Sometimes your plans fail. This seems to be one of those life lessons that we get to learn…continually. But we also learn other things, like how to see the silver lining in the clouds. And how to smile and have a sense of humour. I am learning how to reach for my wild crazy dreams, and how to be okay when things don’t turn out as I had hoped. There is always a mix of the good with the bad, I guess that’s what makes life so interesting. I mean, if everything always went perfectly…and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it would probably get boring. I recently read a quote that I have been thinking about a lot;
“Great joy combined with struggle promotes growth.”
This seems true of life, and most especially it seems true of international family travel!
Daring to go places I had dreamed about, even though the timing was imperfect and even though we were imperfect, produced great joy. Joy for the beauty, joy for the excitement, and great joy for the knowledge deep in my heart that I was trying to live my life bravely.
On the other hand - just managing the daily tasks of life = struggle. We struggled to figure out where and when to get around and how to feed and house our large family in unfamiliar territory. We struggled with communication and some of the unique frustrations that come from being on the road together all the time. And we struggled when unexpected challenges came our way.
But I am learning that the combination of joy with struggle promotes growth. As a family, we were growing. Sometimes joyfully, sometimes painfully, but we were doing it together, and that was the dream!
Prague was also a dream. I initially went to the city of 1000 spires with a whole bunch of unrealistic expectations and came out happy and intrigued to see more. So, I planned a perfect day to have with our lovely German friends who had shown us around Dresden. I felt that it was our turn to play host, I wanted things to be perfect!
Things did not quite go as planned…
First up, we met in the Old Town Square of Prague. The sky was shining a crisp bright blue and it promised to be a glorious day.
European town squares are THE BEST! In the Prague Old Town Square there was a particular one-man puppet show that was all kinds of crazy! There were also gold moving statues and the best hot chocolate to be found!
The centre of attraction is of course the Astronomical Clock, it is a medieval masterpiece that features moving apostles who are accompanied by Death staring down at you. For more info about the clock, check out the story of our first adventure in Prague.
Things were a bit more crowded than last time we’d explored Prague, probably on account of the nicer weather, but we enjoyed seeing the clock and then made our way to Wenceslas Square. I was so excited to learn about the real King Wenceslas, it is so funny that on the other side of the world in Australia where our Christmas is a hot summer, we sing Christmas Carols about Good King Wenceslas! We sing the story about a Bohemian King going on a journey and braving the harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant on the ‘Feast of Stephen.’ Wenceslas is the Patron Saint of the Czech Republic, he was a 10th Century Duke, also known as 'Vaclav the Good', he was assassinated by his evil brother 'Boleslaw the Bad'.
I had researched a great place for lunch, a train restaurant where you sit at a table and your food is delivered by a mini train! Everyone loved the idea, but we did not love the fact that it was fully booked. I felt kinda stupid that I hadn’t thought to book ahead, although, in my defense, usually in the shoulder seasons things are much less crowded. However, clearly everyone else in the city liked the idea of having pizza a-la-train, and so we improvised and found a quirky restaurant that went down some stone steps into a cave where we feasted on some delicious overpriced Czech dumplings and gravy.
The day had a mix of good and bad, just like always. The lunch idea failed, but we made it work. Then our friends had to get some cash out of a bank…it took forever. We had 8 kids (who didn’t all speak the same language) to wait on a busy street of a major city – not an easy thing. This setback had Ross and I thinking creatively, the struggle was promoting growth! We organised a game for them to play on the sidewalk. Were we a loud unusual sight? Yep. But it showed us again that we could make things work if we looked outside the box.
We walked and walked, this seemed to be a theme for us in Prague. In hindsight, I feel like an idiot. If we’d been a bit more travel savvy, we would have watched Rick Steve’s tips about how to get around Prague and then taken the tram system instead of walking the whole bloody thing, but no, we walked and walked and walked. Luckily it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world!
The view over the Vltava River is stunning, such a great spot for a family photo…OK, fail again. Do you think we could get all seven of us in a photo and smiling? No way.
A traditional photo was not one of the day’s successes, but I do remember walking along that river after our photo fails, my kids were laughing and trying to communicate with our German speaking friends. My kids would occasionally emerge from tween moodiness to enjoy the beauty around them, sibling bonding was happening naturally, and it was a beautiful thing to witness.
The Charles Bridge was just as cool as last time, and way more crowded. We shuffled along, tried to not lose anyone, and listened to the local musicians as we admired the Martyr’s statue.
So far, the day had involved a lot of walking and a lot of crowds, a restaurant fail and unsuccessful photos. If you need to pick things up a bit on a city day out, I recommend going to see the weirdest artwork you can find, and Prague surely delivered! David Cerny's Giant Bronze Babies were all sorts of humour, horror, and weirdness all mixed together. We were intrigued, we were weirded out by the sight of our babies climbing on giant mutant babies, and we couldn't stop laughing. In horror, but it was still funny.
Around the corner we posed in front of Lennon's Wall. A colourful Czech memorial to free speech and non-violent rebellion.
To end our day, I had planned for our family to take the Funicular up to Petrin Hill. But it was a failed train kind of day. The line was huge and we were there only in time for the last few trains. We then discovered that cash was needed as the card machine was not working. The two husbands did a mad dash to a store across the road to procure some cash. While they were gone, my friend and I chatted and watched as our kids came up with a fun and creative sliding game. I was all sorts of proud until they went too far and crushed each other and ended up crying.
The guys got back to wailing children, only to discover that the machine would only accept coins. We had to have the exact right change in coins...and then the last train left. We gathered all the kids and found a nearby playground to finish off our perfect imperfect day.
Sometimes your plans fail, and sometimes unexpected delights emerge. You never know what is going to turn up in life and particularly in travel. The combined elements of both joy and struggle were present that day. We smiled and laughed, we were frustrated and delayed, we bonded and cried. Looking back at the day has me realizing that overall it was mostly good.
Maybe life is like that.
The negative elements fade and we can remember the joy with the struggle and thus see how we have grown. How we would do things differently next time, and how much we value the memories that contain the elements to our growth.
Tips for Prague -
- If you would like to have your lunch or dinner in Prague delivered by train, check out the Vytopna restaurant. Just make sure to book ahead!
- If you plan to catch the funicular, make sure you have a pocket full of coins!!
- David Cerny's creepy crawling babies are located in the beautiful Kampa Park, guarding the entrance to the Kampa Museum of Modern Art. There are some more crawling mutant babes on the Zizkov TV tower in Prague 3, they light up at night...
- Lennon's Wall is a short walk from the Charles Bridge. You can add your own graffiti to the wall!
- Definitely check out the local tram system to avoid walking all over the city and exhausting yourself. I recommend Rick Steves' helpful website.
Game - If you find yourself in need of entertaining multiple children on the side of a street, try out this game:
- Rock, Paper, Scissors Game - One person stands at the head of a line as champion. The person at the front of the line challenges them to a duel of Rock, Paper, Scissors. If they lose, they go to the end of the line. If they win, they get to take the champion position.
...this game can go on forever...
- Squish each-other on a sloping pole game - I do not recommend this game, it will end in crying.