Popping into Prague

Going to Prague made very little sense. We were in London, and had vague plans to get to the Alps at some point in June. The Czech Republic wasn’t really on the way to anywhere. Still, neither of us had ever been. And… we had a friend there. And not just any friend.

“Hey, what if we came to visit you guys in Prague?”

My old pal Carolyn is the kind of person for whom that question is never ridiculous. We met in college twenty-nine (!) years ago, making her the Person I’ve Been Friends With Longest Whom We Visited On this Trip. She also won the Person Who Flew The Longest Distance To Come To Our Wedding award. She’s that kind of friend. Carolyn has been living in Prague for a few years with her husband Mark and two kids, Iona (5) and Finlay (8). She wrote back:

“Of course! When?”

What Carolyn didn’t mention is that she and her whole family were moving from Prague to Switzerland less than two weeks after we came by. They were going to be in the midst of moving prep, job-change prep, kid-school-change prep, and all of that. But like I said, she’s that kind of pal – trying to faze Carolyn is a monumental task. So, we found some EasyJet tickets out of Stansted to Prague and popped on over.

“Popped on over” – a phrase which here means:

  1. Give ourselves plenty of wiggle room to get our flight.
  2. Get on the wrong train out of St. Pancras station, realize it right after the doors close, go one stop, then go back and try again. Wiggle room = gone.
  3. Have our first real (fortunately small) flight delay of the trip.

The best part about the flight delay was that most of our flight seemed to be stag parties. So we were waiting in the gate area with three different groups of guys in matching t-shirts, with bachelors in embarrassing outfits to boot. The tall topless dude in a chaps and leather cop vest/cap getup was my favorite. Visitors to Prague are there for the culture, obviously.

We eventually took off with no further mishap and landed only an hour or so late. We entertained ourselves in the customs line by talking to the Scottish guy ahead of us, who was apparently on a weeklong, four city stag party. He was super nice. I hope he is still alive.

Carolyn lived in the kind of place you dream of visiting – a beautiful house high on a hill with a view of the whole city, a garden full of strawberries, and kind neighbors who make perfect Czech apricot tarts.

View from Carolyn’s place

Fiona was a little nervous about hanging out with strange kids, but… Iona wasn’t actually a stranger.

Fiona and Iona had met when they were three weeks and three months old, respectively. Carolyn had been flying to Bend from Sydney with Iona in tow and she made a point to stop by our place in San Francisco on her layover. She’s just that kind of pal.

Ten minutes after showing up at her place in Prague, the two girls were off doing girl stuff, being friends, ganging up on Iona’s older brother Finlay. My heart sang. We spent the evening in the backyard, feasting on fresh strawberries, pasta with beans, and (incredible) Czech apricot tarts, baked by the neighbors.

The next day we toured Prague, and writing about Prague in summer is more the realm of poets than of lil’ old me. We did some serious touristing, starting at the transit museum, then riding a ’60s tram into town. I loved it. The kids may have loved it more.

Prague on a weekend is swarming with tourists – it was the crowdedest city we’d seen since Barcelona. I tried to count the hen and stag parties we saw and lost track when it the number hit double digits. It was a very warm day. There was ice cream and a little train at a riverside playground. We climbed the Bridge Tower and walked a little ways across the Charles Bridge. We finished our evening at Kuchyn, where the kids were able to play on the lawn while we ate cucumber salad, dumplings, duck leg, and other fantastic Czech food. Prague in the evening is another one of those places where magic whispers at you from around every corner.

How often do you get a chance to get tour-guided through one of the most gorgeous cities in the world? How often does your daughter get to re-bond with one of the first people she ever met? And how often do you get to be reminded why it is that your friends are so great? We’re so fortunate to have such good friends, and so happy to get to see them.


The best part? Carolyn and her family show up again later on this trip. I can’t wait to tell you about it.

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