Our final day in Prague was the team’s free day. And what a day it was to explore the city on our own terms, it was one of the most beautiful days of the year. 72 degrees, sunny and a very slight breeze.
We still started our day out as a team, taking the Charles Bridge over the Vitava River and into Old Town Prague. The bridge itself is an interesting mixture of culture. There are art dealers, musicians (quick story, there was a string quartet playing a cover of “Toxic” by Britney Spears and a tourist said during the playing “I heard they wrote this themselves”. I don’t know how I held back flipping out on that guy), collectors, a couple taking staged photos in their wedding outfits and tourists. There are also religious followers who head to the bridge to multiple statues, the one of St. John of Nepomuk in particular, to seek what they seek.
We eventually made our way into Old Town and though it was a Sunday at a relatively early 10 a.m., it was packed. There is so much I wish I could talk about, the architecture was beautiful, the food smelled great and the businesses were out in force. I think the aspect that interested me most was the vast amount of jewelry and Bohemian glass and crystal stores. The Czechs have become the proprietors of some of the best glass in the world via its high-quality potash it produces. This is a situation of quality over quantity, because the Czechs are not near the world’s leaders in its production, but what they do produce is very high-quality and businesses took advantage of it.
After eventually making it to the Town Square we were free to go on our own ways. There were many options of what to do in Old Town, whether it be shopping (both for bargains and for quality), sightseeing (the astronomical clock in the Square is one of the oldest running ones in the world) or just people watching (it was packed … and I ended up running into a baton twirler parade). It also gave some the chance just to take it easy, head back to the hotel a little early and catch up on some rest.
Because I know you are curious to know what I did, I went and explored some other parts of Prague. Taking advantage of their tremendous public transportation system, I embarked on a journey to see some of the professional soccer (football as Europe calls it) stadiums. I went three-for-four on visiting Czech Republic First Division stadiums, seeing Sparta Praha (the 2013-14 Czech champions), FK Dukla Praha and FC Bohemians 1905 (who might soon be relegated, only one point out of the drop zone. Hang on Bohemians!). Unfortunately, some poor time management on my trip to Bohemians prevented me from the clean sweep and making it to Slavia Praha.
This afternoon we played our final match in Prague against the Czech Republic Junior National Team, which you can read more about here. I am not going to say too much about the match, losing stinks, but this is not a bad thing either. One of the great risks of foreign trips is you don’t know what to expect out of opponents. In most cases these matches are being scheduled for you so you don’t know what to expect in terms of quality of match-up. However, we were given two great matches that put our team in some adversity and though they have been unable to pull out the victories, they have fought their way out of some tough situations and that is something to be proud of.
Because our time in Prague is up, that means we had to say goodbye to our tour guide for Prague, Jirka, tonight at dinner. Jirka had tremendous knowledge of Prague and the Czech Republic in general and he was able to show us some really great places along the way. We hope the rest of our guides are like Jirka for the rest of the trip.
Monday is a travel day, as we will leave Prague in the morning (not long from now, I need to wrap this up and get to sleep!), and make the trip to Vienna, Austria for a visit. After the day visit in Vienna, we will make our way to our second stay in Maribor, Slovenia, where we will be for the next three nights. Our main tour guide for the entire trip, Heni, has had nothing but good things to say about Maribor, especially the food. We are looking forward to it!