The World’s Most Romantic Cities to Celebrate Valentine’s Day

Most opponents of Valentine’s Day complain about the fact that doing something special shouldn’t be reserved for one particular day out of 364. No more excuses! This year you can take Monday off and enjoy a long weekend to cuddle with your better half. Unsure where to go? Keep reading. We’ve gathered a list with the six most romantic cities from each continent in the world and the best hotels as voted by the customers of online reservations system hotel.info.

AgraIndia

If you were an emperor, would you order the construction of a whole palace to serve as your loved one’s final resting place? Shah Jahan, emperor of India from 1628 until 1658, commissioned the making of the Taj Mahal to honor his favorite wife’s last wish before dying. Legend has it that after giving birth to the couple’s 14th child, Mumtaz Mahal’s deathbed wish was for her husband to build the most majestic mausoleum for her body to rest in the afterlife. Easily recognized as one of the most important strucutres for centuries, the “Crown Palace”, English for Taj Mahal, surely does enough to fulfill Mumtaz Mahal’s request and is almost the epitome of true love. The Taj is located some 250 Km south of New Delhi in the city of Agra. Be an early bird (The palace opens to the public at 6 am) and enjoy the most beautiful tomb ever made when it is still relatively empty. Besides the Taj Mahal, there are many temples worth visiting and the Agra Fort, practically unspoiled since its construction in the 16th century, still remains one of the main attractions in the city, partly because our romantic hero Shah Jahan ended up being prisoner inside its walls.

Offering unparalleled views of the Taj Mahal and with over 6 acres of landscaped gardens, the Gateway Hotel Fatehabad Road Agra was rated by the customers of online reservation system hotel.info as one of the best hotels in Agra and offers accommodation starting at GBP 99.92/ €116,07

MarrakechMorocco

Also known as “The Red City”, Marrakech clearly is the most colorful destination in this list. Famous for its snake charmers, fire jugglers, bazaars, food stalls and Roman ruins, the city of Marrakech is a feast for the senses. It is divided into two main districts: The Medina and Gueliz (Ville Nouvelle). The Medina is the old historical town and is full with narrow alleyways, Souks (traditional Moroccan markets) and beautiful traditional architecture. Gueliz ist the European district and features modern restaurants and high street shopping. Djemma-El-Fna is the main square of the city of Marrakech and it becomes the place to be after the sun sets. Storytellers, musicians, dancers and food stalls will certainly keep both tourists and locals entertained. But if that isn’t romantic enough for you, Marrakech is the place where Riad hotels were born. Riads are traditional Moroccan palace-like houses and have been lately transformed into modern boutique hotels, which provide both comfort and style. At many Riads, you can also book a private Hammam (Turkish Bath) with full massages and Spa treatments for couples so that you and your lover can unwind in this marvelous African city.

Hotel.info’s customers have voted the Al Ksar Riad as the best hotel in Marrakech. It is located in the city center and offers spa and beauty treatments. Hotel.info offers a 15% long stay discount and a double room can be booked for €54.40/GBP 46.31

Buenos AiresArgentina

Combine the charm of Europe with the passion of Latin America and Buenos Aires is the result. The Paris of South America is easily the most romantic city of the continent. Even though its citizens don’t officially celebrate Valentine’s Day, love and romance in the “City of Fair Winds” are celebrated all 365 days of the year and “El Día de los Enamorados”, as Valentine’s Day is known in Spanish speaking countries, has slowly been weaving its way into Argentine culture. You and your significant other can spend the day at one of the many Tango schools scattered around the city and unleash the passion and pleasure of one of the most sensual dances known to humankind. Have dinner at one of the sexiest eateries in the world and the only aphrodisiac restaurant in Buenos Aires, Te Mataré Ramírez, where eating is taken to a whole new level with erotic shows for couples and the most delicious menus acting as a wonderful foreplay for the gustatory sense.

