The Munich station was nice and clean. We returned to Austria for connecting trains to Prague. Our first stop in Austria was Salzburg, followed by another train to Linz. Austria is also famous for its yummy apple strudels. I bought one at the train station and it cheap and tasted good too. From Linz, we took a train to the Austria-Czech border, then another train to enter Czech.
The train to enter the Czech’s border was funny; it had only one carriage and we were the only few passengers in the carriage. It looked more like a bus running on the railroad! We often hear stories from travel agencies about the tense atmosphere at Czech’s border, with strict-looking custom policemen carrying big rifles while checking everyone’s passport on the coach. We prayed hard that it was not like what was told.
It really wasn’t what was heard about the scary Czech custom. There were only two custom policemen carrying small pistols entered our train. They checked our nationalities from a little booklet and gave us an entry-permit stamp. Our Singapore passports were checked quickly, but Jacky’s Malaysian passport took the police officer a while as he babbled with his colleague and went through the booklet again.
Fortunately, we didn’t face any problem with the Czech custom. So far, we had only got two custom stamps from Austria and Czech; we didn’t get stamps when we entered France and Switzerland.
The trains and train station in Prague were very old. They appeared much older than the rest of the trains and stations we went over the past two weeks; seemed that not much restoration was done to the station for the past decades. In fact, Czech Republic is formed on 1 January 1993, after Czechoslovakia, which was then a communist country, peacefully split into Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Having heard stories about pickpockets in Prague, we were extra careful with our belongings. Guess what?! We had our first suspect appeared the moment we alighted the train at Prague station! A young man awkwardly bumped onto my friend as soon as my friend came out of the train. The platform was so wide with no crowd, why would the man walk to our direction and bumped onto him? The young man apologised in English with an awkward accent. ENGLISH! We had not heard any stranger and even customer service staff whose first word was English throughout our two-week stay in Europe. We often had to start the conversation with, “Excuse me, do you speak English?” The biggest surprise was, the young man went up the train that we just came down, and we all knew that the train terminated at the station! Very suspicious man.
The train station in Prague was gloomily lit and quiet. There wasn’t anyone queuing for ticket at the counter. Another suspenseful incident happened again: Jacky went to the ticket counter to check on the train ticket to the old town square where our hostel was located. Then, a uniformed man walked toward Jacky and beckoned him to go somewhere else. We were puzzled. Jacky was simply making enquiry about train tickets at the counter, why the counter officer didn’t help him and let someone outside the queue to do the job? Of course, out of safety reason, Jacky ignored that suspicious uniformed man. And that man could not do anything more but to walk away.
Another scary incident happened again, at the train station. Our friend wanted to withdrawn money at the ATM. Two suspicious men that looked like crooks were loitering behind us. There wasn’t anybody nearby except these two men. We kept staring at them, while guarding behind our friend who was withdrawing money. Fortunately, no robbery.
This was the only place where people came to us and spoke English to us, promoting their hostels and other things that had never happened before when we were in France, Switzerland, Austria and Germany.