Sept 13, 2012
Listening to: Adventure Time on YouTube because Netflix doesn’t work here (first world problems!)
So, it’s been a few days since my last real entry. I wrote a really long post about Prague Castle, where my friends and I spent the better part of two days, but WordPress ate the post and crashed my computer. Now, a few days later, it doesn’t seem as exciting as it was then. Therefore, have a pile of pictures of stuff I saw at the castle. If you’re really interested in what something was, just comment and I’ll reply.
Today’s topic is getting lost! Because getting lost is awesome. When I had been here about a week, I attempted to walk home from school one day. (Oh, I need to do a post about school… I have been going to classes, don’t worry! And participating and doing homework, etc.) I was tired of paying tram fare, and we hadn’t gotten our openID cards yet. So, I went north along the river (school is on the west side and home is on the right side, but I didn’t want to take Karluv Most/ Charles Bridge) and crossed at the next bridge I found. Following main streets east and south, I ended up in Old Town Square. It was packed with tourists and I knew it was north of my neighborhood, so I headed south. Yes, I’m using cardinal directions: I’m that cool kid who put a compass on her keychain. Prague isn’t like Chicago, Nashville, or New York, where most of the streets go north-south or east-west; being an old castle town, a lot of the streets are small, winding, and only go half a km before running into another small winding street. Still, knowing if you’re going in the right direction is pretty helpful. Plus, most of the trams are associated with a particular neighborhood/ general direction in the city.
So, I wandered around for a good hour or so, going towards my neighborhood, and people-watching. People-watching isn’t just entertainment when you’re in a new environment, it’s essential. See what the locals do. Do they jaywalk? (In Japan, even at 10pm when there were NO cars in view, they wait for the ‘walk’ signal. But in Chicago, sometimes a big enough group of pedestrians can make their own walk signal and force cars to stop.) One of the big things I noticed in Prague (and found mentioned in my guides) is that nobody, that is, no local, talks when they’re riding the tram. If they’re talking to a friend, they do it almost whisper-tone, and if they’re talking on the phone they get lots of dirty looks. So when you’re in a group of Americans, talking loudly in English, you’re going to stand out like a sore thumb. And get dirty looks. Noticing things like this is essential if you want to blend in.
I eventually got home.
A slightly scarier getting-lost scenario was after my friends and I went to see Bassnectar, an American electronic dance music artist, and they wanted to go to a bar afterwards, whereas I wanted to go buy a bottle of water and go to sleep. We were close to Namesti Republiky (I knew because I had gotten off the metro there, whereas a lot of my friends took taxis! Plus five points for getting used to public transportation!) and in a fairly tourist-populated area, so I felt pretty safe walking to the tram stop (metro stops at 12) by myself. When I got there, it was me and a group of Czech boys, who tried to hit on me (I think) in Czech. “Nirozumite.” I don’t understand. They were pretty tipsy and left me alone thereafter, but if they had kept talking to me I would have crossed the street and stood with the people (including a middle-aged couple, who always seem just a tad safer than a group of young men) waiting for the tram in the opposite direction. And of course, if they had made moves towards me, the people across the street would have seen. A group of German girls also joined us at our stop, and were trying to figure out how to get to their destination. Unbelievably, I was able to show them: Despite never having used the night trams (slightly different from the day trams) I knew they all converged at one stop. “Take the next train here (points to stop on list of stops) and ALL the trains leave from there. Understand? ALL the trains go there.” I rode with them to their destination and then transferred to the tram that stops less than a block from my apartment. I hope they got home safely, too (:
So, apart from learning to act like the locals, why do I think getting lost and wandering around is so important? Getting lost in the daytime is VASTLY different from getting lost at night. Even if you’re in different neighborhoods, if you already figured out that ‘Namesti’ means square, ‘Nabrazi’ means embankment or street that goes along the river, and ‘Most’ means bridge, you can probably understand some directions better if you need to ask for help. (“Adflksjdfl Namesti” at least warns you to look out for a square, whereas “Afljadlkjdf Enareigje” won’t be of any help. Yes, randomly punching keys is my textual way of expressing words you don’t understand.) Be super observant and look for the big streets in any area- “Excuse me, how do I get to Namesti Republiky” is going to get a better response than “Where’s that big square with the guy on the horse and the big shopping mall? Big mall? Square?”
But of course, have a cell phone on you, and the english-speaking taxi company’s number programmed in… just in case. Don’t go down sketchy dark alleys, stick around other people and remember, whether you’re a big strong man or a petite woman you could still get pickpocketed, which is one of Prague’s most prevalent crimes.
That’s all for now folks, Dobrou Noc!