Paranoid in Prague


prague in the rain

The pungent smell of ammonia filled my nostrils as I scanned the contents of the darkened room. Graffiti scrawled on a disused notice board; shattered wood from mutilated chairs scattered across the floor; broken vending machines casting a flickering light across the walls.

What am I doing here?

What is this place?

I wandered towards the noticeboard, pondering the faded scraps of paper left over from the previous semester. It was strange to be back in a university and I couldn’t shake the feeling of unease as I quietly observed the walls around me.

“Can I help you?”

The voice broke my chain of thoughts, echoing around the room as I swung in the direction of the sound.

The silhouette of a receptionist behind bulletproof glass.

“Oh… erm… yes,” I stammered, my heart racing in my chest. “Erm… I have a reservation? I think?” I exchanged nervous glances with Dave, knowing exactly what he was thinking.

Why on earth did I book this? Why did I think this would be a good place to stay?

After being informed that the owner had already taken the full payment for our three night stay from my bank account before we had even arrived, we had no choice but to stay. I reluctantly handed over my passport, receiving our keys in exchange.

“Is there a password for the wifi?” I asked, desperate to get online and find out what had possessed me to book this hostel.

“We have no wifi here. The wifi, it is only for students.”

My jaw dropped in horror.

As Dave and I paced back and forth in our tiny, tiny room later that evening, I tried to work out what had happened.

“I would have NEVER booked a room without wifi. Never. I wouldn’t have booked somewhere without checking the reviews either. I thought this place was nice, I’m sure it sounded nice. I, I don’t know what happened… I just, I don’t remember… But maybe this could be a good thing? Maybe it means we’ll spend as much time as possible exploring Prague just to stay away from our hostel? Maybe it will stop us spending every single night on our laptops…?”

We were starting to feel slightly more positive about our time in Prague and awoke the next morning, eager to start exploring a new city…

raining in prague

And then this happened.

Rain.

So. Much. Rain.

It started within five minutes of leaving our hostel and continued to thud against our heads as we miserably walked the forty minute walk to the centre of Prague’s Old Town. I turned to Dave.

“Prague sucks.”

I cast my mind back to the previous month in Vienna. Dave and I were heading to the airport – I was leaving to fly to Morocco; Dave to the US. It was raining hard. We’d recently left Southeast Asia, so my excitement for travelling around Europe was fading fast. Eager to escape the rain, we’d jumped on the closest tram we saw and as it jolted forwards, I’d turned around just in time to see Dave’s umbrella lying forlornly on the ground in a puddle of water. We no longer had shelter from the storm.

I’d insisted Dave didn’t need to replace it – umbrellas take up far too much room and, well, the next time we’ll be in Europe it’ll be July! Summer! It definitely wouldn’t rain in summer.

He’d listened to me.

He thought I knew what I was talking about.

He’d trusted me and I had let him down.

And so we stood, soaked and shivering, under the awning of a roadside bar, debating what to do next. At this point, there was nothing more appealing than a long, hot shower, but the thought of going back to the hostel was enough to keep both of us outside exploring.

Note to self: book a centrally-located hostel next time.

prague in the rain

We trudged around the Old Town for several hours in the pouring rain. Unsurprisingly, the majority of our conversations revolved around how much we thought we’d like Prague if it were hot and sunny. It was beautiful, but with the torrential downpour we were experiencing I could barely even bring myself to raise my eyes to look at the buildings.

After our few hours of sightseeing, I finally gave in. I couldn’t do this anymore. I was freezing cold, soaked to the bone and all I wanted to do was jump in the filthy, cold water shower we were sharing with the 50 other people on our floor. We turned around and began trudging back…

blue sky in prague

And then this happened.

Blue skies!

Prague was driving me insane.

We should have stayed to explore, we should have let the sun dry our clothes as we walked but we were too fed up. We knew it was only a matter of time before the rain would return and we didn’t want to be outside when it happened.

It was definitely the right thing to do. Had we stayed exploring, we wouldn’t have accidentally wandered into Kafka Museum on our way to the hostel. We wouldn’t have discovered the statue of two peeing men – peeing men who write quotes from residents of Prague using their penises.

Suddenly, our day wasn’t such a failure after all.

peeing men prague

I left Prague feeling disappointed.