The Livin Residence is a four star hotel situated in downtown Buenos Aires. It belongs to the line of top rated hotels in Buenos Aires and daily rates start at $88.33/ GBP55.59

New YorkUSA

The big apple is famous for its busy streets, never-ending traffic jams and hasty locals. But it is its picture perfect skylines and imposing skyscrapers which, with a little help from classic Hollywood movies, lend the city its romantic flair. Start off your day by going for a walk through Central Park or take the tourist favorite hansom cab ride, horse-drawn carriages, which many describe as the best way to see Central Park. Many locals complain about animal cruelty, however, so you might want to take that into account. Evoke Hollywood classics, such as “Sleepless in Seattle” or the movie that inspired it “An Affair to Remember” and go to the top of the Empire State building to enjoy the breathtaking views. Go for a stroll down the newly expanded Gantry Plaza State Park and enjoy that Hollywood skyline view of midtown Manhattan. If you’re on a budget, you can take your loved one for dinner at one of the best Pizzerias in the city, Grimaldi’s, right under the Brooklyn Bridge. If you, on the other hand, want to wow your honey with a romantic dinner, you can take him/her to “One if by Land, Two if by Sea”; the Barrow Street restaurant has been charming its guests since 1972, and is considered by many New Yorkers to be one of the most romantic in the city. If Mother’s Day is the busiest restaurant day in America, Valentine’s is arguably the busiest restaurant night, so don’t forget to make reservations.

Hotel.info’s top rated hotel in New York City, the Intercontinental New York Times Square, offers the perfect location and double rooms start at $323.65/GBP 199.44

MelbourneAustralia

After a busy month in which Melburnians celebrated Australia Day and hosted the Australian Open, the city of Melbourne welcomes lovebirds from all over the world. Famous for being the cultural city of Australia, the capital of the “Garden State”, as Victoria is also known, is the ideal place to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Its vertiginous skyscrapers and cable cars give Melbourne both a traditional and modern feel only compared to that of San Francisco and its renowned restaurants near Federation Square will surely please the most demanding taste buds with its wide array of culinary treats. Whereas the city itself is more than enough to keep you busy on Valentine’s Day, the rugged coasts of southeastern Australia provide the perfect backdrop for a romantic getaway. The Great Ocean Road, with its 243 Km of coastline, is considered one of the most scenic roads in the world and gives you the opportunity to experience everything from lush rainforests to witnessing the majesty of the 12 apostles (imposing rock stacks rising from the ocean).

The Crown Promenade Hotel is hotel.info’s best rated hotel in Melbourne. It offers some of the best bay and city views and is located in the vibrant Southbank precinct. AU$ 350/GBP 217.80

VeniceEurope

Enchanting canals, beautiful piazzas, romantic gondolas, vehicle-free streets… Venice is the dream city for couples wanting to get away from the daily grind. Virtually unchanged in the last 600 years, it has been described as one of “most beautiful cities built by man” thanks to its romantic architecture and complex system of bridges and alley ways. It is also worth noting that “La Serenissima”, as the city is also known, was the birth place of Giacomo Casanova. Whether Casanova got his charm from the city or vice versa is not entirely clear but it has long been recognized as one of the most romantic cities in Europe. Celebrate Valentine’s week instead of just Valentine’s Day, as this year Venice offers its visitors the chance to celebrate two holidays in one. The world renowned Carnival of Venice opens on February 19th with the Grand Toast at “Piazzeta San Marco”, where you’ll find fountains pouring wine instead of water. Revelry and romance? Yes, please.

The four star Hotel Villa Pannonia is one of the top rated hotels in Venice and offers junior suites for as little as €92.50/GBP 79.61

Six continents, six cities, six reasons to make this Valentine’s Day, and possibly the next five, one to remember, no matter where you are in the world.

10 Reasons to Visit Dallas-Fort Worth

Dallas might not be the bustling metropolis New York City is, nor it might be as liberal as San Francisco but there are plenty of things that make the third largest city of Texas a great place to visit!

10. The Texas Rangers (aka Nolan Ryan). The Texas Rangers’ Ballpark is located in Arlington, part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. Nolan Ryan is arguably the most successful pitcher of modern-era baseball and he is now the owner of the Texas Rangers, who went back to the world series in 2010 after a long hiatus and are again fighting for a spot in 2011.

image by a4gpa

9. Oil tycoons and former presidents. Eleven letters (with a dot somewhere in between) for you: George W. Bush. The former president, former governor, former oil tycoon and former Texas Rangers co-owner now lives in Dallas.

image by chimpanz ape

8. Luxury hotels. Dallas hotels are not only famous in America. The Ritz-Carlton Dallas was named best hotel in America in 2009 and second in the world by Zagat, an online travel and food guide. The Rosewood Mansion is also featured in the famous book 1000 Places To See Before You Die. Dallas also features the magnificent Adolphus hotel, an official Dallas landmark.

