By 4:30 p.m., all I could see from the train window was black. Staring out the window on the way to Prague had been my last source of entertainment; my iPod was already out of battery and I’d finished the one book I took with me on the travel week. Now all I could do was pull out a map of Europe and stare listlessly.
Perhaps that’s how, after about 20 minutes of staring, my eyes focused on Dresden, Germany.
I’d begun to think about my traveling companions, two girls who wanted nothing but to shop at American department stores and read at Starbucks during our entire three-day stay in Vienna. Would they do the same thing in Prague? Even if they changed this time around and showed enthusiasm for seeing the sights, I knew I wouldn’t be too thrilled to tag along. I had already visited every important Prague monument three years ago with a touring singing group. I wanted something new. I wanted something German.
I already had it all decided when the train screeched to our stop: I would take a day trip to Dresden, a two-hour train ride away, on Saturday to ease the monotony and my frustration. I didn’t know what Dresden had to offer, and my German still wasn’t up to scratch, but what the hell.
I was even happier about my secret pact when, as we came up from the underground near our hostel, I felt the dry, penetrating cold of the night air. Dresden must be warmer than this, I thought, though I had nothing to back up this theory.
The air had the same biting chill in the morning; there seemed to be little difference between day and night here in terms of temperature. We wound our way through tiny alleyways toward the Old Town Square, shivering and shoving our hands deep within our pockets, and I again commended myself on my brilliant plan of escape.
And then, just like that, there was the square. I didn’t even recognize it at first, thinking it was just another busy square that happened to house a few beautiful buildings, but then I saw the main monuments: the Church of Our Lady of Týn, the astronomical clock, the many restaurants with yellow-clothed wicker tables spilling out onto the cobblestones. The cloudless azure of the sky seemed almost to reflect upon the apartment buildings and to illuminate each color: pea soup turned to lime popsicle, marzipan turned to pale lemon and glass windows looked like pools of water.
My hands fell out of my coat pockets and my eyes were so wide they reached an aperture I’d never before accomplished. I was not cold anymore. I was in Prague, my intrigue renewed, and I wasn’t going anywhere.