out for the night.
We had dinner on the square and enjoyed our last night of people-watching before attempting to find a fun bar or club to end the evening. We did find one but it was filled with drunk 18 year-olds so we decided to pass.
Next door to it, however, was a restaurant right on the water with a stunning nighttime view of the Charles Bridge and the castle aglow with lights. We sat there for a while enjoying the view and had one last glass of wine before heading back to the hotel.
Sunday morning it was, sadly, time for Shannon to head home and go back to the real world. She had an early flight out so I got up to say goodbye before crashing back to sleep after she left for the airport. I spent Sunday catching up on my rest and some work and doing a little souvenir shopping. That night I went back to the spot along the river we found at the end of the night before to watch the sun set behind Prague Castle. It was a picture-perfect sunset and a great way to end this leg of the trip.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank both Dena and Shannon for joining me on the first 2 ½ weeks of this trip. They were both excellent travel buddies and are welcome to come along on my trips anytime. Thanks, girls!
Now begins the final leg of my trip, Scandinavia, which I will conquer on my own in typical Jenny-fashion.
Next stop, Helsinki…