The rain lasted for the rest of our time there and though we attempted to explore the city a little every day, we just weren’t having fun. It felt like a chore rather than something to look forward to, especially when it involved such a long walk

When I finally managed to get online and check out our hostel I found that although they claim to have wi-fi the reviews indicated otherwise. It was the first time I had forgotten to read the reviews before booking somewhere and it’s a mistake I certainly won’t be making again.

I have absolutely no doubt that had it been sunny for the entire time we were in Prague I would have adored the city. I would love to have wandered around the cobbled Old Town, exploring the maze of narrow backstreets in the sunshine, stopping at pubs along the way. And clearly a hostel with a higher average rating than 32% (how did I not notice that?!) would have helped a great deal in making our stay more enjoyable.

And so I feel torn.

I know that in the right circumstances Prague could be amazing – and could easily become one of my favourite cities in Europe but unfortunately, I left feeling like it was one of the most disappointing.

One thing is for certain, though – I will be back.

 

My trip through Central and Eastern Europe was made possible by the lovely people at Interrailnet.com. 

Previous Month 14: Travel Summary and Statistics
Next Scenes from Bratislava

24 Comments

  1. Steve Stokke
    October 2, 2012
    Reply

    Prague is a wonderful city. I am sorry you had such bad luck. Please revisit the city. I fell in love with Prague in 1990 or 1991 before all the tourists started showing up. It was a secret hidden behind the Wall of what was called Eastern Europe. That first walk across the Charles Bridge that night was a experience I will never forget. I know you will love the city once you have a chance to explore it properly. Good luck on your adventures.

  2. Christina
    October 2, 2012
    Reply

    Sad!! We just left Prague and it is our favorite city in Europe thus far – you should definitely go back!

  3. ANGLO/Dale
    October 2, 2012
    Reply

    Arrived at our Kyiv accommodation this week to find out that the listed WiFi didn’t even exist – oh, that & we’ve had no hot water the entire time we were here.

    So we feel your pain!

  4. Em
    October 2, 2012
    Reply

    Wow! I just got back from Prague and had a very similar experience. We booked into a private b&b … Big mistake. It was horrible!! And we had quite a bit of rain on the 2nd day which spoiled the trip.
    I had very high expectations but they weren’t met at all, I do think that it was a lot to do with where we stayed.
    Then I went to Vienna and forgot about the whole sorry experience, what a beautiful city.
    But I also want to go back to Prague because when the sun did come out it was pretty cool!

  5. Shanna Schultz
    October 3, 2012
    Reply

    What!?!? No wifi?!?!

    I am so sorry that Prague disappointed you…please do go back. We went in Autumn (October, I think), and it was a nice time to visit (a little cool, no rain.) We love Prague.

    It is amazing how things like that influence your opinions about a place…

  6. Gerard ~ GQ trippin
    October 3, 2012
    Reply

    Oh man. Sorry to hear. Rain is always a downer for me. That happened to us at the beginning of our trip in NZ. We get to Prague in November. Hope the weather is a bit drier for us!

  7. Just One Boomer (Suzanne)
    October 3, 2012
    Reply

    Reading the lodging reviews is crucial at every price point. You need to know to ignore the outliers,but you can get a pretty good sense of a place from reading 10 or so recent reviews.Back in the day, in the Dark Ages when there was no internet for independent trip planning, my eventual husband and I took our first major trip together to Spain—in 1981.The guesthouse we chose to stay in in Sevilla set the low bar against which we have measured accommodations since then. The sheets could only be described as “slimy”. We were in beautiful, sunny Sevilla, so we could seriously limit the amount of time we spent n our room, but had we been forced indoors by chilly, rainy weather—-who knows, maybe we wouldn’t have gotten married and lived happily ever after.

  8. Jillian
    October 3, 2012
    Reply

    It’s a shame you had such a negative experience in a place that is suppose to be wonderful… I had a similar experience in Paris and keep telling myself I NEED to go back to change my poor outlook.

    I spent several months in Prague and let me just say its by far one of my favorite cities in Europe. The people aren’t the warmest but the city has a lot of charm.I know many people can vouch for that, so yes please, go back again and you won’t be sorry :)

  9. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas
    October 3, 2012
    Reply

    I had a similar experience in Prague nearly three years ago. I had just spent several days in Budapest with a friend, and we pushed back Pargue because we loved it so much. when we finally did get there, we had unexpected rain, too, that neither of us had packed for. It definetely made a difference in how I felt about the city, and I know that, in time, I’ll be back!

