Yes, my trip to Prague, Czech, last November would not be the same without Veronika. I knew her through Couchsurfing, a platform for travelers to do hospitality exchange. It is always nice to have such experience, meet and or stay with a stranger and share a lot of stories and experiences. It was my second time staying at a Couchsurfer’s house. Previously I did it in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, and the host – a couple with two kids – will always be a family for me.
That morning I stood up in front of one of many flats in Prague. I was not alone. I traveled to Prague from Budapest with my friend Kiki, who at that time was doing staff exchange at Corvinus University, Budapest. Based on the address given by Veronika, I was sure that it was where she lives. She actually kindly offered to pick us up at the bus terminal although our bus arrived at 6.45 in the morning. You know, it was autumn already and the sun had not risen yet. Plus, it was Saturday! Most of people would prefer to stay sleeping instead. So, I must say it was very kind of her. Unfortunately we were waiting at different places so after a few minutes there without seeing us, she left the bus terminal.
Veronika warmly welcomed Kiki and me when we finally reached her place. She then prepared some bread with jam to fill our empty stomach while it began to rain outside. Her boyfriend, Paul, was there, too. We talked a bit about our trip by night-bus from Budapest. It was seven hours and okay, at least according to me. After I experienced a 24-hour bus trip in Sumatra (from Bukittingi to Medan), I never think a road trip for less than a whole night and day is long anymore. Hehe…
Kiki and I had a rough itinerary for our first day in Prague. Well… I actually copied and pasted it from internet – a traveling forum or tourism website – which I don’t remember anymore now. I did not expect Veronika would guide us. It would be nice of course, but I thought she might have another thing to do that day. So, I made myself prepared to explore the city by myself (oh yes, with Kiki as well! hehe..). Veronika saw the itinerary and said it was good but she suggested which one to visit first and which one the next. She told us that she was able to guide us as well until midday around the old town area. Yeay!
I have to admit that she knows the city very well. I mean not only what and where but also some stories behind the building or place. The old town area of Prague consists of many old buildings (of course, it is an old town after all…). We started at the Powder Gate which becomes the entrance to the old town area. If you’re wondering about the name (because I did), the gate was used to store gunpowder in the 17th century, that’s why…
We followed Veronika turned right and left, here and there. There were many alleys I could not remember among the (so-called Gothic style) buildings and churches. If I walked alone, I might end up getting lost. When It was almost 12 o’clock, Veronika reminded us to go back to the Prague astronomical clock, also known as Prague orloj. The clock, located in the old town square, was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still working (that’s what Wikipedia says). Many people gathered there because there was an ‘attraction’ from the clock every hour (13.00, 14.00, 15.00…). I don’t understand exactly how that astronomical things work, people are mostly attracted to see the ‘performance’ of dolls and music of the clock (it now reminds me to my visit to Speelklok Museum in Utrecht, Netherlands).
For lunch, Veronika suggested to have it at a restaurant by the river, near the well-known Charles Bridge. The place was cozy and the food was good, too. Kiki had vegetarian risotto, Veronika preferred berber (I am not sure about the complete name of this dish) and as for me, I had garlic bread and pstruh na mandlich. Do you understand that? No? Okay, neither did I. But Veronika helped me to translate it. It was grill trout poured with butter and fried almond. She said it was a kind of local fish. Yummyyy…
After lunch, Veronika had to leave while Kiki and I continued our exploration to Charles Bridge and Prague Castle. We came home around six something, brought some snacks and drinks for Veronika (for three of us actually :D). That night, we sat down on Veronika’s cozy couch (yes, couch.. this is why they name it couchsurfing hehe..) at the living room and talked a lot about anything: school, hometown, family, country, president, government and so on.
It suddenly came to my mind: years ago, I never visualized myself doing this, traveling to a country far faraway from home, spent night at a stranger’s place but not feeling strange at all. It was fun. It was fulfilling. Up until now, I don’t know I have to thank how many people I have met along the way for their kindness. And of course I will try to return the same thing, if it is not for them, then I will pay it forward.
Thank you, Veronika. And again…thank you all.
Each of those places I visited would never be the same without you, all very kind people.