Bonita la Banane

7. American Airlines. The world’s fourth largest airline calls Fort Worth its home. The aircraft company got the 120th place of most successful American companies in 2010 as chosen by Fortune 500.

by Hans J E

6. Dallas Mavericks. The older-than-average five has been one of the best NBA teams of the last 5 years and won it all in the 2010-2011 season after defeating the LeBron-led Miami Heat.

by dherrera_96

5. Barbecue. According to Men’s Health magazine, Dallas ranks as the 4th fattest city in America. Blame it on the city’s passion for spareribs and t-bone steaks.

4. Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. The bodacious bunch are an American institution and have the most non-NFL performance contracts of all cheerleading groups. They started out as the girls-and-boys cheerleading squad “The CowBelles and Beaux”.

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

3. Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys franchise does not only hold the record for most consecutive sell-outs (120 at home and on the road) but are also listed as the second highest valued sports franchise in the world (first in the US) by Forbes Magazine. Their stadium, the Cowboys Stadium, is one of the most expensive in the world and has the world’s second largest HD jumbotron screen.

by Travis Isaacs

2. Dealy Plaza. The 35th president of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Dealy Plaza while on a presidential motorcade. It is now a national landmark.

by Stu Seeger
1. Dallas. “Dallas is famous for Dallas”? That’s right. “Dallas” might well be what Dallas is best known for. The successful TV series told the story of greedy oil tycoon, J.R Ewing and ran for 13 consecutive years. A new season of Dallas is in the works and will revolve around the life of the protagonist’s son, J.R Ewing III.

by clkohan

If you visit Dallas, you’ll have plenty of things to do!

Photos can be found on flcker. Images by:
Stu Seeger
Travis Isaacs
doug_wertman
clkohan
turtlemom4bacon
dherrera_96
Hans J E
Bonita la Banane
chimpanz ape
a4gpa

Rod Perez is a travel writer for hotel.info. hotel.info is one of the world’s leading online reservation services and offers hotels all over the world. Check our Stockholm hotels offers and our Stuttgart hotels offers.

Top 5 Most Interesting Boutique Hotels in the World

The Propeller Island’s City Lodge
The Propeller Island’s City Lodge

Good-bye, plain and boring! Hello, vibrant and colorful! If you’re a regular traveler you might have learned to ignore the surroundings of your hotel room. When was the last time you stopped for a second before going to bed and started admiring the white walls, white ceiling and white sheets? The same old sterile look of the lobbies, the almost depressing sight of the bars… One of the things that makes us humans different from other animals is our aesthetic awareness.

We took a look at some of the most interesting boutique hotels in the world. From very exclusive and romantic to plain artistic and almost bizarre, here is our top 5 designer hotels in the world.

5.- The Radisson Blu RoyalCopenhagen

How about we begin with the hotel that started it all? Among all the hotels in Stockholm the former SAS Royal was not only the first designer hotel in the world but also broke an invisible ceiling that hung above Copenhagen by being the first Skyscraper of the city when it was first built in 1960. Designed in its entirety by acclaimed Danish architect Arne Jacobsen, this piece of architectural history has become a landmark in the European metropolis. The legendary “Egg” and “Swan” chairs were especially designed for the lobby and reception of the hotel but can now be found in guest rooms thanks to the acquisition of 450 new copies by Radisson.

Besides offering unparalleled panoramic views of Copenhagen, the hotel’s restaurant “Alberto-K”, located on the 20th floor, is a sight all by itself. The restaurant obtained the 6th place of things to do in Copenhagen by the readers of lonelyplanet.com and is considered among one of Denmark’s best; it offers the best of both Danish and Italian cuisine and has its own wine cellar. The Radisson SAS Royal’s proximity to the famed Tivoli gardens and the Strøget shopping district complete the list of reasons why you should stay at this hotel during your next visit to this exciting Scandinavian city.

