While traveling long-term I’ve learned many things are inevitable. One such thing is you’ll definitely meet people along the way you make a connection with. Fast friends you’ll spend days with, or longer if traveling the same direction. While this has happened several times during my five months abroad, my Prague experience was slightly different. Usually these friendships have been with one or two, sometimes three others. But I spent the last few days in a group of eight. My Prague family.
For me it started a few hours after my 6:10 Friday morning Prague arrival. After taking the overnight bus from Kraków I relaxed while watching seemingly endless episodes of Seinfeld on the hostel big screen. I soon met Melbourne, Alaska and Adelaide and joined them on the free Old Town Prague walking tour. Halfway through, Sydney and Argentina joined us and soon after two Coloradans grew our group to eight.
Many times on the road you’ll find yourself spending time with a large group like this but something seemed different in this situation. The only way to describe it is that everyone seemed to genuinely like everyone else. There were no petty squabbles (save the occasional ‘I can drink you under the table’ argument between Alaska and Adelaide) like in real families or among strangers living together. I had more than one ‘real’ conversation with each of the other seven and noticed them all doing the same with each other. If you are someone who hasn’t been thrust into situations with this many strangers, let me tell you…it doesn’t always happen this way. In fact it rarely happens this way. There’s always someone who doesn’t get along with someone else, or someone who seems great at first but along the way proves to be the odd man out. This group was different; there was an interesting dynamic, an uncommon ease with which we came together, especially since we were all strangers about twelve hours earlier.
That ease is partly, perhaps, because we had great variety: there were six solo travelers and one couple, round-the-world trippers and three-week holidayers, girls and boys, young and…not so young. The family consisted of (in order of how I met them) Alaska, the part-time philosopher and full-time economics student; Adelaide, the nurse who has the best Aussie accent; Melbourne, the future economics student on gap year before starting his studies; Argentina, the self-proclaimed ‘16 year old girl’ of drinkers with a refreshing sense of humor and love of life; Sydney, the future journalist (also there is no doubt she was a hippie in a previous life); Colorado and Colorado, a couple fresh from college graduation with a love of photographer and each other; and me, Kansas, who has been on the road the longest and I guess the big brother of the family.
The eight of us spent only two days together, less than 48 hours really, before travel plans and prior commitments forced the first goodbyes (another inevitability that comes with traveling and something you become all too familiar with living out of a backpack), but what a great two days it was! If you’ve read a few Unmapped Travels posts you may know I love walking around new cities, luckily for me all members of the Prague Family had a similar interest in getting lost on unknown streets. We (nearly) always had a destination in mind and what must have looked like purposeless wandering somehow always lead us exactly where we wanted to go, and usually took us to very interesting places along the way. Some of these places were the Prague Castle, all of Old Prague city center and the Jewish Quarter, the astronomical clock, several bridges over the Vtlava River (including the historic Charles Bridge and the Most Legit Bridge – those who’ve been to Prague will get this inside joke), the John Lennon Wall, Petrinski Park, and the Letenske Park beer garden. Perhaps the two-day highlight was the Jazz Club we went to our first night together. There was no Jazz that night but instead an Eastern European band covering western music, and covering it great. All members of the quartet were very talented but the keyboard player inparticular blew our minds. Also, the 24-or-so year old Czech girl scat singing in every song was pretty damn fantastic. They are easily the most entertaining club band I’ve ever seen!
The third day (which I think could have been classified as our best together if the Coloradans hadn’t left for Munich that morning) consisted of the same wandering, just in a different city. We took the train one hour east to Kutna Hora to visit the Sedlec Ossuary, the bone church. This church, at the same time interesting and extremely macabre, is decorated in 40,000 human skeletons. It is inexpensive to get to and visit. And with the value of the traveler dollar here on the western edge of Eastern Europe, it’s worth every Czech Koruna. Though we traveled to Kutna Hora for the bone church, we fell in love with the city’s back streets, architecture, and views near the Cathedral and former Jesuit College. It was Sunday and in the all-but-constant mist we had the town almost to ourselves. Few cars and fewer pedestrians
passed by as we walked the three kilometers from train station to Cathedral and back, stopping countless times along the way to take a photo, admire a vista, or just rest and chat. For me personally, near the end of our 6 hours in Kutna Hora the city had moved near the top of my favorite places visited list (partly because of the place and partly because of the company). Even though it was misting all day, I couldn’t help but think the travel gods had smiled on us as we walked around this amazing city.
More goodbyes happened the next morning, and by now, three days later, everyone has moved on in their respective travels, but the experiences our Prague Family had will not soon fade from memory. Experiences and memories. Two more things that are inevitable…and the reason we all travel.