According to legend, Princess Libuse stood above Czech Republics Vltava river in the ninth century and declared, "I see a city whose glory will touch the stars; it shall be called Praha (meaning threshold)." Kings, architects and benefactors fulfilled the prophecy. I haven’t yet found such a place as Prague. The city has a unique, enchanting ambiance that is made present through the gothic churches and the Baroque and art-nouveau architecture.
Prague is a fairy-tale. The city’s buildings bear unusual colours such as deep pinks, yellows and greens. Those colourful blocks are accented with something that looks like icing on cake – swirls and roses and tiny pieces made of stone or cement. The area itself is very quiet and tranquil, which adds to the magical atmosphere.
I stayed at a hostel called The Clown and Bard, a hippie-style congregation centre for worldly backpackers. The administration stuck me on the sixth floor (without an elevator, mind you) in a large room with 39 other people in it. Thirty nine. That’s like a whole football team. The largest dorm I ever stayed in was a 16-person room in London.
This situation could have been a disaster with the wrong atmosphere, yet I was in Prague, and everyone was open and full of love for each other. It was the time of my life. I felt like I was in a large orphanage for unadoptable world youth. We were too old to be adopted, so we wandered the earth in search of others like us.
In situations like that, it is impossible not to make friends. I didn’t only make friends, I made a family for four days. Half of us dorm orphans went out to dinner together every night. We sat around the table conversing United Nations-style about various cultural topics. Australia, England, Ireland, America, Spain, Norway, Canada and Poland were all present at the meeting with England having the strongest representation.
When visiting Prague, be prepared to live like royalty. Everything is so cheap that the Canadian dollar will stretch a long way. A rich, full course meal will cost around five Canadian dollars. Beer is cheaper than bottled water at 50 cents per a half liter glass. With food and drink flowing in abundance, us dorm orphans felt like the children of Eden.
Yet the Czech Republic has an alcoholic drink that would never be found in Eden. The country has a bizarre love affair with a nearly poisonous liquid called Absinthe. This turquoise potion is 160 proof at its strongest, was rumored to be opium laced and linked with hallucinations. It is illegal in all but three countries, yet the crazy Czechs still drink it like milk. Many may wonder if that’s the reason for the relaxed, enchanted atmosphere.
I knew the reason for the hippie-style love was more than absinthe. The enchanting atmosphere was deeper than the detailed or ancient architecture. Prague had a magical force that lingered around through the dark alleyways and between the cracks of the cobblestone streets. It was very present in the mist at dawn and during the sunset at night.
It was bizarre, and it made me wonder if the legend of Princess Libuses magic spell was really a legend and not actual truth. Prague will enchant any traveler, no mater the age of the person or the outlook on life they have. How hard it will enchant you is questionable. As a young backpacker, I left the city deeply moved. I think the stardust will linger in my system for a long time.