Tip: The legendary room 606, highly treasured by design enthusiasts all over the world, is the only room in the hotel which maintains its original design after undergoing a painstaking restoration process.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPBHED9YINg[/youtube]

4.- Posada de Mike RapuEaster Island – Chile

Following the pioneering steps of the SAS Royal, the hotel Posada de Mike Rapu was the first ever designer hotel in South America. Located in one of the most magical places on earth, Posada de Mike Rapu captures all the mystery and magnetism of Easter Island. Home to the mystifying Moai sculptures, the enchanting Rapa Nui, as is locally known, is located in the southeastern pacific, 3000 Km from mainland South America, providing the perfect setting for one of the most spectacular boutique hotels in the world. The hotel sits atop a hill overlooking the vastness and majesty of the pacific ocean with wild horses occasionally running free by the pool and extensive prairies getting lost in the horizon.

Trying to capture the spirit of the island, award-winning architect José Cruz tried to make the hotel adapt to its surroundings, avoiding any major environmental impact and maintaining the virgin flora around the site intact. The complex was built on stone bases following ancient Rapa Nui traditions and local volcanic clay was employed on the rooftops. Not surprisingly, the “Posada Mike de Rapu” was also the first South American hotel to earn the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) qualification. The hotel has 30 rooms set on 4 miles of land, thus guaranteeing a true sense of belonging. Several walking tours are offered, which invite you to discover the mysticism of the island. You can, however, spend a whole day communing with nature at one of the outdoor hot tubs.

Tip: Discover Easter Island by taking the daily exploration tours offered at the hotel. They’re mostly included in the rate.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pn5Hs3gI86I[/youtube]

3.- The Opposite House Beijing

The Opposite House is a temple that worships light, style and space. Inspired by the union of modern and traditional styles, Japanese designer Kengo Kuma went on to build his own little work of art in the buzzing Sanlitun village development in the heart of Beijing. Its green glass façade blends with the tree-lined streets of the trendy district and its natural and spacious interiors are both hip and welcoming, making the guests always feel at home. Never have plain white walls looked so radiantly welcoming. The design of the hotel proves the adage: It is not what you do but how you do it. The hotel manages to capture both the simplicity of minimalist design and the grandeur of avant-garde modernism. Its restaurants offer an immediate contrast with their darker and more intimate atmospheres and will surely make you feel spoiled for choice, as you can head down to “El Sureño” and enjoy world-class Mediterranean cuisine or soak up the culture in the Asian “Restaurant Bei”. The hotel’s lobby also serves as a contemporary art gallery with changing exhibitions by modern Chinese artists.

Tip: Every Sunday from April to September, the hotel organizes tours to five of the best Hutongs in Beijing.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwXaMqt2gnc[/youtube]

2.- The StandardNew York

Start spreading the news! In New York, hip and cool no longer equals ridiculously expensive. A new wave of budget designer hotels has been springing up in the Big Apple in the last few years and has revitalized the once unappealing Meatpacking district, making it one of the hottest spots in town. Surrounded by low-lying warehouses and located next to the Hudson River, virtually every room at the Standard Hotel lets you marvel at that Hollywood-esque New York skyline. With (apparently controversial) glass-to-ceiling windows, many rooms give you the chance to enjoy the sunset while looking at cargo ships or adventurous kayakers come and go down the Hudson, with the statue of liberty in the background, while taking a bath. The Standard has four bars and restaurants but it is the Standard Grill which impressed us the most. It offers authentic American cuisine at unbelievable prices –don’t let the name of the “million dollar chicken” scare you away- and you might even have the chance to sit next to your favorite celebrity, as the restaurant is known to be frequented by Hollywood stars.

Tip: Go downstairs one morning and look at the hotel from High Line Park. You’ll be able to see why it might be a good idea to close your curtains sometimes or, better yet, to keep them wide open!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2SZDOfwG9Y[/youtube]

