Apart from my actual historical home-town of Manchester, there are but four (4) brilliant cities that I have always either contemplated to be “home” or to have a piece of my heart in some way, and they are Berlin, London, Hong Kong and Prague.
Unsurprisingly, they are all somewhat similar in the sense that they are old cities filled with history and glory, choc-a-bloc with people of charm and intelligence, crammed with artistic creativity, edgy enough to push you to the wall but not too much to make you jump off a high building, have rivers flowing through them and plenty of opportunities to “make it” if you feel so inclined.
And I have lived in them all.
Except for Hong Kong.
I’ve been there.
I’ve met people and had fantastic adventures.
And I was that close to making a move onto a fascinating island on the Asian continent.
When something more exciting happened to me…
Perhaps I’ll tell you sometime.
Anyway, my life and career after university started in the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic is a country in Eastern-Central Europe and as such, a part of the old Eastern Bloc! It is bordered by Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Poland and was formed in the late ninth (9th) century as the Duchy of Bohemia!
The Czech Republic, previously known as Czechoslovakia, was traditionally divided into three lands known as Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia or Slezko (also part of Poland). However, the Czech Republic has also been known as the Czech/Bohemian land, the land of the Bohemian Crown and the land of the Crown of Saint Wenceslas.
Yep! The Saint Wenceslas of ye olde English carols such as:
“Good King Wenceslas once looked out.
On the Eve of Stepheeeeeeen!
‘Though the snow lay round about
It was crisp and eeeeeeeven!”
I had absolutely no idea that the old Stephen that we always sang about as children, was that Stephen!
After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918, the name Czechoslovakia was coined to reflect the union of the Czech and Slovak nations within the one country.
Once the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 occurred, the two nations decided to part ways peacefully in 1993, turning into the Czech Republic of which Prague is the capital and Slovakia (not Slovenia!) in which Bratislava is the capital.
Back in the day, I lived in both nations which even though have separated, still have enormous respect for each other and happily, there have been no problems at all and you can travel quite easily between the two nations and not even notice the border!
In fact, the Czech Republic ranks as the eleventh (11th) most peaceful country in the world so if you’re looking for stability, development, democracy and peace, move to Iceland!
With streets paved with cobblestones and long shadows descending from glowing lanterns, it’s no wonder that I used to live in Prague.
Prague – the capital of the Czech Republic – is the largest city in it’s young nation. A nation of 1.2 million people.
I have always had a love affair with Prague. I mean, I went there as a young graduate, straight from an academic university with stars in my eyes and political philosophy in my mind.
During my last year at university, I was head-hunted by a fellow student who had been working as a summer camp co-ordinator with a company that focused on developing countries.
I wanted to work in a developing country.
I wanted to do something to help those less fortunate than myself.
And that was how it began.
I was tasked to be the Joint Manager and Co-Ordinator of a British summer camp, in conjunction with the University of Central England in Birmingham.
I was scared to death to be in charge of 100 disadvantaged and deprived teenage children and twelve (12) High School teachers, from the North of England.
I must have done alright ‘cos then they promoted me to Project Development Officer responsible for universities, graduates and young professionals in the UK. And it was all grand hobnobbing and spending most of my time at Oxford and Cambridge.
But you see, I wanted to work abroad.
I have always wanted to work abroad.
So when that call came. I was ready.
The company knew that I had wanted to go to India (I know!) but they had something else for me. Eastern Europe.
Eastern Europe in the 90’s was dismal, in distress and pretty undeveloped. “Would I be interested?”
“When would that be?”
“Well, the thing is. Quite soon.”
I didn’t hesitate and said yes. They assured me it would only be for about six (6) weeks.
I came back two (2) years later!
And that was it. I was in love.
Oh yes, I lived in Prague and became the Regional Project Manager in Eastern Europe responsible for starting up an educational business in both Prague (the Czech Republic) and Bratislava (Slovakia).
It was the best thing ever and basically made me what I am today because at university, I was quite an arrogant, privileged little thing.
I was an academic, bright, young and clever. I had the world at my feet and I knew it.
I even used to be Head Girl for goodness sake (see Harry Potter), and I had parents who gave me everything.
I had never done a day’s work in my life.
In Prague. I had a whole country to myself, no staff and absolutely no idea what I was really going to be doing out there.
Oh, and did I tell you that when I got there, the fellow who was supposed to partner me, had to leave due to a family emergency, so I was on my own!
I didn’t speak any Czech or German at the time but I made it work. I was so afraid of failure that I went to the local university and knocked on university hall doors looking for young people who spoke English and wanted to work with me.
I found a few people and that was how I started.
It was quite the making of me.
