Sunday, November 2, 2008

Day 14: a day of regret

Prague was on our list of cities to make a two day visit to. Then on our way down to Paris, I looked through the Eurail packet and found out that our tickets weren't covered in the Czech Republic. We had spent the next 12 days debating on whether we'd go or not... then we arrived in Vienna. At the train station my mom found a package for a day trip to Prague. It appeared to be a good enough deal so we booked it and cancelled our Prague hotel since we were no longer going to stay overnight.

We were already starting to regret our decision for booking a day trip when during our tour through Vienna we were told by two men we met how wonderful the city was and how we'd need two days minimum to see everything. Unfortunately by then, since our hotel was cancelled, we decided to go for the one day. Because of it, we ended up changing our schedule around. Instead of spending two consecutive days in Vienna we spent a day in Vienna, the next day in Prague, and then a day back in Vienna.

We were picked up at our hostel at the crack of dawn, and were dropped off at the tour bus. My mom was continuing to regret her decision, and apologized repeatedly to me for even suggesting the day tour. I figured since we were already on the bus we'd might as well go through with it and stop fretting about it. For the next 6, yes 6, hours we made our way over to Prague. Our guide told us on the way that we'd spend a measly 4 hours in the city... two of which would be with another tour guide who would show us around.

When I had told people at work the number of cities we were visiting in only 3 weeks, they'd laugh and say "yep, you're definitely American." However, I didn't feel that was the case until the bus ride into Prague. Who spends 10 hours minimum on a bus for a 4 hour excursion into a city? Only Americans. I have to say, I was quite disappointed that we were on that tour when the guide made that announcement.

We pulled into a parking lot just outside of Prague around noon, and another guide hopped on the bus. As he started pointing out landmarks, I sat there thinking I couldn't believe we spent money to listen to a talking map. I wondered if we'd get any useful information out of what he'd say during the next two hours. Then as soon as the question was posed in my mind, it was answered. His excitement peaked as he had us all look out the window to the right and pointed to the Hilton hotel, to which he exclaimed is the largest hotel in all of Prague, accommodating up to 40,000 guests! 'Good grief', I thought... 'isn't this going to be the most exciting tour ever?'

We finally exited the bus, and our walking Tom-tom steered us through the city. I was painfully bored, so we managed to loose the group a number of times as we'd walk at our own pace and explore things on our own. Walking around Prague is as if you've entered a story book. The city looks like a fantasy, completely magical. During our 2 hours of "free time" we thought about taking a train back to Vienna, depending on when the departure times were, so we could spend a few extra hours there. After buying a few souvenirs we stopped at a youth hostel which provided internet access.

While we were searching train times, a kid sat down next to my mom who looked a bit dodgy, his eyes darting around the room nervously. We should have tuned in at that exact moment due to our recent history with another young guy in Italy, but we were focused on the computer screen instead. Unbeknown to us, the sketchy kid managed to steal my mom's wallet. We realized 3 minutes after we had left the hostel, already bummed because we couldn't find a train with a good schedule to take us back to Vienna.

When my mom discovered it, we ran back to the hostel, but the kid had already fled. We ended up spending the final 45 minutes of our "free time" dealing with the logistics of a recently stolen wallet. On the plus side, her passport was still inside her purse, so we didn't have that to worry about. We made it to the tour group's meeting point 10 minutes late, and was greeted by the glaring eyes of our impatient tour guide.
Neither my mom nor I were in the mood to deal with attitude at that time, so we said nothing and started walking towards the bus. I finally spoke up as the guide was going on and on about how he likes to get on the road on time because he hates returning to Vienna so late. His venting ended after I explained our situation. However that didn't stop us from receiving snide remarks from a few people who had been waiting for us on the bus. I rolled my eyes as we walked down the aisle and focused all my energy on not opening my mouth.

I successfully made it to my seat without making a snide remark in return. My mom was too shaken to even notice. Her nerves were finally calmed as the last phone call to the final bank on her list was over and all her cards were officially cancelled. As she handed me back my cell phone and said she no longer has a desire to visit Prague again.


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