In part two of the episode where I caved and ate at McDonald’s, despite originally forbidding myself to have McDonald’s over new, local food experiences, I managed to salvage the whole event by sampling the strangest McDonald’s menu item I have ever seen: a burger, where the patty is literally entirely made of cheese.
We managed to convince the hungry vegetarian of the group that he had to try it, complete with giggly faces as we watched him tuck in to what we assumed was going to be pure filth.
As it turned out, it was (unsurprisingly) nothing like the picture, but (surprisingly) a whole lot better. The McSmazak is actually more like a haloumi patty, derived from popular czech delicacy Smažený sýr. Like anything with haloumi in it, it was actually pretty tasty, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone game enough to try it, so long as you don’t have cholesterol problems, as this bad boy is in the Double dDwn leagues as far as calories go!
Before heading to Europe I had a firm resolution to not eat at McDonald’s or any other such internationally shit food chain, and instead if I were to pay for a meal, it would be a new, local food experience.
I had had a few hiccups, but still I had not handed any of my own hard earned cash over a McDonald’s counter. This all went down the drain, however, in some random suburb on the outskirts of Prague. We found ourselves in a food-court with a great selection of stodgy looking fast food, half of which I couldn’t even tell what it was; and a McDonald’s.
I bravely went for something exotic, and convinced another poor unsuspecting soul to join me on my quest. I’d heard great things about eastern European “dumplings” and had been meaning to try them out. Sure enough there was a stall offering a few varieties of what I was pretty sure were these famed dumplings. With great language barrier difficulty we ordered some of these dumplings and sat down to tuck in to what looked like it could pretty tasty, even with weird sprinklings of who knows what on top. As it turned out they were meant to be sweet, which was unexpected. They were sortof berry flavoured, with this weird buttery sugary stuff on top.
I must say, I’m not usually one to not finish a meal, but these I just could not get through. And so I hung my head in shame and joined the rest of the crew at McDonald’s for some universally tasty and reliable fries.
After a cheeky car nap between Prague and Vienna, I woke up to this view out my window:Best. Wakeup. Ever.
As it turned out we were in one of the most magical places in the world. There was a water park, dragons, knights, a giant aeroplane with a restaurant in it, and LOADS of duty free shops! There was also a casino nearby – the place was the very definition of fun for all ages. It was a huge series of shops, bars, restaurants and theme parks to leave the kids at in the no-mans-land that is the border between the Czech Republic and Austria.
The highlight was definitely lunch in an aeroplane. And not just any aeroplane, but a safari themed plane that appeared to be from the 1960s. If there was a flight involved in Fear and Loating in Las Vegas, I’m pretty sure this would have been the plane. This face definitely summed it up:
Other exciting things included a GIANT GLOBE!
A MINI WATER PARK!
CASTLES AND DRAGONS!
And a delightful collection of incredibly cheap duty free stores. There were even hair salons and other such beauty parlors. And to top it off, some really wierd products on sale:
If it weren’t for the photos. I could well have believed I was having an incredibly strange dream…
It started as a pretty classic prank. We were driving along the Autobahn (as you do) in our rental which happened to be a pretty flash VW with accessories that did all kinds of things. Don’t ask me about the engine or any of that car crap, I’ll be hone I care about the accessories. One such handy feature was the seat warmers. The driver of the car decided to play a wee joke on the poor gentleman in the passenger seat, and put the seat warmer on, on what was already a stinking hot day. It took him ages to notice, hilarity ensued.
Then some bright spark had the idea that we should play what was dubbed “The Hot Game” (clever name). The way the hot game works, is you put ALL the seat heaters on, and blast the heating as high as possible, and see who cracks first. The problem is, we had a car load of really stubborn people and it went on for quite a while. Eventually we all agreed that we didn’t want the driver to pass out and kill us all (you can just see the headline on the Otago Daily Times “5 Kiwis found dead in stinking hot mess in Czech Republic”). However, the kicker that really made us all give up, was yet another flashy feature of the car. There was a wee screen on the dashboard that counts down how many kilometres you can travel with the remaining fuel on the tank, and it started dropping very quickly.
There were no winners in the Hot Game, just a car full of sweaty idiots.
A few nights later we met a British Couple, and for some reason the Hot Game came up. Possibly because the bar we were in was very reminiscent of those few minutes in the car. Instead of the expected “gosh you guys are stupid” our new friend Rosie said “Ohhh yeah we play that too! But we call it ‘Car Sauna’. Have you guys played ‘Air Brakes’?” Believe it or not, there are people more stupid than we are – air brakes is when everyone opens the doors of the car at once and as the name may suggest, it slows down. Sorry Rosie, don’t think we are going to play that one!