1.- Proppeller Island’s City LodgeBerlin

Ever wanted to be inside a work of art? This is your chance. The Propeller Island’s City Lodge might not be the most comfortable place in Berlin but it is its uniqueness that makes this hotel our top choice. And when we say uniqueness, we mean uniqueness. Not one single room in this hotel has the same design; each represents a pseudo-surrealist escape from everyday life, an almost dream-like experience. Artist and musician Lars Strochers, aka Propeller Island, is the responsible for this half-museum, half-art gallery hotel. Luckily for all of us, he decided to share his work with the rest of the world as it seems to have been intended as a personal work of art. “I did it for myself, because I wanted to see the rooms, I wanted to stay in the rooms”, he says. Catering to those with a taste for the unusual and the irreverent, the City Lodge makes the already artsy Berlin that much more interesting. You can stay in the mirror room, where you’ll feel like at a –quote- very sexy! –unquote- funhouse. You can climb up to sleep at the “four beams”, where your bed is suspended from ropes or at the “upside down room”, where you might even find it hard to find your bed. The “cell room” and the “two lions” rooms should need no description. If you, unlike me, are into more normal stuff, you can always stay at the “chicken curry” or some of the more comfortable rooms.

TIP: Maybe based upon personal taste but you should try the upside down room if you feel like seeing things from a different perspective.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iFCY8K4MIk&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

10 Romantic Things to Do in Amsterdam

Amsterdam Sunrise

While tourists flood the streets of Paris or Venice (where the Carnival is taking place on Valentine’s Day), many are left with little choices to woo their loved ones in a unique way. Amsterdam’s privileged location and perfect planning have made of the city by the Amstel one of the best romantic alternatives to many of its European sisters. And, since there is always an excuse to celebrate love, all seasons in Amsterdam can be romantic if you are in the mood for it.

But, is Amsterdam really that romantic? From beautiful canals to love taxis; from picturesque gardens to luxury hotels, Amsterdam has proved to be a city for all occasions. Here are 10 things to do in Amsterdam that serve as proof that there is no reason for you to skip a day of the year to celebrate the spirit of love.

1.- Stroll Along the Canals

Amsterdam

When most people think of Amsterdam they think about the scent that fills the air but they might not precisely think of the scent of love. However, thanks to its picturesque canals and streets, Amsterdam has been named the “Venice of the North”. If you are looking for a wonderful and romantic atmosphere, take your loved one for a stroll along the beautiful and famous Amsterdam canals. No matter what time of the year, in Amsterdam love is in the air!

2.- Bike Tours

Amsterdam

In general, Europe is a very bicycle-friendly continent but the city of Amsterdam in particular is famed for its bicycle culture. The city planning included well marked bicycle paths, which makes it easier to get around and is a much greener alternative to fuel-powered vehicles. So, if you are in Amsterdam, rent two bikes and discover the city the way locals see it. Get lost and get away from tourist traps and you’ll make of your Amsterdam visit a memorable one.

3.- Visit Museums

Amsterdam Erotic

Amsterdam is well known for its culture and the abundance of museums. From the Rijk to the Van Gogh museum, you will be spoiled for choice. If you are looking for something unique, however, head down to the Erotic Museum with your other half. Here you’ll find interesting facts about the infamous Red Light District and some interesting artwork (including some of John Lennon’s lithogrpahs), as well as interesting erotic paraphernalia and more. It is located in the Red Light District, so it is perfect for knowing more about Amsterdam’s most famous district without fully immersing yourself in what could be a shocking experience for lovers.

4.- Stay in a Houseboat

Amsterdam Houseboat

Amsterdam is often compared to Venice thanks to its communion with water and thanks to romantic canals. But if you want to have a truly romantic experience, try renting a houseboat to spend the night rocking smoothly to the rhythm of the Amstel river.

5.- Visit a Flower Market/Keukenhof

Amsterdam Keukenhof

Ah, the beautiful colors of spring! There is no better place in northern central Europe than Amsterdam for enjoying a true spectacle led by colourful tulips. There are many flower markets in the city itself and they all lend the place a wonderful atmosphere. However, for a truly unique experience, visit Keukenhof where beautiful gardens fill the landscape. It is open from March to May only.

6.- Avoid the Red Light District

Amsterdam Red Light

Amsterdam’s Red Light District might very well be one of the most famous of its kind. Not exactly a very romantic place to be and not only because of the activities and services offered but because the place is frequented by people who are normally looking for a different type of fun. Taking photographs of the workers is frowned upon and might even cost you your camera. Let us not forget that it serves as a workplace for many people. Visit the erotic museum during the day and you’ll get to see the history of the district. Bonus: You are allowed to take photos inside the museum.

