Kiri and


I love Prague

July 8th, 2014 (by Steve)

One of the things we love about travelling is observing people; especially when we’re in places that don’t see many motorhomes. As we were preparing to leave Svitavy, a couple of young guys were washing their car at the motorhome service point. Now I don’t speak much Czech, but from the pitch of their words and the accompanying body language, this is what I assess went on:

Frank, keep cool, but one of the people from the weird van is coming this way with a box. Smile and keep washing the Škoda. What do you think the box is, Frank? He’s unscrewing a lid and now he’s… OH FRANK, HE’S EMPTYING A TOILET DOWN THE CAR WASH.

Needless to say, they moved on pretty swiftly.

After a brief overnight stop outside Hradec Králové (where the most eventful moment was Kiri expertly capturing a centipede in a glass, only to find out that it was part of my watch strap), Prague was our next destination. Well, actually a campsite just to the south of the city. Our first quest was to get a load of our clothes into the wash. I say “our”, but actually, it was Kiri’s job, as the washing machine was in the ladies’ shower room. The mind boggles as to how any single male campers wash their clothes.

And then to Prague. With no fixed agenda, we chose to amble around this beautiful city, managing to arrive at the Old Town Square just in time to join the other 2498 tourists for the 12pm clock chiming. We know that the Old Square is a bit of a tourist magnet and we hate being tourists… but it’s also the place with some of the best buskers. We therefore stayed in the area for a good hour or so, appreciating the musical offerings of talented individuals and groups; particularly enjoying the Bohemian Bards. The music in Prague really is cracking; which is probably the reason that my school chose to go there on a concert tour just before the turn of the century. Our jazz band and barbershop group were particularly well received, as were half of the instruments which were stolen from the coach one night… but that was a long time ago! Back in the present, this first day was all about the music, so once we’d had a bite to eat, a little bit more of a wander and had cooled down with an icecream, we armed ourselves with a dark beer each and sat down in the shade to appreciate some more buskers.


One of the most striking memories of that first visit to Prague was the beauty and tranquillity of Charles Bridge (if you could ignore the rest of the school party). Roll the clock forward 10 years to my next visit and that peace had gone, buried by tour groups and stalls everywhere. I was determined to dig it up again though on this visit. The first train from the station by our campsite left at 4:32am the following morning and we were on it. The streets were surprisingly busy at that time; the hour seeming to belong to joggers, travellers with early connections and photographers. But the tranquillity was there; in that golden morning light the early start was worth it. Surprisingly, the quietest time on Charles Bridge wasn’t at 5:30 when we arrived, but around 6:30.


But I was interested in more than just the tranquillity; I wanted to see the transition from the stillness to the bustle, so we chose a spot on the bridge a little out of the way, set up the tripod and camera and got a time lapse going. Now you never quite know what to expect within the course of a time lapse; we certainly didn’t expect a photographer and model to turn up and start doing a photo shoot at 6am, especially not a photo shoot of that flavour. We’re not sure what the nuns who followed soon after would have made of it all. Add in a bride and groom, someone dressed up as a medieval king and people randomly lying on the ground and we think we’ve seen it all! The stalls were all set up and the crowds had reached their mean daytime density by 10:15am, at which point we stopped the camera.


And here’s the resulting timelapse:

Rather unsurprisingly we didn’t have much energy for exploring Prague after all of that, so after a bit of a wander we gave in around lunchtime. As we made our way towards some shade, we were handed free samples of iced coffee… how did they recognise our need? After a quick hot dog, we did a bit of a grocery shop, then returned to the cool of Bertha to collapse before an early night.

It was painful getting up the following morning and we weren’t sure whether we’d have the energy to make the most of another day around the city. However, we’re pleased we pushed ourselves to get on the train as it was another cracking day. Our first stop was at the John Lennon wall; Prague’s equivalent of the Berlin wall in terms of street art. In the 80s, an image of Lennon on this wall became a sign of hope and was joined by other messages of hope, peace and love. Now, as with the Berlin Wall, it seems to be a place where visitors just want to make their mark. As I watched a tourist write “#GETABSOLUTELY******”, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the obsession with making a mark on the the world has overtaken the desire to observe and learn from the marks that others make.


Avoiding the plague of Segways that roam the streets of Prague, we climbed up the hill into Petrin Park where we had a little picnic with a wonderful view. From there it was a short walk to Prague Castle where memories of the school performances there came flooding back… as well as memories of lugging a bass drum down a narrow staircase! We joined the crowds of tourists marvelling at the stained glass windows inside the cathedral and made our way towards the Golden Lane… only to find our way blocked by turnstiles… were they there before? This led to a long discussion where we considered the merits and tolls of tourism for both travellers and the communities they visit.


We stopped for a refreshing half of St. Norbert’s in the brew pub next to the Strahov monastery (we’ve learned on this trip that monks certainly know a thing or two about brewing!) before venturing up to the observatory in Petrin Park. After a pleasant amble, we descended into the city once more, getting on the train mere minutes before the torrential rain started.

Our final day in Prague fell on a Sunday. Well, actually, we engineered it to be a Sunday as we thought it would be a good city to find a place of worship. And it was. We were given a very warm welcome at Prague Christian Fellowship, where we joined with others in a relaxed and grounded gathering. For a lot of this trip, Kiri and I have been pondering, discussing and praying on the concept of church being one body across denominations, cultures and borders and we’re sure that it’s no co-incidence that the message at the service was on being part of one body. We’re not finished with our ponderings though, so watch this space! There’s a strong emphasis on relationship within the Christian Fellowship, so once the service was over, church continued as we decamped to a local Czech restaurant to share food together. There’s something really special about sharing food with new friends (as well as old friends), but I’ve got three words. So. Much. Meat. Replete, we rolled around Prague for a while before saying goodbye to the city (in English with a Czech accent, as I can never remember “Nashledanou”). We’ll be back.

Our time in eastern Europe has come to an end, so filled with cheap Czech fuel, Bertha once again eyed up the autobahns of Germany. Fly Bertha, fly!

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