It made a brief appearance already in my Berlin/Prague Stop motion clip (click here for the express tour of the bridge), but given it is one of the most famous sights in Prague I thought it deserved its own post!
The bridge was really beautiful, lined with baroque style statues and sporting some beautiful view of the river Vltava.
It seemed every man and his dog were there, and of course some intrepid photographers:There is one statue that you are meant to kiss for good luck, hence the crowd. Oral viral infections are not so much my idea of luck so I passed on that particular tourist activity. The buskers were great though, and really made a walk across a bridge seem a whole lot more whimsical!
I’m not gonna say it was love at first sight, but we became pretty fast friends with a guy staying at our hostel. In what was going to be a quiet night, with a few drinks at the bar before bed, a nice young chap from the US of A came up and said hi. Before we knew it we were teaching him to play our drinking games, translating our kiwi lingo for him and just generally having a laugh.
Mike, an architect from Chicago, who didn’t watch How I Met Your Mother (Ted Mosby jokes fell flat), seemed to find our banter pretty hilarious, and by sheer coincidence we ran into him the next day whilst sightseeing. It seems New Zealanders have become exponentially more endearing since Flight of the Conchords. We continued hanging out with him as we toured Prague, and he even came with us on the pub crawl. We were really getting to know and like Mike, especially Fraser, who seemed to be striking up quite the bromance with!
The next day we saw him again when we were getting some lunch, and it seemed to be a general consensus we would all hang out again the next night. So there we were, in our room, dealing with the terrible chat out of the Aussies that had moved in (they’d come straight from Schoolies to their Eurotrip), waiting for Mike to come on by and join us for a few drinks before we headed out. A few hours went by, and no Mike. Did something happen to him? He’s probably just having dinner.
As the night dragged on we eventually gave up on Mike (we also knocked on his door, just to check). The next day we were chekcing out, off on our next adventure. He never called, never said goodbye. We thought we had a real connection, you know? Thought it was something special. Did something awful happen to him? Was he just not that into us? Did he find a new group of friends? Were they more fun than us? We’ll never know.
I once read an article in the NZ Herald, that apparently someone (residents, local government, not too sure) was complaining about New Zealand tourists travelling to Prague and getting too drunk/making a mess of the town. I can’t seem to find the link, but I thought it was hilarious that people would be complaining about the drunken antics of tourists, when all day whilst wandering through the centre of the city I was being harassed and accosted by people trying to get me to go on their pub crawls.
Such was the fierce competition between them all, that it begun to be quite entertaining hearing their sales pitches. They also had some really ludicrous deals. Apart from the usual free entry to a bunch of bars/clubs and free drinks on arrival, most of them had a two and a half hour “power hour” or “happy hour” where you could drink as much as you wanted. So these salespeople would try to get us signed up and committed right there on the spot, and would be listing what deals they have, how you can drink for longer on their pub crawl, how the other ones all watered down their drinks. My favourite of course was “Come on our pub crawl, we have absinthe.” Really? Your sales pitch is listing what the bar has in stock? At that moment I really felt whoever the complainers were ought to take a long hard look at their tourism industry before pointing the finger at the tourists.
We did the math and decided these pub crawls were much more efficient than drinking in the hostel bar, or even buying our own drinks and off we went. It was loads of fun, they did have absinthe, it was watered down, and we met a hilarious bunch of UK students, who as a travelling first, rather than say “Oh you’re from New Zealand, that’s where Lord of The Rings is from” or “Ohhhh like Flight of the Conchords” instead rolled with “That’s where Paul Henry is from!” and the hilarious quotes ensued. We also taught them all our favourite drinking game “fingers” and had a good laugh at how Fraser turned into Zach Galifianakis when he got all sweaty and swooshed his hair to the side.
We went to some really cool bars – from a Cold War themed one (with hilarious fashion magazines from Prague in the 80s decorating the bathrooms), to the creatively named “Music Bar” which had many levels and areas which were also quite well designed – from murals of famous artists to table tops covered in photos. All in all it was a fun night, and I definitely recommend a bar tour run by whoever has the best sales pitch at the time.
The Old-New Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter is the oldest functioning synagogue in Europe, and was built around 1270. It is famous for the story of the Golem of Prague.
Supposedly, the Rabbi (Judah Loew ben Bezalel) created a golem out of mud. When a Nazi officer went in to the attic (or Genizah, a storage place of old writings), the legend says the Golem came alive and killed him. Supposedly during the war the Gestapo didn’t enter the attic and the church was preserved. The attic isn’t open to the public, further preserving the mystery!