I’m back from a little jaunt to the East of Europe, specifically Prague.
I’d wanted to go to Prague for years. Like 15 years. Ever since I moved to Spain and suddenly found that other parts of Europe were actually pretty close by.
But life happened in the middle and I never actually bought the tickets. Until last week.
What can I say?
It was a great city.
But once again, it makes me think about mass tourism and its consequences.
You know how you think you’re a special little snowflake, who’s the only one EVER who’s so original that they actually want to travel to exotic and faraway places like Prague in Eastern Europe?
I remember being back on the ranch in Arizona and thinking just that. I thought I was one of a kind.
(And I guess it should be mentioned that most of the people I was living with back in Arizona haven’t made it much of anywhere, travelwise… At least not outside the US.)
But seriously. After 15 years wanting to go to Prague, I was there. The Old Town Square was seriously beautiful. And choked with people from all countries – all 5 to 7 continents, if you prefer – taking selfies in front of awesome old buildings like magical little snowflakes who are the only one from their shitty town who ever had the idea to get out for a while.
And maybe they are. Who am I to know? There are a lot of shitty towns in the world.
Anyway, about Prague…
What you should know about Prague
I wouldn’t say Prague is cheap, and I wouldn’t say it’s expensive.
More like: it varies widely from place to place. If you know where to go and what to get, it’s cheap.
Just be careful of the conversion from koruna to euros (or whatever currency you’re using). At the time of writing, it’s about 25 korunas to the euro, so a 200 CZK sandwich costs 8€. Add the money-changing fees to that and it might be a bit pricey.
Or not, depending on what you’re used to.
We had some awesome meals, and some really good sausages at street food stalls. But also some pretty bad street food, that was a total ripoff.
The beer was great and pretty cheap, the wine was okay and often pretty expensive.
So, you know, anything can happen.
The famous Prague Castle
Ah, the Castle. It’s not quite what one envisions when one hears the word castle, but it’s nice enough, I guess.
(Castle, in this case, is just a large walled area on top of a hill.)
The only thing was, the tickets were sort of hard to come by.
After wandering around (through metal detectors at the gate, for example) we finally found a ticket window that was open. Although “window” isn’t really the word for it. It was the girl who sells paninis. Turns out, she’ll also sell you tickets to some of the more exclusive areas of the castle.
Add in some ambiguous signs and other panini / ticket places that were closed, and you’ve got a less-than-user-friendly castle.
Anyway, the Cathedral and Saint George’s Basilica were pretty nice, and had displays of bones and skulls – just to remind us of the futility of human endeavour, I guess.
And we got to see a bunch of suits of armor and medieval torture devices.
But in the end, the Castle was about a 5 out of 10 as a cultural experience. Sorry, Prague, just telling it like it is.
On the other hand…
Sunset on the river and food in Prague
Next to the Vltava river, there’s a building there called Dancing House Hotel, designed by Frank Gehry, which is totally worth visiting at the end of a day.
You can head up to the bar on the 7th floor and have a drink (which are actually very reasonably-priced) and watch the sunset.
It was a little (but not terribly) crowded.
That was probably the high point of the whole experience for me. The sunset was awesome that day.
Also, the food. It’s a lot of cabbage and potatoes, but not bad at all. Sausages, as I said previously, are delicious and abundant.
Try googling around to find a typical Czech restaurant near you when you’re there. We went to one called U Parlamentu (very near the river) and Pub and Grill no 1 near Charles Square. Both good options, and not too expensive.
Our last day we went to the zoo, which was… how do I put it?
Confusing and disappointing.
Once again, the signs weren’t really helping out, and the map was pretty unclear as well.
A lot of the little terrarium-type exhibits were full of hundreds of cockroaches, and a lot of the animals were nowhere to be seen.
In any case, it was cheap (only about 8 euros) and we got to see some elephants, gorillas, and a couple of polar bears. Lots of tiny primates of various kinds. An anteater.
You know. Zoo stuff.
And that’s about all I gotta say about Prague
I think the reason I wanted to go for so long had to do with literature.
Two authors I like a lot, Franz Kafka and Milan Kundera, are Czech. And it’s always just sounded like a sort of exotic and literary place to hang out.
I didn’t get to see the Kafka Museum, but the monument that’s like a giant spinning silver head is just awesome. Beautiful and hypnotic.
And by all means, check out the river at sunset and at night. The lights on the castle are great.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for today.
Have fun, y’all!
P.S. What are your favorite cities in Europe? I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Baltic and Scandinavian countries, but haven’t been up there – yet. For more travel in Spain, check out Ávila, Cuenca, Barcelona and more.
P.P.S. Update, 2024: Okay, I’ve now been to Scandinavia, briefly. Long enough to do some research and write a long article about the Swedish utopia, anyway. Enjoy!