Prague is a magical city. With cobblestoned lanes, medieval buildings, a 14th century stone bridge and castle upon a hill, it’s impossible not to be enchanted by the Czech capital. It’s something straight out of a fairytale. But getting there wasn’t quite so.
What was meant to be a three hour train journey turned into a 10 hour ordeal thanks to some not-so-bright thinking by myself and Jackie. Here’s the story of how two girls wound up in quite the pickle; almost stranded in Germany and feeling very sorry for ourselves. And a valuable lesson or two learned about getting around Europe.
It all started on a Sunday night in Berlin. We had eaten dinner, packed our bags, laid out our clothes and set an alarm ahead of tomorrow’s scheduled 7.00am train. While the train is a bit pricey compared to buses it’s the quickest way to get the Czech Republic. We only had two days in Prague and planned to make the most of it.
The night was young and we were watching Netflix in our hotel room. Something didn’t feel right. Here we were in a city known around the world for its nightlife and we’re tucked away, not making the most of it. Shouldn’t we be carpe diem-ing this? Seizing the day, living our best life, all those positive live for the moment type mottos?
“What’re your thoughts on picking up a few bottles of wine and heading out?” I asked.
“Sold! Let’s do it,” said Jackie. (This was perhaps the first bad decision)
Fast forward a few hours and it was just past midnight. We had adequately (and responsibly, of course) pre-drunk and were en route to Suicide Circus (great name, great place). After a brief Google search and asking a grand total of two people this seemed like the most happening Sunday nightspot in the city.
Like so many spots in Berlin, it’s unlike anything I’ve experienced. Suicide Circus is incredible. It’s one of a handful of clubs built into a grungy warehouse district just up from the East Side Gallery. Judging by the plethora of Australian accents it seems to be a hotspot for tourists. Once inside, prepare to get lost in a labyrinth of winding corridors. Just finding the toilet is a mission. Add in smoke, a bonfire, strobe lights and blaring music and voila, it’s quite the deadly (but incredibly fun) combination.
Fast forward another few hours and it’s panic stations. The 7.00am train? We didn’t even come close to making it.
This was the first transport mishap of my trip, and one of my biggest fears. I’m organised and on time. I’m the person who arrives at a bus station 45 minutes before departure, just to be safe. Travelling by myself played a big part in this. I had no one else to rely on should anything go wrong. Until now.
I was frazzled. I didn’t know how quickly trains, or even buses filled up an we REALLY wanted to get to Prague by evening. So I jumped online and bought two bus tickets.
We missed that bus.
In the end two girls looking extremely worse for wear finally made their way to Berlin’s bus terminal. I was kicking my backpack along by this stage and Jackie clutching her organic bananas she insisted had to make the journey with us. We bought another two bus tickets and in what surprised us (and no doubt you) we made this one! By evening we were in Prague, ready to spend the next 36 hours powering through everything we wanted to see and do in the city.
There’s a few lessons to be learned here. Missing pre-booked transport isn’t the end of the world despite how much you can build it up in your head. It’s annoying and frustrating but comes out pretty low down on the list of serious things which could go wrong while overseas.
Another is avoid booking buses and trains where possible. They rarely sell out during the off season. Worst case scenario we would’ve had to spend another night in Berlin. Luckily we came out with the best case, ending up in Prague a few hours late. If you’re travelling between big cities there will always be connections.
And a big one – keep track of the time, especially when you have to be up at the crack of dawn.