Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Trams, Trains, and Metrorails

IMG_5443

From the apartments at Veverkova 25 in Prague 7 walk a block or two south. Then take the 14 or the 24 tram line until Jindrisská, and if you reach Václavské námestí then you've gone too far. Pass the Coca-Cola mural and the large Bata shoe store. Turn left and walk past the construction, and your final destination will be around the corner from Ferdinand's, and across from the Mosqyt bar. This is the CET headquarters, the Maymester classroom.

Or why not grab the 14 tram to the Vltaská and then hop over to the metro line. Pass Florenc, Hlavní nádrazí, and make your exit at Muzeum. You'll arrive in Wenceslas Square, a major economic and cultural hub within the city of Prague, with the north end dominated by the Czech National Museum and the south by local carts of neighborhood Czech cuisine.

Trams and metro rails allow one to access every corner of Prague, but for the foreign traveler, the names of the Czech stops can cause considerable confusion. The Czech language is the harshest of the Slavic languages, and one of the more difficult languages in the world. The words can contain multiple accents and breves, or consonants that often never meet like 'H' and 'R' in Na Hroude. Adding to the confusion, there are three separate metro rail lines and over twenty tram lines that you must hop to and from in order to meet your desired destination.

But the rail lines provide you with a real cultural experience. One begins to notice the way that local Czech passengers typically stare. Especially if you are American and begin to initiate loud, boisterous conversations with your fellow comrades. The Czechs are typically more reserved. Similarly, you begin to notice other local mannerisms: a young professional, relieved from getting off of work versus a mother teaching her child English by reading a picture-book.

Riding the tram functions as a honor system since your purchased tickets are hardly ever checked. Occasionally though, an inspector who is often disguised, will approach you and flash his badge. You must provide a tram card or current ticket, otherwise pay a fine of nearly 700 Czech crowns (approximately thirty-five dollars).

Coming from Texas, a land practically devoid of public transportation aside from Metro buses, riding metro rails and tram lines is hugely unfamiliar to many in the Maymester program. But accessing these systems each day has already helped us immerse ourselves and begin to understand Prague. Over the next month, we will utilize the public transportation system numerous times, and each pick a stop to explore further. We will explore the unique cultures present throughout the city--from the Prague Castle to the Jewish quarter--and we will walk away with real stories of the real Prague. Stories beyond tourist attractions and postcard destinations.

IMG_5311