On my first day in the Czech Republic, I broke the cardinal rule of a jet-lagged tourist: no daytime naps. 

Just as superior travelers warned, this inevitably led to an insufficient night’s rest. I woke up at 4:30 a.m., groggy and disoriented, and decided to make the most of my unintentional early morning and go on a run.

I was quickly mesmerized by the intricate architectural detail on each and every building lining the Prague streets. After tripping over a few cobblestones, I stopped in my tracks and froze in awe of what I now know as Old Town Square.

The morning sun glazed the unfamiliar statute and buildings in a way insisting I stop to appreciate it. 

I stood alone surrounded by rich, dense history — completely naive, yet entirely engrossed and eager to learn more. 

Fortunately, our class’ wonderful tour guide took us back to Old Town Square later that same day and explained that I had stumbled directly into the old heart of Prague. I looked at the Church of Our Lady before Tyn, the Baroque Church of St. Nicholas, the monument to Jane Hus, the Gothic House, the Rococo Kinsky Palace and the Old Town Hall.

However, this time around in the early afternoon, the square was occupied by hundreds people. Street performers danced, children blew bubbles, couples kissed, bands played live music, while both locals and tourists shuffled shoulder to shoulder, fighting to experience Czech culture.  

Despite this lively atmosphere, I will always cherish the moment I spent in Old Town Square in solitude — the buildings drenched in golden light, pushing me one step closer to understanding the complex history of Prague.