Did I make mistakes?
Did I cry and want to go home?
But did I give up though?
Not a chance!
I did well. Got myself a nice team and a few working assistants and made many more projects, and when I did eventually return back to the UK, I knew that if I wanted to fly to the moon I probably could.
If I wanted to!
If you recall, in February, we went skiing in the Czech Mountains and we had to make a stop-over in Prague. My husband – The Music Producer – isn’t one for skiing so he encouraged us to go on without him. On our journey, we ended up in Prague at 02:00 and with a few hours to kill before our onward train to Rokytnice nad Jizerou, so I decided to “show” “The Tall Young Gentleman” a tiny bit of history.
He was fascinated although between you and me, I think he was more impressed with the Czech version of KFC than anything else LOL! And although my son had been to Prague as a toddler, he had never been to Prague proper and from the look on his face, I felt it was time for him to not only hear about the life of his mother, but to see it too!
As a reminder, our summer trip was a journey to both Budapest in Hungary and Prague in the Czech Republic. You can read all about the beginning of the adventure by clicking right here!
After having a marvellous time at both the Aria Hotel Budapest and the Buddha-Bar Hotel, we took the Hungarian 2nd class train from Budapest to Prague.
I had booked in on the website of the Hungarian Train Network (MAV) as it couldn’t be booked in Germany and so with much misgivings, I paid €38.00 for the pair of us and hoped for the best as I couldn’t download a ticket either….
I was so worried that I even went to an actual physical Deutsche Bahn (German Train) office and they told me to either pay €225.00 travelling through another route or to pay €38.00 through the direct route. I paid it and got a confirmation. The snag?
You can only print out your actual ticket at a Hungarian train station which I conveniently forgot all about until the night before we were due to leave! Thankfully, we were leaving on the same platform that we had arrived on, so with trembling fingers I logged in the reference number and managed to get our tickets with just seven (7) minutes to spare…!
We found our compartment and our new companions for the next seven (7) hours who were a bunch of German college boys off to Berlin!
I’ve travelled by East European train many times. They’re cheap but very cheerful. They can get squashy and squishy and filled up not only with suitcases but bags and sacks, and even so-called 1st class trains can leave a lot to be desired, but the local passengers are kind-hearted and are a merry lot and the bathrooms are clean and have bars of soap and running water. And if you’re really wanting to meet the locals on their own turf, then go to the restaurant car and play cards with some of the old men there or buy a couple of rounds, it certainly won’t break the bank and you’ll have made a few new friends as well!
Once we arrived in Prague, I bought our underground tickets and off we went.
Speaking of money.
Because I have travelled an awful lot – fifty-three (53) countries – to be exact, and counting, I tend not to spend up or even give away my left-over currency, but to keep it not only as a memento, but also a reason to come back! And as you already know, the last time I was previously in Hungary was eleven (11) years ago and even though I didn’t have enough money for a taxi, I would have had enough money for a cup of coffee.
So, I had at least 400 Czech crowns or €15.00. More than enough local cash to get us to the hotel and then some.
Prague is extremely tidy, modern and organised. Have no fear if you don’t speak Czech as all over the Hlavní Nádraží or Main Train Station, were information booklets in various main languages of how to get about the city or use Prague public transport. Even the ticket machines and wall maps were in English.
Not only that, but I think Prague has one of the easiest underground systems in the world as it only has three (3) lines.
Yep! You heard me.
Just three (3) lines – green, yellow and red!
We bought one (1) short-term ticket costing 24CZK or €0.90 and one (1) child ticket costing 12CZK or €0.45. These tickets are one-way tickets only and can be used for 30 minutes. Unless, you’re planning to use public transport extensively, you shouldn’t need to buy a day ticket and if your hotel is in the city centre, then walking is your friend!
Our hotel – Angelo Hotel Prague – was in the suburbs of Prague – Zone 5. It’s about twenty (20) minutes from the city centre and if you’re particularly nifty, a brisk thirty (30) minute walk will take you along the Vltava river and towards the direction of the Prague Castle in amazing Prague – a unique city.
That’s it for now. Find out what we did next week!
For more information about the Angelo Hotel, please contact: Angelo Hotel Prague.
This article is part-sponsored by the Angelo Hotel Prague but all opinions and the lovely river walks that I went on, are my very own!
I have so much to share with you.
Next week, I’ll be at the Long Night of Museums or die Lange Nacht der Museen which takes place on August 29th. It’s an all night museum and exhibition family event, taking place from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m.
I’ll be there. Will you?
If you’re not in Berlin right now, you’ve got a lot to lose!
August is packing up!
Watch this space!
Have you ever been to Prague? Have you ever lived in another country?