So, let’s start with what to do and not do when booking an overnight train through Europe.

Do: Reserve your seats/beds early.
Do: Book a sleeper car that holds just you and your significant other.
Don’t: Reserve your seats late and get stuck on the top bunk of a tiny, hot cabin sharing a space with two strangers who speak another language and a bevy of teenagers partying loudly in the same car until 2 am.

Take a wild guess as to which one we did. Yep, option 3. That sucked. Soooooo, after a long night that was short on sleep, we arrived in Prague.

We dropped the luggage off at the hotel and started exploring. We walked through the Powder Gate (one of 7 old entrances to the inner city) on our way down to the main square of old Prague.

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After some wandering and perusing the shops, as well as a quick bite to eat, we hit up another free tour. Similar to Munich, beer was a common topic during the tour. However, there was a lot more heartache in Prague’s history – and actually in the whole Czech Republic’s history – than in Munich’s, it seems.

Once upon a time, it was religion that caused heartache, as the the people of Prague in particular were Protestant while much of the rest of Europe was Catholic. This led to a number of clashes, the invention of defenestration (tossing people out of windows), and the 30 years war, one of the bloodiest wars in Europe’s history as a percentage of the continent’s population at the time. At one point, Prague was the capital of the Roman Empire, and the church was unhappy with the fact that Prague was mostly Protestant, so the Emperor cracked down and when the locals rose up, he ended up arresting 27 Protestant leaders and killing them. Today the locations of each death are marked as crosses in the paving stones in the main square:

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If you ever visit Prague, avoid stepping on the crosses. It’s apparently very bad luck.

Later in the country’s history, communism was the problem. Here you’ll see a memorial to a college student (one of two) who lit himself on fire and ran down one of the main boulevards in Prague in protest to the communist rule, asking for the people to rise up. The face is an actual cast of his face shortly after the incident but before he died.

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Not everything was doom and gloom, however. Here you’ll see the astronomical clock that’s in the main square. It shows all sorts of things related to time and astronomy, but it also has a function similar to the glockenspiel in Munich, only apparently worse. This particular tourist attraction was recently named the most disappointing attraction in Europe.

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I guess it just wouldn’t be the Czech Republic if I didn’t also point out that the clock maker had his eyes poked out and his tongue removed by the king to keep anyone else from getting a similar clock made. Though the clockmaker had his revenge. Using his ears (which he still had!) he waited for just the right moment to jam his fingers into the gears of the clock, jamming the mechanism and simultaneously triggering a life ending heart attack, supposedly. The clock was jammed that way for 100 years, so the king didn’t get to enjoy the new clock he’d paid for.

After our tour we decided to go classy and head to the ballet. A nearby theater was showing the best of Swan Lake. I was pretty impressed with all of the girls standing on their toes, but Dawin tells me it wasn’t all that great from a technical standpoint. Seeing as she’s the one with the dance experience, I’ll bow to her judgement. Either way, it was nice to get off of our feet for a while.

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After the ballet we headed out to dinner at a very nice restaurant right on the river with a view of the castle. Seriously, look at this view:

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And the food was spectacular, too. It was an expensive restaurant in an otherwise cheap city, so I guess it should have been good, but this was some seriously excellent stuff and much of it was based on traditional Czech foods.

It was then back to the hotel for an actual good night’s sleep before tackling a trip to the castle, the Jewish quarter, and more classy stuff in the evening tomorrow.