Prague – A Free Trip With a Lot of Worth

As soon as the word ‘free’ is mentioned, everyone will jump at it. That was almost exactly the case with this trip. My Uni offered a free* trip to Prague and I jumped at the offer, thinking it’ll be a great little holiday, exploring Prague, and to some extent I was right. But, as the * probably gives away, there was a catch. Journalism work. Lots and lots of Journalism.

So, the whole point of this trip was to work with Czech and Belgian Journalism students in a kind of International news project. And it worked pretty well. Admittedly to start with there were teething issues. We had no clue who each other were, there was a slight language barrier (but luckily everyone knew basic English) and we all had different styles of how to do the same Journalism. So, after the week, I figured I’d do a little article on what I spent the week doing, including all the touristy bits and the journalistic work. Hope you enjoy.

 

Day 1: Sunday – A Day of Travel

Luckily, our flight from Bristol was set for 6.30 pm. Meaning our journey from Plymouth didn’t have to start until early afternoon (no early start for us). Despite the length, 2ish hours, the journey to the airport wasn’t bad. The mix of 5 First years and 7 Second years led to a bit of awkwardness at the start, but that quickly disappeared.  The flight from Bristol to Prague was around 1hr 45 mins but that still wasn’t the end of the journey. Once landing in Prague we met a Czech Uni teacher who helped us navigate the public transport as we boarded a bus, a train and then a tram before we finally arrived at Hostel Advantage, our base for the week. Everyone quickly accommodated themselves in their rooms and turned in after the traveling, ready to start work the next day.

 

Day 2: Monday – Introductions

Meeting new people is stressful, when those people don’t have English as their first language, it’s even more stressful.

The day started at 9 am. Our group walked down to the Czech Uni’s new building, our work HQ for most the week, and were ushered into a room filled to the brim with strangers. We were quickly introduced to the teachers that were running the course, including 3 of our own, and were told what we would be doing on each day (Monday-Friday) and then we were separated into groups of 3.

Each group consisted of a Belgian student and a Czech student (with the Czech student supposed to be acting as a guide for the city). Chaos then ensued as people tried to remember who got drawn in what group, and what they looked like, as we were dismissed to discuss what stories we would be chasing during the next day. Most Czech’s then decided it would be good for a large group to get a drink down by the river in Prague to help decide on stories and so we set off. A big group of about 20-odd wandering down to the river. Everyone bought drinks, both alcoholic and non, and we all sat around, chatting and getting to know each other, building relations – something this project was designed to do.

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After drinks were finished and conversations were had, the Czechs then decided to give us a brief tour of some of the landmarks in Prague. We walked along the river, saw the National theatre building, crossed a bridge and saw the John Lennon wall. The weather was sunny, one of the few bright days we’d see, so the walk was beautiful if not a little bit sweaty. We then quickly made our way back to the Uni building, had a quick discussion about the next days stories then split to get prepared for the evening meal.

The meal was at Restaurance U Sumavy and, as it was pre-paid by the lecturers, we had a choice of Schnitzel, Dumplings or Beef Goulash – this proved to be an issue for Aarron who’s Vegan and had to order his own potatoes and vegetables (which was argued to be better than the other choices). All the students attended but, being English, we didn’t want that to be the end of the night. I quickly Google Mapped where we could go next and we decided the Status Karaoke Bar would be the best bet.

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I led the group, comprised of all the English and some of the Belgians (the Czech’s promised to join us later on) and we successfully found the Karaoke bar

After embarrassing ourselves, and having quite a few more drinks, we made our way back to the Hostel at a healthy 3am ready to be back at the Uni again for 9…

 

Day 3: Tuesday – High Expectations 

The whole of this day was to be used for getting our stories together, recording interviews, speaking to people, yano, the standard journalism we were all there to take part in. It’s safe to say the day was a rocky start to the week.

My group of 3, complete with a second added Czech pushing the number up to 4, set off for our Homeless Women Working Vegan restaurant at the other side of Prague, however, when we reached the place the owner couldn’t give us an interview until 2.30 (our deadline was 4 pm) and we wouldn’t have been able to interview any staff members due to the already high media interest levels surrounding the restaurant. So, with this in mind, we retreated to a cafe to brainstorm for ideas. My idea about reporting on the Smoking Ban was shot down almost immediately but, after failing to come up with any ideas, we rang Ronnie (an English lecturer who came with us from Plymouth) who also suggested the Smoking Ban story. Given the all clear, we quickly recorded some interviews from smokers and non-smokers as well as a business owner before heading back to the Uni to complete the editing.

4 pm. Deadline. Discussion time. It’s safe to say we didn’t do as well as we hoped. Ronnie quickly dismantled almost everyone’s pieces created during the day in a brutal fashion. So brutal that it appeared that even the other lecturers felt he was being a bit harsh. But none-the-less he continued on, swiftly cutting everyone down, taking the life from the room. Don’t get me wrong, the feedback was useful, it was just also painful at the same time. He ended, we sat in silence, then we quickly all filed out the room, hoping not to be embarrassed even more.

The evening was very much a lads night out. We went from bar to bar picking up drinks, drinks and more drinks. One of us even managed to use our Facebook profile as valid ID, how? We don’t know. We saw a lot of Prague, we saw a lot of empty glasses and the night ended with picking up some food and heading back to the Hostel at a reasonable time of 4 am, once again to start at 9 the next morning….

