Back in the day we were young, dumb and broke, but mostly dumb.
The first time I visited one of my favourite European cities, Prague, was in 2012 with three other friends. We were barely 18 or so, arrived by train at 4 am in the morning and went to drop our lagguage off at the hostel, as we were too early for check in, then we decided to walk by the river to the Old town.
We passed the larger island of Štvanice on the way and thought it looked quite nice, so we decided to check it out. It was still dark at the time, but there were four of us, including two guys, so we did not think much of it. As we walked across the bridge and explored around a bit, everything looked quite normal and perfectly fine. The views on Vltava river were quite beautiful in the street lighting and we were fooling around the island shore. We even found a playground and decided to give the swings a go.
At some point during our not entirely silent tomfoolery one of us noticed a homeless man sleeping on a nearby bench and we politely moved away, only to notice another one propped under a tree. We got a bit worried and decided to head back off the island, just in case, since the Czech republic is famous for pickpockets and occasional robberies of idiots in dark places. As we started to head back, we began to notice them everywhere: under the land bridge, next to the trees, on benches, leaning on the fences and even sleeping under the playground slide that we’d just been using. They seemed to be popping up out of thin air and I remember my heart started to anxiously pump in my chest, because they were everywhere! It felt like the Night of the living dead, when they began to slowly stir and look at us, some of the quietly muttering who knows what in Czech. We felt severely outnumbred and hightailed it out of there, as fast as we possibly could without running to keep some of our dignity.
I guess we all felt both stupid and threatened at a primal level, because we started to laugh hysterically as soon as we made it far enough away to feel safe. We ended up feeling like complete fools, both for running away and for going to an unfamiliar island park in the dark in the first place. Nothing really happened and we were fine, but it could have gone entirely different if we had been less lucky… So, a word of advice, stay off the Prague islands after dark!
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