7.- Queensday

Amsterdam Orange

Koninginnedag (Quennsday) is the most popular outdoor celebration in the Netherlands. Celebrated on April 30th, this outdoor mega party is famous for its colourful and laid back atmosphere. You’ll be able to witness, and be a part of, the so-called orange craze, which consists of people wearing creative orange costumes while the city is adorned with orange banners and decorations. If you are into partying with your loved one, Queensday cannot be missed!

8.- Take a Boat Cruise or Get Around by Taxi

Amsterdam Boats

Particularly popular in the spring or the summer, boat cruises are a great way to see and, most importantly, feel the city the way it’s intended to be experienced. Taxis, sometimes called lovers water taxis, are a particularly interesting way to get around in Amsterdam.

9.- Stay in a Romantic Amsterdam Hotel

Amsterdam Hotels

Perhaps John Lennon made Amsterdam hotels famous when he staged his bed-in for peace with his long-time honey, Yoko Ono. Whereas the same hotel still stands proudly and it is cleverly located along the Amstel, there are many more options to spend a wonderful time in Amsterdam. Of all hotels in Amsterdam, a whopping 42% of all beds available belong to 4 or 5-star establishments. Highly recommended are some of the best Amsterdam boutique hotels such as the Dylan, with uniquely-themed rooms and the Qbic, a budget boutique hotel with irreverent design.

10.- The Hash Museum

Amsterdam Coffeeshop

While we don’t condone the use of illegal substances, it is no secret to anyone that many tourists have one thing in mind when visiting Amsterdam: its famous “coffeeshops”. Coffeeshops are famous among locals and visitors alike and are part of Dutch culture to such an extent that tobacco is banned from coffeeshops while other substances remain legal. If you don’t want to be part of the smoky atmosphere you can find out all about it at the Hash Museum.


All images found on flickr and used under the creative commons license:

1.- fakelvis
2.- Nir Nussbaum
3.- ardesnwayoflife
4.- andreasdantz
5.- lejoe
6.- Deanster1983
7.- keepwaddling1
8.- flabbergast ed
9.- Kenski1970
10.- lejoe
11.- timsamoff

Finding a hospital in Prague (with the help of a Czech Phrasebook)

I’ve always been one of those people who frowns upon tourists not even being able to at least ask “Do you speak English?” in the language of the place they’re visiting. It always killed me to see them resort to “the language of the lord” assuming that everyone would have to understand what they’re saying. So, as I normally do, before going to Prague I started practicing the pronunciation of some helpful phrases, thinking already how many funny and uncomfortable moments all those funny symbols above the letters would cause with the locals (part of the fun, right?). “D?kuji”, “Promi?te”… I couldn’t wait to see the look on their faces as I wished them a good day, “Dobrý den!”, or when I left the bar, “Na shledanou!”; even some phrases for starting a conversation: “Jak se jmenujete?” or, of course, that phrase I still think everyone should learn before going to a place and making a fool out of him/herself: “Mluvíte anglicky?” I even went so far as to think “Smím prosit?” could be helpful. Never would I have imagined, however, that I would need to tell someone: “Nem?žu dýchat! Náru?í a krku šel znecitliv?ní! Myslím, že jsem na pokraji mdlob! Prosím, volejte léka?e! Pot?ebuju pomoc!” or “Co myslíš si kluci nebudou starat o to tady?! Cože? Musím se vrátit do m?sta a mít tramvaj na další nemocnice?! A nem?žete ani zavolat taxi pro m??! ” But I did.

I went there for a two-day trip. Being in southern Germany, going to Prague is a lot cheaper and around 200 Km closer than going to, say, Berlin. So, I packed my stuff and was ready to go. I got me some Czech Koruny at the border and when I got to the city I realized I’d made a big mistake. Most currency exchange houses in the city will offer you a very good deal with very low commission rates. Oh, well, it was only 500 Czech koruny less for the trip, or rather for the bill at the hospital. I stayed at the Red & Blue Design Hotel and apart from the bar, where you could only drink hard liquors or pop, it was a pretty decent hotel. We were given an upgrade upon arrival and got a superior room instead of a standard.

