A female friend of mine said once ‘The first step towards women independence is when she learns to drive ‘ (let’s leave apart the cliché of feminism for a while ) however , since I suck at driving ,I would like to modify it to - WOMAN IS INDEPENDENT WHEN SHE LEARNS TO TRAVEL ALONE WITH HER OWN MONEY.
I had taken couple of trips with my girlfriends however never had an opportunity to take the jaunt alone till Oct 2014.I was required to travel to Eastern Europe and went with the plan of staying there for two years. Though I had to return within a month, I couldn’t have missed the opportunity of reconnoitring the countries affected by 2nd world war.
I decided on taking the trip and asked one of my know to help me with tickets and hotel booking since he had fair idea about all that.
I left for Prague with lot of enthusiasm and a bit of anxiety. As I boarded the bus, I met a young Slovak who set next to me and spoke fairly good English. He enquired about my nationality and knowing ‘I am an Indian’ started raving about India. He had never visited the country however his assessments were purely based on what he has heard and read about us and our country.
Lesson 1-Strangers giving us feel good feeling about ourselves and our country J
I spent rest of the journey cozening up in a corner with my chosen playlist.
I reached Prague bus station at 4 in the morning and did feel first chill of fear. I was in foreign land, all alone and didn’t know anyone (absolutely no one ) here. I timidly sat in a corner with my backpack trying to put a brave face .After sitting there for half an hr, I realized that I am at the wrong place since there was swanky new bus station few mins away from the one I was at.I hurriedly dragged my luggage to this new found place and happily sat at the comfortable chair put up there.
I bought myself cup of coffee(one after other) to keep my eyes open and the worst happened after that. The effect of excessive caffeine started showing its way and I was required to visit the loo, urgently. I didn’t have the local currency since the exchange opened at 6 however had euros. I hastily moved towards the loo however the lady refused to let me enter since I didn’t have local currency. I was ready to part with few euros ,which converted into local currency ,almost worked like dollar. But to my utter misfortune and her sheer adamancy, I had to wait till 6.
Lesson learnt: Always carry some local currency and who said that we INDIAN are ‘Lakir ka fakir’.
The clock stroke 6 and its was ‘the most awaited 6 A.M ‘ of my life.
I went to the counter and got the local currency and did what I waited to do.
Then on , I hired swanky taxi (Mercedes – I am bragging about it since it was my first time in Merc where I paid for the ride. During my spinster days , I did have few known who had obscene about money and Merc and they would often dare to bring it to the narrow by lanes of Khirki extension where I stayed , to add few notches to their coolness.)
As I reached the hotel, I did find my nerve calming a bit and certain amount of confidence coming my way.I checked in and first thing I wanted to do was to take a warm shower and lie down for few hours. The person who was most amused to see me there was an old lady from the house keeping department. I couldn’t understand the reason of her amusement however she did try finding (in her broken English) as why am I travelling alone.
I dropped the idea of taking a nap and decided on talking the walk around. I reached out to the lady at the reception and she advised me to explore the places on foot and handed over the map marking the hotel and famous destination point.
How in a world will I read a map since we were never taught to travel with a diagram. We , in India still trust ‘Nukkad ke pan wale bhaiya more than GPS.’
However , I took map and stepped out.
I had the two most important tools required by a traveler- (1)A phone with unlimited data plan . (2)MAP
And I was ready to conquer Prague.
I started walking and on the cobblestones pavements of Prague. The streets were lined with beautiful buildings, the traffic was scarce (as compared to Delhi) and the front of the shops and housing societies were lined with beautiful flower pots. I walked for almost 2km and saw subway counter which actually reminded me that I hadn’t eaten anything and need to grab something before I proceed with the journey. After walking for another half an hour, I reached Wenceslas Square .
Wenceslas square connects the old town of Prague to the National Museum and State Opera Building. It can be compared to Connaught Place .
I spent the entire day exploring the stretch ,moving from one corner to the other and taking breaks in between.
I decided on taking ‘FREE WALK ‘ (don’t take it literally since its not free however one pays whatever he or she thinks is worth) on the second day. A really tall handsome Aussie (who was pursuing his PhD. in the city )was my guide for the day .With a retired Pilipino couple and lot of strangers , we started the tour. I must confess that I was totally impressed by his knowledge and his accent .He took us around the city ,sharing history, anecdotes , stories and occasional jokes .
On my Third day in Prague, I decided on taking the bus tour and it was worth every Euro spent.
Crossed Charles Bridge and saw the the Prague castle. It was here that I got to know that Beatles never did any good to the country however Jagger did. The lighting of the castle is sponsored by Jagger and rest of the story one can hear on the audio guide or from the knowledgeable GUIDE .
Put it on your bucket list and explore it whenever you get a chance to visit it