24 hours in Prague. That is what was left after Hummy and I attended a Korean party.
After heavily delayed trains, we arrived at Hotel Josef at 10pm. It was our choice for its very close proximity to Old Town Square…and the hospital, apparently. After arriving we headed straight to bed.
As I woke, I turned over to ask Hummy about the day’s plans, but he wasn’t next to me. Frantic, I shot out of bed and reached for the room’s telephone to ask reception if they knew where my large, mop-haired Indian friend was. Lo-and-behold, the man of the hour waltzes into the room, fully dressed and showered, explaining how they have an in-house bakery! He doesn’t even like breakfast? (See Copenhagen post)
He rushed me. Great start. Hair in a bun, DCT in my hand and his wind-breaker over my shoulders, we trotted along to breakfast. To make matter worse, he didn’t seem to mind greeting everyone in the hotel, as he passed by?!
We entered the buffet style breakfast area, greeted by charismatic-host, Makarana. She no longer works at Hotel Josef (she left in February 2017), however the exemplarily pastry-chef still does, Dasa Kuvo. We had the choice of both a buffet breakfast and a la carte. I could see why Hummy was so eager to get down. As we arrived, Makarana and the in-house The Josef Bakery had just started removing the first batch of croissants! They were so good Hummy had 4 for breakfast each morning, and was allowed to take 2 for the road! I had never seen a bakery team so happy! Their breakfast had a diverse range. Yogurts, fresh fruit, cheeses, meats, breads, pastries, juices and Nespresso. You won’t be left deciding what to eat, if you do, order from their menu.
After breakfast, we headed out for some sightseeing. Old Town Square, Charles Bridge and Prague Castle were the spots we visited (Thank you to Grace at Hotel Josef for the recommendations!)
On our way back to the hotel, we passed two South Koreans’ carrying their native flag. We didn’t think much of them until I saw them following us. I got Hummy to turn around, hoping they would be scared of his muddy afternoon stare, but to the South Koreans it seemed very inviting – they started running toward us.
They asked if we would like to attend a South Korean party. Apparently, everything was inclusive: food, drinks and there was to be lots of fun. We followed them, lo and behold, here came the dark alley way we all have nightmares about. At the end? Five South Koreans waving at us. Mom and Dad, I’m sorry. We followed our two ‘friends’ into the bar and were taken back by what we saw.
A bar filled with South Korean women and men, aged 17-25, cheering that we had arrived for their party. No other tourists were around. They had set up stations where we would be taught about South Korean culture: food, drinks, face painting and hand-fans. Hummy thought this was a scam, but we went ahead with it. A few snacks later and multiple shots of Soju (Vodka and beer), we were painting the South Korean flag, singing K-pop and exchanging Instagram handles.
We left the Korean party with happy hearts, but it wouldn’t last for very long.
Shortly after visiting the Prague Castle, I started getting a slight headache. I put it down to the fact that we hadn’t eaten since that morning (it was now 4:45pm). The bar that we were at was only a mere couple 100m away from the hotel, but in the short space of time, my headache worsened, with an onset of nausea too. The headache felt like a familiar one, as in school, I suffered with migraines severely. I soon realized that what I thought was familiar, was most certainly not the case.
Within a few minutes of arriving back at the hotel, I swiftly made my way to the toilet, where I spent most of my evening.
I had never understood the importance of medical travel insurance, until I was hit with a ‘bug’. One that left me riddled with severe vomiting, hot and cold sweats as well as diarrhea for close to 5 hours.
Weak, pale, and completely dehydrated, I realized that this was no migraine. After Hummy suggested that I go to the hospital 3 times, I finally gave in. It seemed that I had fallen victim to a real-life episode of ‘Monsters Inside Me.’ My body was simply no longer strong enough to fight away, what felt to be a vicious organism eating away at my insides.
At around 9:30pm, Hummy, together with the front-of-house, Miroslav Hes and Rustam Kambarov, arranged for an ambulance to come and collect my weltering body.
I had never imagined that our last night in Prague would be spent with me, sitting in a wheelchair, in a Government Hospital (which are a lot cleaner and more inviting than the ones in South Africa), trying to explain my symptoms to a doctor and nurse, whom could barely speak English, and a completely panic-stricken Hummy.
At this point it had been 12 hours since our last meal. Hummy, who hadn’t eaten Lays Chips in over 10 years, found himself at the hospital’s vending machine, hopelessly punching in the code for a packet of chips, a mars bar, and a Pepsi for dinner.
As Medical Bioscience graduates, we were questioning which of the many viruses we had learnt about, I had contracted.
The verdict? I had contracted the ‘Prague virus’ (also known as the Rotavirus) – one that had been doing its rounds in the Republic for the past three months.
Where had I contracted it? Well, it could have been in one of two ways: the first – we had traveled for 12 hours, by train, from Austria to Prague, with many train-stops along the way. It is possible, that I had contracted it from a carrier passenger.
The second instance could have been at the Prague Castle. Not too long before the headache started, I had used the females’ restroom (for which I had to pay additional to the entry fee). It was the public toilet of any person’s nightmares with urine, toilet paper and mud making up the ground on which you walked, accompanied with urine all over the toilet seat. Of course, I had cleaned it up, and squatted, but that didn’t seem to save me.
After being placed on a drip containing my medication for an hour, the recovery process started, and just after midnight I was discharged. As being escorted out of the hospital by Hummy, a magical moment transpired. During our entire trip, I had re-iterated to Hummy that I need to witness snowfall. Within one footstep out of the wooden doors, snow started to fall. I now understand the cliché saying, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. This was my light (We also had just enough Czech Koruna to get back to the hotel).
To highlight the brightness of this light was the kind-hearted and caring nature of the ‘staff’ at Hotel Josef. Upon returning to the hotel, each member took time to find out how I was doing, and was in constant contact with the medical aid company in South Africa, sorting out approval for my hospital visit (we had left to the hospital without receiving clearance from the medical insurance company).
Although our last breakfast at Hotel Josef wasn’t any sort of a food experience for me, Hummy was able to enjoy a couple of (by a couple, I mean four) well-deserved croissants.
The willingness of the staff to go the extra mile, the clean and peaceful ambience of the Hotel and freshly baked croissants each morning should definitely be experienced by anyone traveling to Prague!
The short: Great location, exceptional emergency protocol, attentive staff and the best croissants of our trip.