Having lived in Prague for a year, I can honestly say that being a tourist in this wonderful (glorious, beautiful, fabulous) city is not the same. But perhaps, it had a lot to do with where we were staying: Enter Hostel Florenc, located conveniently practically inside the Florenc bus terminal in Prague. We hadn’t planned to stay here. Instead, we had made arrangements to stay in a studio apartment in the old town for our entire week (turned two) stay. That is, before the owner of the flat decided the price was in euros instead of dollars (as it was stated online). We tried couchsurfing. We tried AirBnB. But ended up at Hostel Florenc because it was the cheapest, included breakfast, and advertised decent wi-fi (something that is increasingly important for a girl trying to put up a daily blog post about her trip around the world).
I didn’t realize how tolerant Andrew and I have become along this trip until today. I mean, sure, I’ve chuckled at ourselves throughout incredibly uncomfortable bus rides through Africa. I continue to make fun of Andrew for getting frustrated over teeny cups of coffee that come with milk when he had specifically asked for black. He continues to make fun of me for getting frustrated over the lack of dipping sauce when I order calamari, or there’s no lettuce in my Greek salad, or the bed isn’t made, or his bag explodes all over our tiny room for the night… (I just asked him what he makes fun of me for, and couldn’t stop him from listing every. single. thing.) One of us gets worked up. The other rolls their eyes and laughs. We get over it.
But after one full week of staying at Hostel Florenc, a stay that included a missing camera (mostly our fault), a clogged drain in a dirty, shared bathroom, an oven-like room, 4AM wake up calls thanks to construction noise and dozens of buses starting up outside our window, internet speeds so slow they rivaled those in Africa… When we got back late last night, I opened my big backpack to discover its contents soaked – including the inside of a binder full of women electronic outlets, camera accessories, and the worst part: a paper bag full of ticket stubs, travel pamphlets, and one full travel journal… I could no longer tolerate Hostel Florenc and followed Andrew down to reception, completely disappointed with not only Hostel Florenc, but that our week long stay in Prague was not nearly as glorious as my year residing in the city had been. To try to make up for our disastrous accommodation, Andrew acquiesced to an afternoon of thrift and vintage shop hopping in and around Vinohrady and Žižkov.
After stumbling upon some fun stores in Budapest, I decided to put a little more effort into looking for fun thrift and vintage stores in Prague. I found some good articles and lists, did a bit of cross referencing, and tried to go to an area where it looked like the most were. (You can check all of the inks out here, here, and here!) We ended up starting in Vinohrady and I ducked into several hoping to find some new (to me) clothes that would fit into my budget.
First stop: Second Street Boutique
I found several things, but they were all on the regular priced racks and I couldn’t justify spending the equivalent of $10.00 on a second hand shirt. I didn’t realize the bargain bins were such a bargain until I had already been inside for fifteen minutes- if you go, head to those first! Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything. If I weren’t traveling around the world- living out of a backpack (and trying my hardest to stick to a budget) I would have bought a few things, but… if I bought something I’d have to give up that much of my daily budget annnd I’d have to figure out how to stuff it into my backpack… I walked out empty handed.
Second stop: Second Hand Fox’s
This was set up more like a boutique, which kinda meant there wasn’t tooo much to choose from. It’s right smack in the middle of lots of other choices, so it’s worth stopping, but don’t get your hopes up.
Third stop: Second Móda
Random stop in between other shops on the list. I went in because there was a giant (not exactly friendly in the end) dog I wanted to be friends with and it looked properly packed. There were piles. and stacks. and disorganized racks of clothes. It was great. But possibly too vintagey for this trip?
Fourth stop: Praha Thrift Store
This one reminded me most of my favorite back home. It was organized. It was full. There were even weekly discounts (although none applied to me). It wasn’t terribly expensive, but I just couldn’t find anything… I started to feel a little disappointed, but reminded myself it was all about the adventure of it instead of the final purchase today.
Fifth stop: Bohemian Retro
This was probably the most vintagey (and fun) store on the list. There was even a ‘man chair’ for Andrew and a lovely American (I believe it’s his wife’s shop) who had been living in Prague for awhile to chat to while I mulled over a bag and if I could take it around South America with me. In the end, I decided the bag wouldn’t work on the road and we headed back towards Old Town for some langosš (you can see him eating it in the video above) and a photography exhibit.
I was a little bit bummed that we went to sooo many places and I was returning back to Hostel Florenc empty-handed. And then I remembered that my bag got soaked the night before and if I were to get something fabulous, the way this trip has been going, chances are it something would have happened to it… It was a good day of distraction (from our hostel nightmare) and one that wasn’t as touristy as our other days in Prague have been.
The photography exhibit; Viktor Kolář: A Retrospective was nice- well, that’s just it- it was nice. It probably shouldn’t have been called a ‘retrospective’ in my very humble opinion, and that it wasn’t arranged in chronological order was a bit strange… Disconnects like these make me curious how the show was curated. But I always feel like I learn a bit more about photography and what I like and dislike when looking at others’ works, exhibitions, and even ‘retrospectives.’
Back at Hostel Florenc, we were greeted by the worst reception girl on the whole of this trip. Seriously, she was that awful. I’m jumping ahead a bit, (simply because I don’t want to talk about Hostel Florenc in another post) but the reason we stayed so long at Hostel Florenc in the first place (despite less than lovely conditions) was because all of the other women at the front desk were so nice! Apparently this woman (with bright red dyed hair I might add) was not in the same training session. When we went to check out and ask if the manager had anything for us to make up for my soaking bag (we were hoping for at least a refund for one or two nights stay) she muttered under her breath the entire time about how we left the window open (we didn’t) and it was our fault (it wasn’t). Had she simply followed the typical customer/hospitality rules of apologizing and being nice about an unfortunate situation, I would have chalked the whole thing up to the joys of travel… and our plain bad luck some times.
Instead, she decided to be a horrible person and I walked out in shock at how terribly she spoke to us before we left- after staying for (and paying for) eight nights! I was fuming as we crossed town to meet our couchsurfer host for the night (Thank God for him!) and if the hostel wasn’t located in such a crap location (in the middle of the Florenc Bus Station) I probably would have marched back in to give her a piece of my mind. Instead, I took to Trip Advisor and left quite possibly the worst review I have on this entire (nearly one year) trip.
They of course, responded and said I lied. While I fumed- again- at Hostel Florenc, Andrew laughed at how absurd they were and took to writing a Trip Advisor review for them of his own. A few days later, in Barcelona we met up with a friend of ours who had stayed in the same place and had a similar (terrible) experience with them as well. We commiserated. Andrew showed her our list of what we would include in our future boutique hostel/guesthouse (investors wanted). She approved.
We all agreed hospitality is key. All Hostel Florenc had to do was apologize profusely for the inconvenience. Perhaps offer a dryer. Maybe even some complimentary tea or coffee after I spent an hour trying to clean up a mess that wasn’t my fault. But noooo, they shot us dirty looks, talked badly about us under their breath, and didn’t even thank us for our week long stay! My only hope is that others stumble across our reviews and possibly this post so they realize it’s worth it in the end to pay more to stay elsewhere!