The first day I went sightseeing. Did everything a tourist is supposed to do, except for those boring guided tours. I’ve always thought that if you want to have that experience you can just walk close to the group and stand nearby when they stop to hear what the guide has to say and pretend you’re taking pictures or something. Prague seemed like a pretty city with tons of tourists and nice sights. But it wasn’t until the sun came down that the fun really started. It was as if parts of Berlin and London had been just thrown into the scene; The city all of a sudden transformed into this hip metropolis, where you don’t feel that safe anymore. My paranoid mode, groomed from living in Caracas for so many years, went instantly on. I don’t know if you’ll agree but I find that getting lost in a big city is one of the most exciting things that could happen to you, especially if it’s on the first night. Being paranoid plus being lost just raises your adrenaline levels and your alertness and your memory starts working as some sort of Polaroid camera, taking instant shots of all the streets and all the alleys.

But it wasn’t until the next day that I wished I had learned some proper Czech. Charles Bridge is one of the most crowded sights of Prague and I did read that it was better enjoyed by night or early in the morning since there weren’t that many tourists. What they didn’t mention, however, is how narrow the one street right before the bridge, coming from the old town,  is and how claustrophobic it can make you feel. Right after crossing that street and before going over the bridge I started feeling short of breath and realized I had to stop. I challenged myself to cross the bridge and find a place where I could sit down and relax. Walking through the crowd was no easy task but I made it to the other side and found a café where I could sit down. After all, the worse had already passed (or so I thought).

Once there, my neck and my arms started going numb and that’s when I started to panic. We asked the owner of the place to call a cab to take us to the nearest hospital. It was rush hour, so what would have normally taken five minutes took about ten. We finally made it to the hospital where none of the nurses spoke neither English nor Spanish nor German. Ironically, the first thing to come to my mind was “Smím prosit?” but I thought that wouldn’t be very helpful. I tried to show them that I was having a panic attack by acting like, well, like I was having a panic attack! Luckily a patient tried to help me out and translated what was happening to me (or, at least, I hope he did) and what he told me they said was: “Erm, nope, we don’t take care of that here; tell him he should go back downtown and take the tram to the hospital” I asked them if they could call a taxi but apparently they couldn’t, so I had to go back outside and start walking back.

Fortunately the taxi driver who’d taken me there was still around, so we gave him the paper where the nurses had kindly written down the name of the hospital and he took us there. Driving through Prague during rush hour when you’re in a hurry must be stressful, but driving through Prague during rush hour, when you’re in a hurry AND you’re having a panic attack is nothing you’d want to experience, unless you’re some weird masochist.

After what seemed like a couple of days, we got to the hospital and it looked deserted. I honestly felt like in a horror movie; the long dark halls with yellow metal doors to the sides felt only longer and more deserted with every step. I finally found a nurse and started  waving my arms and grabbing my throat and acting again like I was having a panic attack. It seems she understood what I meant and asked me to wait and disappeared into the depths of the dark hospital halls. I waited, waited and waited a little more.

Half an hour later, or maybe a little longer, the doctor asked me to go in; she spoke English. What had already been a horrible experience became even worse when she said “We’re going to have to give you an injection”. All those childhood memories of suddenly feeling better to avoid injections came up as the nurse repeated the lie all nurses surely learn at nursing school: “Tohle nebude bolet ani troši?ku”. Believe me, I didn’t need to look that up in the phrasebook. I just closed my eyes and started thinking happy thoughts (like how I’d got lost the night before). But this time, I swear, she was right. I was still laying on my belly waiting for the shot, desperately looking for more happy thoughts (“Smím prosit?” “Ach, jak roztomilé!“) and she waved her arms like a baseball umpire calling a runner safe, signalling the worst was over. I did not feel a thing! I tried to get up, however, and almost fell flat on my back. Twenty minutes later, I could hardly walk without feeling any pain on my upper thigh/lower back. The. most. painful. shot. I’ve ever gotten. I did start feeling much better, though. The diagnose: A panic attack caused by shortness of breath caused by God knows what (Tests still being done after two weeks). I’ll blame it on stress.

And so that was my two-day trip to Prague. By the time we’d left the hospital it was around 6:30 pm and there was nothing else to do but go back home. I thought I didn’t need to prepare much for a such a short trip. I would love to learn all the languages of the places I want to visit but it’d take me a bit more than a lifetime to do so. For now, I’ll keep learning how to ask people if they want to dance.

?