When arriving at the Praha hlavní nádraží station, you’ll almost immediately see the juxtaposition of the ancient and the modern. The station (shortened on routes and maps as Praha hl.n) contained vestiges of its past glories as an important kingdom of the Austrian Hapsburgs (it was originally named in honour of Franz Josef I. In the new entrance, there is a distinctly more modern touch.
Your “money’s worth”
The Czech Republic is a part of the European Union, but is not a part of the Euro zone, and therefore not replaced their local currency with the Euro. If I had researched that before I had arrived there, perhaps I would have been less confused! One Euro is the equivalent of about 24.5 crown (koruna). This meant that every time I looked at a price, I would multiply it by about 0.04 to understand its relation to Euro. Although this was helpful for a budget (to keep me from spending all my money in one instance), it was highly impractical in trying to connect that value of my labour with the value of the item, as is usually done when one shops for goods and services. During both exchanges to crowns, I had lost some value of my US dollars to the exchange spread (a currency exchange’s difference between the value of a sold and bought currency). The value of each currency had fluctuated as well, distorting any easy translation in my head. Of course, I could have prepared an Excel sheet detailing the amounts lost and gained by exchange rates and costs, but I decided that wouldn’t be an efficient use of my time.
Money to blow
Please excuse the song reference, but the title aptly describes the way that I imagined the Czechs must have thought of my and anybody else for that matter. As I was keeping properly hydrated, I needed to use the restroom (the toaleta or toilette as it’s called in Czech and French respectively) more than 3 times while in Prague. For each time, including the one where I could barely make it up the stairs from holding it in so long, I had to dig in my pocket, count the crazy money and pay someone! Another time, there was this lady who held the keys to the “public restroom” on the hill near Prague Castle. She grumbled that I was disturbing her from her purchasing groceries in the store next to the toilets. She then swung the door open and angrily pointed to the sign that stated that I would have to pay 10Kč or 0.50 Euro. Now, anyone with half a mind can see that paying in crowns would save me the most money. The problem was, the idea of whole tens values on coins was still confusing to me. So seeing 10.00, while thinking how big that number seemed, while sifting through the Euro I had in my pocket only added to the confusion. Surprisingly, the lady for the first time in our encounter seemed nice and offered to count out the 10Kč for me. She quickly snapped up what I knew to be a 20Kč piece! I asked her to see it, pretending like I wanted to know how it looked for next time. She held it back for a while and shoved me to the restroom. I stood my ground and demanded to see it. She then flung it back at me and rudely pushed me out of the doorway and put the door in my face. I won’t write the thoughts that rushed through my mind at that moment, but I will say that I was happy to find an outdoor toilet that accepted 5Kč for 15 minute admission (I only needed 1 minute!).
I purchased some groceries from a little food store located at the Praha Hlvani train station. I was trying to see how long the Czech currency I had bought earlier would last, so any time I could buy something with Euro or my credit card, I did. With mutual smiles and laughs, I left the register with food in hand, not bothering to understand what the gibberish on my receipt meant. Well, after walking upstairs and deciphering it, I realized that the sum she gave me in cash and the sum listed on the paper were off by about 100 crown. I immediately marched back down to levels to retrieve my missing money from her to the manager. Getting my money, even without understanding a word the other was saying, I was able to get the manager to have one of the cashiers give me the money. I am still a bit curious as to why she didn’t suspect me of lying, seeing as I had been from the store for a good 15 minutes, and she had not witnessed the sale herself.
Finally, I must caution you about any tour buses you pay for when you visit Prague. The bus service I used had a schedule of stop times, but clearly I must have either I been reading the list upside down or they simply didn’t care about customer satisfaction after a certain time. I stood at one of the last route locations with 3 more stops left for the day, after two of the times had passed, I realised that I had been gypped. You can see my lonely spot in the attached gallery (last photo).
- When you exchange currency at a bank, exchange centre, or as a part of the purchase of commodities, always remember to properly examine your receipt. Languages are as different a they come, but mathematics will always make sense in any part of the world. Don’t leave the counter or the immediate room until you have verified your money.
- 1 crown consists of 100 hellers (haléř), abbreviated as hal.Heller coins have not been in use as of September 1, 2008, but hellers are still incorporated into merchandise prices. The final price is always rounded off to the nearest crown value.The approximate value of 100 CZK is 4 EUR/6 USD. [cited from]
Please stay tuned to my posts or follow my Facebook to find out what I bought in the grocery store to eat that day.