I was sitting at the dinner table eating a sandwich. A couple of my cousins where there in the kitchen with me goofing around like we used to do many, many years ago. We were in my grandparent’s old house; Grandma and Grandpa Stout were sitting in the living room in the two rocking chairs.
When I finished eating, my grandma asked me to clean the crumbs off the table. In my little boy mind, it made the most sense to move all the items off the table and take the table cloth outside to shake it out. When I came back inside, my grandma thanked me and asked me to close the kitchen window because she was getting cold. Almost at once, something clicked inside my head and I immediately began to panic. My grandma passed away a couple years ago. I had no idea what was going on anymore. I screamed and ran over to jump into my grandpa’s lap. “Grandma’s not here! Grandma’s not here! Grandpa, help me!” I yelled. My grandpa, with his arm around me, he looked down at me and said, “Wake up, son.”
I woke up this morning with a big, violent shake, literally gasping for air. It was the first dream like that I’ve ever had, so I quickly went over to grab something to write it down. It felt so real.
I was in Prague in my hotel room and breakfast was being prepared in the little restaurant next door. I tossed on some clothes and my shoes to go outside to find where I could find breakfast. I went around to the back of the hotel and there was a deck with a couple people sitting outside eating. I went inside and saw some meats, cheeses rolls, and cereal along with juice, yogurt, and milk. I took at least one of everything and found a table to sit down to eat.
When I got back to my room, I hopped in the shower to get ready for the day. I tried the wifi to contact the people in Prague going to Austria, but it wasn’t working this morning. I asked the lady at the front desk if there was a McDonald’s nearby. She didn’t speak English, so I repeated “McDonald’s” and traced the two, golden arches on the wall. “Ahhh”, she said, and pointed down the street in the direction where I’d find it.
After a fifteen minute walk up the road, I found a McDonald’s in a large shopping mall. I got online and replied. My main point of contact up to that point had been a Chinese girl who organized the event. She gave me the phone number for her boyfriend, Jackie, and said I could message him on WhatsApp. I installed it and messaged him, and he replied almost immediately. He said we could meet up later that night and offered me a place to sleep as well if I needed it. It was time to explore Prague.
I was on the outskirts of town so I located the nearest metro station and rode into the city. As I began walking around Prague, it didn’t take long to realize just how beautiful of a city it is. The architecture was just amazing. I crossed a bridge headed for the castle that sat atop a hill. After a short walk and a steep staircase climb, I found myself next to the castle in a large, green lawn that overlooked the city.
I continued around the castle and ended up on the back side. This is where I discovered my favorite building in Prague, the St. Vitus Cathedral. The design of the building was amazing. While the entire cathedral was a huge building, it was actually just one end of the cathedral that caught my attention. It was built with an architectural style that I’d never seen before in person. I had to take tons of pictures.
I started walking back down the hill towards a small tower that sat atop another hill near me. In pictures, I noticed this tower resembled the Eiffel Tower to some degree, so I wanted to head over and see it for myself. Nature trails zigzagged all the way to the top of this next hill, and for the most part I was the only one on them. I reached the top and found that I was on the backside of the tower.
There, while taking pictures, I kept hearing a huge crowd yelling and cheering. It seemed like an odd place for a huge crowd, so I followed the cheering to see where all the commotion was coming from. There was a wall with an arch over top in the distance. When I reached the arch and saw what was on the other side, I was quite surprised. There sat a huge, temporary arena had been created in a park. “Battle Of The Nations” the sign read. It was a medieval style event set up to simulate battles from the middle ages. All the fighters were wearing armor and their crew wore Renaissance-era clothing. It was an all weekend event. I didn’t pay for a ticket to enter because I there still a lot I wanted to see, but just standing on the outside listening to the battles I could get a sense of what was going on inside. Each round started with horns followed by what sounded like a stampede of wild elephants. The crowd absolutely loved it.
Continuing past the battlegrounds, I came across an observatory surrounded with flower gardens. It was the perfect spot to stop and rest for a bit. As I sat there I realized just how much I really liked Prague.
When I began down the hill again, I kept seeing signs for something called the “Magic Cavern”. I had no idea what this was, but it didn’t take long to find out. Standing on the side of the path, I came across a woman dressed with in interesting attire. She was advertising the Magic Cavern as she stood in front. As it turned out, the Magic Cavern was actually an art gallery for a French artist, Reon Argondian, whose art pieces looked like they were painted by a man who went swimming in a pool of LSD before he picked up his paintbrush. I had to see what was inside.
The entrance served as a sneak peak to what lied ahead. It was a small entry way with a spiral staircase leading both up and down. The woman at the entrance, Zuzanna, suggested starting in the basement first. I descended the stairs, passing paintings for each sign of the zodiac. When I got downstairs, I was transported into a crazy hallucination-inspired world. Most every square inch of wall space was taken up by paintings. Beautiful, half naked blue and green skinned goddesses. Twisting demon dogs. Landscapes that only existed in dreams. Some paintings portrayed no recognizable elements, though they still served to demonstrate just how crazy this fantasy world was.
Slow, melodic music with a female singer played throughout the cavern from hidden speakers. Sangria and was sat on a table available for all gallery guests. So many of the paintings made me wish I could climb through the canvas to experience this wild world firsthand.
I made my way back up the stairs, stopping to chat again with Zuzanna on my way up to explore the attic. Upstairs felt less like a cave but still contained just as many paintings on the walls. Taking photos was allowed and encouraged. In the end, I think I photographed almost every single piece of art in the place.
It was around 5:30PM when I finally made it back down the hill into town. I decided to stop at a McDonald’s to message Jackie. He asked me if I could be at his place by 7PM because he had to run some errands later that night. Luckily I found a metro route connecting to a bus route that got me there just in time. After arriving, my instructions were to cross the street from the bus stop, head around to the back of the apartment building there, and look for Jackie’s name on the buzzer next to the door. Just as I rounded the corner to the back of the apartments, I heard my name. It was Jackie.
I introduced myself and went upstairs to his apartment. He showed me the guest bedroom where I’d be sleeping. He said he had some extra time before he needed to leave tonight and suggested we go grab something at the grocery store. I got just enough stuff to make a couple of sandwiches that night and some donuts for the next day. We went back to Jackie’s house and ate before he needed to leave; he was taking his cats to his parent’s house for the weekend while we were going to be gone. He said I could stay at his place if I wanted, but I had him drop me off at the nearest bar instead.
I ordered a beer. “10 or 12?” the bartender asked. I had absolutely no idea what this meant but chose the bigger number. I found a seat as far from all the smokers as I could and took a sip. A German bartender once told me there was one country that made better beer than Germany: the Czech Republic. I was not let down. This beer was so smooth, it felt as if it flowed into my mouth faster than I was pouring it. As if the liquid was fighting its way to be in my stomach. I was happy.
After a couple of beers, Jackie messaged me to find out if I was still at the bar. He met me there where we had one more beer before heading back to his house. We talked for a short while about the trip the next day. We had quite a drive ahead of us, but what we had planned would make it all worth it.