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Lost in Prague

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Slovakian Christina, you are a saint. I thank you a million times over and can only wish you all the happiness in the world for your kind gesture. You saved my life.Rule Number 4 – A metro ticket is not valid unless you have it franked in the yellow box at the entrance to metro or on board by tram or you will face a costly tourist fine.On our last night in Prague we visited a local Irish Pub to catch some good ol’ American football. On the wall in Rocky O’Rielly’s Irish house was a list of the Rocky’s 10 Commandments. A list that is detrimental to making or breaking your trip to Prague, a list that I wish we had come upon before making it to the Czech Republic.

Hopping of the train to Prague, I thought we’d made it to the main station (it started with an S, but so did the one in Milan or was that Verona? – either way, I was obviously confused and shouldn’t have left the train). Morgan, being the nice guy, stopped to answer an older man’s question about whether this was indeed the main stop (information I should have hung around for too). The last thing I remember is seeing the train roll away with Morgan still on it and I was standing alone on the wrong platform.

Where would his train stop? Do I wait here? Do I get on another train? Do I ask someone for help? Many bad and terrible swear words later, I decided to do as I was taught, stay where I was, or at least I would until the clock read 3:30pm. Then I would make my way to the hostel hoping that Morgan would be doing the same. I had the instructions to the hostel, 20 Euros in my wallet and both of our passports. Maybe Morgan was already back on another train back to the station I was at, but even if he was, I wasn’t able to see him get out because of all the massive trains blocking my view. I left the station praying I had made the right decision.

I made my way down to the tickeing booth and bought a ticket from a lemon of a woman who charged me a 26 koruny ticket good for only 75 minutes and pointed me in the direction of the Metro. No words were exchanged from her, she was a Czech robot or just didn’t want to help me. I’m sticking with choice A. (We can skip over the part where I fell over sideways from the weight of my 60 litre backpack still strapped to me while getting my wallet. Not knowing that I was halfway across the city and would have to transfer trains, I looked for line C, but only saw options A and B. I asked a young woman, who looked less robotic and more likely to offer help, if she spoke English. Success. I showed her my directions and she told me I’d have to take the B Line and transfer to another train. She was heading in the same direction so we caught the metro together. Still shaking from the stress, I held back tears of fear the entire ride while having to manoeuvre my way in and out of the subway doors to accommodate glaring passengers in the packed cabin.

Six stops later, we leave the jam packed subway car. Still not knowing her name, we head for the escalators to catch our next train. I mention that I haven’t stamped my ticket and wonder if I have to. I had seen little boxes around, but no one was using them so I had followed suit. She insists that I need to do this so we are about to find a box when I am confronted by The Ticket Jerk (an elderly man with coke bottle glasses and a large calculating devine slung over one shoulder). It was weird because he came at me with such skill and calculated purpose, pun intended, that it was as if he’d spotted my from miles away like a skilled Serengeti hyena and had come in for the kill. He grunted something in Czech to me. The young woman translated telling me that he wanted to see my ticket. I showed him and he grunted again about no stamp and demanded my passport. He then demanded 700 dollars (Czech dollars). Now I’m no mathematician, but in my Canadian mind, that accounted to way too much money and would pretty much dry me right out of my funds for Europe. I tried to explain that I had paid for the ticket but I am a tourist and didn’t see the boxes. But he The Ticketing Jerk wasn’t having any of it. He then bumped it up to 7000 dollars and muttered something about the police station. I began to panic. I couldn’t see straight and thought I might pass out right there in the station. The young woman who was still with me, spoke to him in Czech, but he wasn’t going to budge. He was out to get me.

I stood there and told him I had no money, opening my wallet and showing him my 20 measly euros. He laughed and said go to the ATM. It was probably either very smart or stupid of me, but I choice to deny that request. I simply stood there and said “NO!” fully forseeing myself sitting in a Prague jail cell while Morgan would be searching the streets for me. Again he repeats the order of my punishment: ticket, 7000 dollars, police station. Showing him again my crinkled 20 euros, he then demands 30, obviously an amount I didn’t have. I stood there shaking my head and remember saying okay lets go to the station then. It was such a blur because the transaction happened too quickly, but I recall the young woman opening her purse, pulling out her wallet, and handing me 10 euros. I added it to my 20 and was given back my passport and a 700 koruny fine that I have kept has a souvenir.

Lost for words at her act of kindness to a stanger tourist, and having no cash on me to repay her, I stuck out my trembling hand and officially met Christina from Slovakia.

I found my way to the hostel and Morgan turned up a couple hours later. He had done exactly what I thought he might do, caught a 3:15pm train back to the station I had disembarked at, but couldn’t see me past all the trains on the platform. He then spent the next hour searching the main station thinking I may have realized I was at the wrong station and trained there. Finally he checked his Facebook and saw my messages of dismay telling him I was at the hostel and that if he were to use the Metro, to make aure he validated his ticket.

Side note – 700 CZK koruny is roughly 29 euros (40 Canadian). The validation boxes are yellow, roughly the size of a tissue box and are not always at the point of entry to the Metro; they are more likely to be randomly placed off the side.

The Limey

2 comments on “Lost in Prague

  1. Mims
    November 3, 2010

    Note: These yellow tissue boxes at the Metro are very similar to ones in Budapest – in size and location, and they have those same Ticketing Jerks there too! But they also have a sneaky translator with them too. I believe I was charged 8000 Hungarian Forints (~$40 Cdn). Basterds!

  2. Mims! So glad you are following us. I think these ticketing jerks have a monopoly on eastern europe. I haven't seen them in any of the western european countries. Although, what the east does have right is the old school pay phone. Can't seem to find a phone in the west for the life of me that still takes coins. 🙂

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