When: October 2012
Why I went there:
- To replace my mother who’s having bad knees to accompany my father for a business trip.
- To visit a friend in Germany. (The good thing about Europe is the countries are located side by side. It’s like going from Bandung to Jakarta with Cipaganti)
- To go somewhere cold and new (it was autumn and I had never been to any country in Central Europe).
- To make use of my father’s mileages (Yay half-priced tickets!).
Ten things I learned from this trip:
1. In Wikipedia and Wikitravel I trust. I mean, in term of Prague travel tips and reviews. I won’t write too much about those stuff, because 95% of what I experienced is in accordance to what they wrote.
2. Apply a Schengen visa via Czech Embassy in Jakarta ONLY IF you have no other option. Otherwise, try Netherlands or any Schengen member state embassy that doesn’t treat you like a disease (or still does, but less). Well, the strict visa lady (most possibly a Czech) is quite nice and helpful. She gets your visa issued on time if you have completed all the requirements. But the system sucks big time. There’s NO ONLINE application system, so you have to submit your documents in person, and queue in front of the locked, security-guarded gate (YES ON THE PEDESTRIAN SIDEWALK) which only opens every Tuesday and Thursday (9-12 for submission and 13-14 for picking up your visa), with no queue system as well. Don’t know if they have changed the policy by now, though, but my experience was “first come first serve”. Moreover, the process takes very long (up to 20 minutes for one person). Thus if you are the 5th person in the line to pick up your visa, chances are you have to go back on the next working day. And beware, sometimes they open a little late.
From now on I will complain less about US visa application for being a pain. Because at least they will eventually let you in, and they have more decent online and queue system. But I still hope that every embassy would be as humane as UK visa services.
3. Prague is very beautiful and clean. A lot more wonderful than the pictures I took (sure Lhuri your pictures are lame). Many people say, it’s like Paris, but cleaner, and less mainstream. I couldn’t agree more and I won’t turn down an opportunity go back one day.
4. Living cost in Prague is cheaper than that in Western Europe countries. The public city transport system is very well developed and quite cheap. And it takes only a 10-15 minutes to get yourself familiar with the routes (I only used subways/metro and trams). Also, souvenirs are not very expensive. I’m pretty satisfied with Stamion, a giftshop near Charles Bridge. Nice price, nice people. Note: 1 Euro = 23-25 CZK. Sometimes you get better rates at certain shops than in money exchangers.
5. Czech people are friendlier than I expected. They don’t like to be photographed, and are not as joyous as Javanese people who smile all the time for no reason. But generally, they are helpful enough to help a lost tourist. My suggestion: find help from the younger people because they speak English. The reason why some Czechs might be reluctant to assist you find an address is probably the language barrier.
6. Czech people are good-looking. The ugliest lad can still replace Nicky Tirta in one of his sinetron. Well I’m exaggerating, but oh well, they really are beautiful.
7. Be safe. As warned by many articles, beware of stalkers. That’s true. I got followed by a stranger. He appeared shabby, drunk, and possibly homeless. It was horrifying because I was alone (my father is attending the convention), so I tried to stay close with a lot of people in open space, particularly old couples and families with kids. In fact, that’s how I got the stalker back off. I made acquaintance with other harmless-looking strangers who happened to be a very sweet couple and they knew I’d been followed. Those angels walked me back to to hotel safely 🙂
My tips if you’re going solo: keep your purse in your room. Bring only things you can keep in your coat pocket, like photocopy of passport, tickets, cellphone, and sufficient amount of bank notes. Other alternative, get a Starbucks paper bag as your fashion item. That way you can still carry several larger things like umbrella and bottled water without provoking malicious intention.
8. If you are easy to please (like me), the best-known spots can be visited in just 2 days. Just so you can say to people you have been to Charles Bridges, Prague Castle, Vyšehrad, Wencesclas Square, and seen Astronomical Clock :p
9. Eurail is comfortable. Very punctual and nice. The booking and stuff aren’t very complicated. So yeah, I’m pretty satisfied.
10. Look, here’s the weird lonely girl! If you want to travel around the city, be in a group of two or three. In addition to safety reason, you have someone to take your picture posing with some cool tourism objects. That way, you don’t end up having to ask strangers to take an awkward photo of yourself next to a cemetery gate (why would someone be photographed next to a cemetery gate anyway?). Or even sadder, doing this in front of a hotel mirror .
I’ll post about my trip to Papua next time.