I had a breakdown yesterday. Tony should get a medal for dealing with me. I had reached my limit. My frustration was to the max. This usually happens after about 10 days of traveling internationally, so it’s no surprise that I just burst.
We had left our hotel late in the morning. It was cold, and rainy, and windy. It was just plain miserable. We didn’t know where we were going or how to get anywhere. We were clearly not prepared. We found a little Irish pub just a few blocks away where we had lunch, and it was delicious! But after that, we tried to find the tram. No luck. A taxi. No luck. We finally found the subway, purchased a day pass, and got on, heading in the direction we wanted to go. We got off at our stop only to find five flights of stairs. Not a single elevator or escalator.
After pacing the subway station, which was equally as cold, we found a map that indicated there were just a handful of accessible stops. And so we got back on, and off again at the same place we started. An hour later and we were just colder, at the same place we started.
We stood on the side of the street, rain hitting us like little knives. I was so cold and frustrated with the accessibility that I just started moving in one direction. And before I knew it, I was inside a Russian casino, tears coming out of my eyes and telling Tony, “I just want to go home.”
I understand that from the outside perspective this might be hard to grasp. But traveling, while it is my favorite thing to do, is difficult. I have to plan bathroom breaks – accessible restrooms are far and few between. The sidewalks are often rough, made of cobblestone without ramps. Public transportation is usually not designed for wheelchairs. In essence, traveling internationally is like traveling in a world made only for people with legs. Wheels just don’t do well. And while I usually make do, it’s frustrating, and on most trips, there’s a breaking point for me where I realize that it’s not going to get easier, just harder. And that’s where I was yesterday. The realization that this adventure was just going to get harder (physically).
So the day was not productive. It was emotional. And hard. We went to bed early, with plans to ‘start over the next day.’ And we did just that. Thanks Tony, for you’re your patience and understanding.
We woke up early and had breakfast at the hotel, with the guidebook and paper strewn about the table. I was determined to see as much as possible today. And we did. We saw a ton of beautiful sites.
We started with a two-mile walk to and across the Charles Bridge. The weather was much better today and while it was chilly, walking through the city was a tourist attraction in and of itself. On the other side of the Charles Bridge were several sites – the St. Vitus Cathedral, the Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica, and the Golden Lane. All of these ‘monuments’ were at the top of a hill. The top of a hill that could only be reached by foot. But I was determined to get there.
We started our walk and adrenaline drove me most of the way up. About halfway, we reached an obstacle. There were at least 15 flights of stairs, albeit broken flights, right in front of us. A local retail worker saw us coming and gestured to go around. We saw what was in front of us and turned around, taking the long way to the top of the hill. The roads were curvy, and the sidewalks were bumpy. It was simply exhausting.
About 20 meters from the top, we took a turn for the homestretch when a very nice young man, about our age, grabbed a hold of one of the handlebars and started pushing with Tony. He insisted that I relax and take a break. While we assured him we were fine on our own, he was adamant on helping. I’m not going to lie, it was much appreciated. We discovered that his wife and him were traveling from Tel Aviv for a week holiday in Prague. What a nice couple. It is people like him that continue to restore my faith in humanity.
At the top of the hill, we were able to capture some of the most gorgeous views of Prague. That is, until it started to pour rain again. We scrambled to find shelter, and found ourselves at a little café at the bottom of the hill. We dried ourselves (thankfully) and sat out the rain. Our map indicated that the things we were attempting to see were at the top of the hill, and so we went up again, only to find ourselves bouncing down the 15 flights of stairs. The map, while very, very helpful, doesn’t indicate paths that have stairs. But fortunately, going down is easier and Tony was so gracious to help.
Another mile walk, and we found ourselves at the bottom of another flight of stairs. Tony looked at me and said, “Ok, let’s move on. It’s just not worth it.” And so, after a three-hour attempt to see the St. Vitus Cathedral, Royal Palace, St. George’s Basillica, and the Golden Lane, we grabbed a taxi and headed for the other side of town. I guess that’s the way life goes sometimes. While I am so very fortunate to be in Europe for six weeks, the breakdowns and inability to see some of the most precious sites are part of the package.
Once we were back on flat land, we really got to see some of my most favorite parts of Prague. The streets were filled with people, food stands, and retailers. It’s nearing Christmas time and the decorations are phenomenal. We stopped along the way at various museums and monuments, including the Jewish Quarter, the astronomical clock, Wenceslas Square, and Republic Square…to name a few. We finished the night with pork knuckle and beer. Beer in the Czech Republic is cheaper than water, about the half the price, so…
The day was redeemed, with exhaustion, but I’m loving Prague!
Please feel free to read Tony’s perspective of our trip at http://www.whereistony.com.