  10. Steve Whitty
    October 3, 2012
    Reply

    I am sorry that your experience of Prague was not what you expected. I was in Prague three weeks ago. The weather was mixed and I too got soaked to the skin one day. However, it did not stop my enjoyment of the city and I am looking forward to going back one day.

  11. Amanda
    October 4, 2012
    Reply

    Ahh, boo to rain and a bad hostel! At least you haven’t totally written Prague off, though. It still looks beautiful in your photos.

  12. Tom @ Waegook Tom
    October 6, 2012
    Reply

    You didn’t notice it had a 32% average?!? Hahahaha! What rating did you give it, Lauren?

    I’m sad that you didn’t enjoy Prague as I loved the city. I had so much fun there, and I’m more than likely going to head back there next summer – I went in the winter, so I’m curious to see what it’ll be like with (hopefully) blue skies.

    That hostel does sound like a nightmare though. I’m surprised that you didn’t take advantage of the city’s cheap beer and use it to numb the pain?

  13. Shaun
    October 6, 2012
    Reply

    Prague has a lot of expectations with it. It’s so picturesque that it’s easy to just kill a day walking around… A little harder to enjoy that when it’s raining.

    It’s not raining in the Cyclades right now :)

  14. Angie Yim
    October 8, 2012
    Reply

    I found a hotel through hostelbookers for 16Euro. It’s a bit far but easily accesible by metro/bus. There’s this free walking tour which was very entertaining and informative. It rained heavily on my last day when I was supposed to go to Dancing House, a place that I really wanted to visit. Definitelty worth going back again ;)

  15. DEK
    October 11, 2012
    Reply

    I like rain. It keeps down the crowds. It empties the streets and fills the coffee shops and is as authentic an experience of the place as sunshine. If you come someplace through the rain, the people will be even more glad to see you. When you can ignore discomfort, much more of the world opens to you.

  16. harley @ travel ant
    October 24, 2012
    Reply

    I found Prague to be a bit like England with regards to weather – a bit touch and go. However I would recommend returning if you ever get the chance, make sure you have somewhere nicer to stay and if you get the weather (like you suspect), you won’t be disappointed.

  17. George
    October 27, 2012
    Reply

    I do hate Prague with a passion. Prague will always be the city that is expensive, has too much of the same, packed with stag dos and tourists and of course where some knobhead stole my passport!

    However, one good thing about Prague, Clown and Bard hostel. Probably the cheapest hostel in Prague 5€ a night the friendliest coolest staff. Free computers with free internet. Bar. Right next to the main train station and only a quick tram ride into the centre. I totally recommend there. I stayed both times!

  18. Nick
    January 13, 2013
    Reply

    I’ve been wanting to do what you do for a while. My girlfriend too. We’re just wondering how people like yourself do it. Do they simply save up a while then take off for a year? Do you have some sort of passive income that allows you to quit your job and just take off? What’s your secret?

    • Lauren
      January 13, 2013
      Reply

      Hi Nick,

      My secret is a crapload of hard work!

      I saved for five years straight to travel — I moved in with parents, ate nothing but cheap, frozen food, refused to turn the heating on, sold every single thing I owned, worked three jobs while studying for my degree… and almost had a nervous breakdown! My way of saving was a little intense… :)

      Now, I work online as a freelance writer and physics tutor. It’s anything but passive. I work between 70-100 hours a week and just about make more than I spend.

      For me it’s worth it though as I get to see the world and do what I love :)

  19. Anna
    October 29, 2015
    Reply

    What a shame! I highly recommend Mosaic House, and you should definitely try visiting closer to Christmas! The Christmas markets were BEAUTIFUL.

    • Lauren
      November 11, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks for the recommendation, Anna! I hope to head back to Prague soon :-)

  20. chris
    August 21, 2016
    Reply

    Definitely go back to Prague one day, if you need help let me know, lived there in 1994-95 and we still have friends in that beautiful city:)

  21. Helena Dsouza
    November 13, 2017
    Reply

    That’s really sad and hardest part was ‘no Wifi’. That’s horrible to hear.
    But still am excited to explore this stunning place which is like dream come true. Lots of incredible museums, cathedrals, roman ruins, palaces and marvelous castles with paintings and royal treasures.

    • Lauren
      November 17, 2017
      Reply

      I really need to return to Prague some day.

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