The lovely ambience was shattered when a group of Northern lads came in loudly in the early hours, followed by another group of lads who decided to turn on all the lights, fall over everything, swear and shout at each other at around 3am. This lasted a good hour or so, and once the lights had eventually been turned off, one got out a torch and proceeded to shine it directly at John and me, which was nice of him. By now I was super awake and it took another hour or so to get back to sleep. It felt like only minutes had passed when I woke to my 8am alarm going off next to me. Up I trotted to see if I would have any luck in the shower. I won't give you details (you wouldn't want them) but the female shower room was utterly disgusting. John had a similarly bad experience, slipping over on the wet floor and cutting his finger badly on the showerhead. I knew that I'd brought antiseptic wipes and plasters for a reason and now was the time for Nurse Vixie to spring into action!
The "free breakfast buffet" was disappointing, and we found that someone had opened our milk and helped themselves to it then left it out so it was all warm. I do not like people here. We ate lots of cereal to set us up for the day and headed out into a very wet Prague. We took a metro (and some very fast escalators) to Vltarská where the biggest market in Prague is located. But not on Sundays :( From there we walked past a pizzeria called Pizza Go Home and towards a park right at the north of the city called Stromovka, where there was a planetarium and the really cool looking Exhibition Hall which had a small clock tower on legs on top of the main building with a small spiral staircase leading up from the main building, between the legs and up into the clock tower. I had hoped to see an interesting fountain I had read about nearby, but we couldn't find it. The area has been built up a lot since the map I have was drawn, so maybe it no longer exists :(
We walked past a Segway shop on our way to get a tram, and there were lots of Czech chavs at the tram stop. We trammed it up to another park in the north called Letenské Sady where the main attraction is a big red metronome. As we climbed the steps to see it up close we saw some graffiti saying "Piss Cat Ears" ( the most random we have come across) and noticed that the power cable running above it has lots of pairs of shoes hanging from it, and even some womens heeled boots. Continuing in a south westerly direction we walked to Pražský hrad. The castle grounds include the Basilica of St George and St. Vitus Cathedral as well as a dozen other buildings, and while the castle looked pretty in tact there was scaffolding covering the cathedral. We bought postcards and wandered around in the drizzle, admiring the trees that looked like Mark Rothko paintings. We saw two old women in plastic ponchos who looked like wizards and then watched the changing of the guard at the Spanish Hall entrance. While we were watching them one started laughing, which set another one off, and it was amusing seeing them trying to control their giggles.
We left the castle and walked towards town, spying the Petřin Tower, which looks like a miniature Eiffel Tower, on a hillside above the city. We ate ice cream, John had a Choco Dream and I had a pistachio Magnum equivalent. No gelato today. We walked past St Nicolaus Church and stopped at the Church of The Holy Infant of Prague (its real name is the Church of Our Lady Victorious), a Baroque church with the most amazing decoration inside. We've been to a lot of churches and cathedrals, and even more because of this trip, an I think this is my favourite, both because of the ornate, ridiculously over the top decoration and because the story of the Holy Infant is so cool. A wax figure of Jesus was given to the church in Prague in 1628 and is paid homage to by pilgrims who come from all over the world, inc. South America, Spain, Vietnam and China, after people said that they had seen the Baby Jesus and that miracles had occured after praying to the Holy Infant in Prague. Other things we've read have said that the church made up lots of these stories in order to get people to visit the church, but of course Catholics cannot deny people saying that they've seen apparitions so it had to be believed. I love Catholics. Above the church, up some windy stone steps, is a small museum showing all the different hand-embroidered silk outfits that have been made for the wax figure, and they are incredible. There is also a little photo gallery of the Holy Infant wearing each of the outfits and all over the city you can buy miniature replicas of him. I think they're wonderful, but John thinks they're hideous. If only there was a snowstorm with him inside, it would be perfect!
We walked over Charles Bridge (with scaffolding), saw the National Theatre (scaffolding) and walked into Stare Mesto where we passed the biggest shop of Russian dolls we've ever seen. They had lots of fairly normal dolls but also dolls of all of the teams in the Premier League and all the divisions, as well as all the British rugby teams and lots of American baseball teams. Pretty incredible. We also saw a set of Pope dolls, but they were vastly expensive so we gave them a (sad) miss. We stopped by Albert to get some cheese, and after getting drenched, headed back to the hostel to dry off and have another late lunch (4pm again, silly us). We met the new guy in our dorm, his name is Ben, he's from New York and he's here for 2 weeks doing a language course after making friends with some Czechs over online chess. We ended up chatting with him for 6 hours, about everything. We started on Catholicism (good ol' Holy Infant) moving to British comedy and from there to politics to history to schools (he's a maths teacher) to accents to crisp flavours and finished at Top Gear, with everything else inbetween. We were having so much fun that we forgot to have dinner before bed.