 

Day 4: Wednesday – A Better Day

After the savage beating we all got yesterday from Ronnie’s brutal evaluation. Today promised to be a better day. Building on our Smoking Ban story from yesterday, my group crossed Prague once again to visit a non-smoking clinic to talk to a professor about the effects the ban would have on the health of people in Prague. We also went and spoke to a poor man who, at the age of 24 was suffering from Lung Cancer due to smoking since he was 11. We got these interviews fairly quickly and had all the audio sorted before mid-day.

The task of the day was to ‘phone-in’ with a 40 second tease of what our story would be and then produce a 1 minute news package that would play on the radio. I was left to do the 40-second phone-in, something I was praised for by Ronnie with him saying he couldn’t do that at his age (a big thing seeing as how critical he was the day before) and I was also left to writing and recording the voice-over for our 1 minute package. Both came out really well and we met the 4 pm deadline with time to spare.

The evening was a more chilled one this time. After failing to find a steak restaurant where you didn’t need a reservation, me and the guys in the group found a small pub called ‘The Londoners’ which was showing the nights football. We piled in, order some curry’s and beers, sat back and watched the football. We returned home a lot earlier this time, around mid-night, for a very early 6.30 start the next day.

 

Day 5: Thursday – A day for Film

A 6.30 am start is never fun but especially not when you have to get a 2 hour train out of Prague.

The train left at about 7.30 and the whole carriage fell asleep. We awoke around 10 am arriving into Olomouc we then walked about another 45 minutes in the horrible drizzle to another University where the AFO film festival was taking place.

The AFO film festival is a film festival that showcases Scientific documentaries and films. This included some unknowns (as film festivals do) as well as some well knowns (such as Before the Flood by Leonardo DiCaprio, and Ex Machina). Once again journalism was key. My group managed to snap up an interview with the director of Future Baby, a film about the different ways people can have children now.

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Our interview was about 10 minutes long, which led to a lot of editing, done by our amazing Belgian who spent most of the time troweling through the audio. We recorded a voice over and put the package together. All done once again well before the deadline. Our train back to Prague was at 6pm and we returned to the hostel around 9pm.

However, you’d be forgiven for thinking a long day would mean an early bed time, that wasn’t the case. With this being the last night the Belgian students could go out. We hit a club called Rodeo. The alcohol was cheap and on buy-one-get-one-free. I don’t need to tell you what that means. A highlight of the night, however, was one of our lecturers joining us towards the end of the evening and, despite being rather older than the average age of the club, enjoyed a good dance with us all. Once again, we returned to the hostel at around 4 am.

 

Day 6: Friday: The End of Work

The final day of the week was reserved for finishing off any work you still had left and receiving feedback. The start was a little later but the deadline for all work was 11 am. The feedback took place around 1 pm and we were all finished for 2.

Following the finish, me and the rest of the first years decided to go for a quick browse around Prague. We visited some small shops, some big shops and a couple went off to explore the Sex Machines Museum (I wasn’t about to part with 250 Crowns to go and see that). We then headed down to the Prague Hard Rock Cafe for a nice meal and a drink before heading back to the hostel.

The night, once again was a long one. Once returning to the hostel we went down for the beer tasting that the Hostel itself was hosting, I then went back out with the guys in the Second year for some indoor mini-golf. We rocked up at 11.10pm, payed around 259 Crowns for a round of mini-golf and two drinks each. After finishing around mid-night I then met up with my first year friends in a small bar called Urudolfa. They had met up with a friend of Clara’s (a first year with us) and an Australian girl who was also staying in our hostel.

After polishing off two drinks there, our small group headed back down to the Rodeo bar, where we were the previous night, took some shots of Absinthe, something that set Rob on the sidelines for the rest of the night, and danced until the early hours of Saturday morning.

 

Day 7: Saturday – Tourism Begins

With Saturday’s weather looking good, and no work to be had. Me, Rob and Shannon headed out into Prague ready to do a lot more tourism. We walked across the Charles Bridge and all the way up to the Prague Castle, had a nice trip inside its Cathedral and had some lovely food in its small market and on the walk bag down the hill. After that we headed to a small cafe and then to the Lego museum, something I was very keen to do, and we were not disappointed. With about 10+ miles of walking done we headed back to the hostel.

The final night meant a last meal. And, with the Czechs and Belgians gone, the English headed to the Titanic Steak Restaurant. We ordered, had some food, some drinks, an enjoyable evening before we split with a few going to watch the Boxing and others choosing to have a chilled night in at the hostel. Although the check-out time was at 10 the next day, that didn’t stop people from being up until 6 the following morning.

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Day 8: Sunday – Time To Go

Despite having to check-out at 10 am, our flight wasn’t until 12 hours later. What does that mean? That’s right! More tourism.

Me, Rob and Shannon once again headed out into Prague and did some more sightseeing, which started with Rob dragging us up the tallest hill in Prague which, although it was a lovely sunny day, was incredibly uncomfortable. Once reaching the top and taking some snaps we headed back in to the Old Town, found a nice little cafe at the end of the narrowest street in Prague and had a few drinks. We then wandered back through Prague, made a stop at the Communist Museum before returning back to the Hostel and meeting with the others.

Once we’d all regrouped at 7pm we set off for the airport, this time via mini-bus instead of public transport. We spent the last of our Crowns on some food and drink before our flight, then we boarded and headed back to Bristol. At Bristol we boarded yet another mini-bus that got us back to Plymouth for around 2am.

 

So, there you have it, an almost complete recollection of my trip to Prague. I’m sorry it was so long, but I suppose that just means we did quite a bit. If you read this far then thank you very much, I hope you enjoyed it. And of course, thanks to everyone that was there making it a great trip and to Sarah and Mike who made the trip happen.

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