Our third day in Prague, and our second full one, saw us embark on a six hour tour of the city's classic sights. Sam was keen to hit all the big names in one day, while I was ambivalent about the cost and uncertain whether the trade off of more facts, less appreciation time would be worth it. Plus, the weather was due to rain again and we'd be walking for much of the day.
Our guide, Nina, was an accented but quite funny woman who had been doing the tour for twenty years. She had a nice rhythm and energy and would throw in jokes of varying quality to liven a walk. The sky was an impressive shade of grey and soon broke into a torrential downpour. We huddled under ponchos, umbrellas and hoodies in the rain as the tour showed no sign of altering its path. We breezed through churches, statues, astronomical clocks, communism victims, English Christmas carols and all of Prague's contradictions. An old new town, a new old synagogue, an upside-down horse statue hanging from the ceiling of a mall, and all the Kafka restaurants and tie-ins in Kafka square that he never visited - it was a whirlwind of opposites and surreal imagery.
It seemed like half the group were Australians, or at least the young ones, bar a Kiwi and Canuck or two. It was nice to chat to some other travellers, of various ages and life paths, though one guy was young, alone and particularly clingy to us and self-absorbed in his conversation. The New Zealander, living in Western Australia, was a more interesting person - paying off her student debt in the mining boom, and aiming to be a paramedic. I have to say I enjoyed the opportunity to meet new faces more than the tour itself.
It included a boat cruise, which was about forty-five minutes in length at most and, while a relief to get out of the rain and have a coffee, was mostly just an opportunity to get a lunch order done, do a lap up to the Charles Bridge and then moor again. We emerged into some glare and bursts of sun through the clouds, though thankfully not rain, and continued on our whimsical way through the Jewish quarter. Half of the group had left, including some friendly Canadians (are there any others?), as their ticket only included the cruise, while the rest of us had booked the full day and lunch. Lunch, which included a boring chicken and chips option that of course was picked by the Americans beside us, was largely underwhelming, and the ad proclaiming a three course meal oversold it in that it implied it would be good.
Our guide Nina, equipped with a microphone and portable speaker, had made a joke of insulting a restaurant or the government and then realising she was broadcasting and lowering the volume. It was a nice gag, but our final stop at the Prague castle, reached after a tram ride up the hill, saw a surreal twist. As we stood in the street beside a map of the castle (and five hundred metres away from it), a policeman came up to Nina and told her to turn down the volume. Kafka would have laughed.