Far Away Friday
Prague was a MEGastop that will leave a lasting impression. I don’t know if any of you do this; before I went to Prague I looked up the population. Why? because when I find out a city has a population of about 1.3 million people, it takes away my need to take in everything. Certainly it is a city that you could live in and see, experience and learn something special every single day.
This post is about my experience in a relatively short visit to Prague including a few tips for those of you who might be considering a trip to Prague. There are plenty of guidebooks and websites on the internet. Tourism. Prague City Tourism has a wonderful site that will help you plan every aspect of your visit, I highly suggest using this site. I have provided a link in MEGatip #14. I want to inspire you to visit. Simply put, you must go there. Even in my short visit I was able to take in the city. and see many sights. I went to all of the “must see sights;” Prague Castle, a Czech pub, the Jewish Quarter and peeked at the cemetery, toured St Vitus Cathedral, arts, architecture and on and on. Go to as many of these sites that interest you. Take a million photos. I did. Check out my tips, there are important things such as how to survive the toilets and get the best out of your visit. Besides, who else loves toilet talk?
If you were to ask the average person this question; which city in Europe is the greatest European city to visit? You are likely to hear the answers; Paris, London, Rome, Amsterdam and Milan. A few other cities may be thrown out but for the average person, likely not Prague. But since that Velvet Revolution in 1989 Prague rapidly has become one of the great cities of Europe to visit, and for good reason. Why go? So what’s the deal?
for myself, having lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for about 5 years, I learned a little bit about Czech-Slovak history and culture. Huh? Yes, beginning in 1852 Czech-Slovak folks arrived in Cedar Rapids to work. The neighborhood where they settled was named “Little Bohemia” and is currently called Czech Village. I have attended many Czech cultural heritage parades, festivals and parties while living in that city.
Prior to the flood of 2008 where 1300 city blocks or about 10 square miles devastated this area, there were shops, restaurants, meat shops, and bakeries all specializing in everything Czech. My Christmas tree topper is fromCzechoslovakia and purchased in The Czech Museum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Go figure.
In contrast, here are a few ‘Lions of Prague”
Today more people of Czech ancestry live in Cedar Rapids than in any other city in the world, except for the Czech capital of Prague.
My friends were fiercely proud of their heritage and I learned Czech slang. Prague went on my radar.
So why else did I visit? The allure of a former Communist city, well cared for but hidden for years, called my name. It has it’s own personality. A place where I could see amazing architecture, two U.N.E.S.C.O World Heritage sites, a castle and bridge, and some funk. I was all in.
Here are some things that I absolutely loved about visiting Prague and why you should consider a visit. Note, I literally took hundreds of photos. This is a very photogenic city with so many topics to shoot. As always, I wish I had real camera skills to share with you. I did post more on my Instagram.
- Views-This city has it going on and if that were all that I saw on my visit, it would have been enough. Wherever you are standing in Prague, there seems to be a view. From the smallest detail on a building to the most picturesque city settings that you will see, ever. I could not stop staring at her. Constantly, I felt as if I did not know which way to turn my head and fix my gaze. From architecture to natural settings, Prague is bewitching.
These views reminded me of my visit to the Vatican, I was up high in the museum and caught a glimpse of the city. I remember thinking, WOW, just WOW. Prague views gave me “that moment.” If I had to describe one take-away, I would say that the views were much larger in area than I ever could have imagined. One of the things that make the views spectacular is the division of area by the beautiful Vltava River, on one side of the river; the city rises upwards on a hill. This combination of heights is like a rule in decorating; for great aesthetics, layer the look. It is as if the views are paintings, and you are standing in it. The colors of the rooflines, the contrast of eras, a castle with a cathedral high on the hill, a glistening river with works of stone and spectacular monuments. And in this painting, there are the spires that punctuate the skyline. Known as “the city of one-hundred spires” (some say 1000) the spires draw your eye in every direction. I certainly understand how this city has and continues to inspire artists, lovers, dreamers, musicians and architects. By far, the views will forever remain with me. I must have taken hundreds of photos. If I lived there, these sights would never grow old. I have seen photos of winter scenes and it is equally, if not more spectacular.
The colors of the rooflines, the contrast of eras, a castle with a cathedral high on the hill, a glistening river with works of stone and spectacular monuments. And in this painting, there are the spires that punctuate the skyline.
Known as “the city of one-hundred spires” (some say 1000) the spires draw your eye in every direction. I certainly understand how this city has and continues to inspire artists, lovers, dreamers, musicians and architects. By far, the views will forever remain with me. I must have taken hundreds of photos. If I lived there, these sights would never grow old. I have seen photos of winter scenes and it is equally, if not more spectacular. But then again, I can have fun in winter.
- UNESCO World Heritage Sites– I “collect” these sites on my travels. It keeps me from guessing and flailing around after an expensive plane ticket. Travel is a luxury for me and I never know if I will get back to these places. There is nothing worse than getting home and saying “shoot, I missed that huge point to the culture.” By collect, I mean that I would love to see as many of the world’s best and magnificent sights that humanity and earth has given us. This fine city holds two of these jewels with the first being, The Historic Center of Prague. I would describe it as a fantastic living, breathing museum. From the photos of the views above, Imagine how vast this area is. I chose a few of my favorites.
The town was built between the 11th and 18th centuries, with many of the monuments having been built in the 14th century under Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV. The historic center is a walk across the ages, a bridging of old to new, a cultural, political and religious history that speaks loudly from the buildings and is the heartbeat of this city. I hope that this spot is forever protected in peace. The second site is Pruhonica Park. Is a historic spot just SW of the city center. A beautiful, serene, natural park area that cradles unique botanical holdings.
- Arcitecture– I could gush about this subject. “A 3-D architectural” digest of architecture” from every era; neo-classic, gothic, modern, Renaissance. I love that description. In fact, I wish I had thought this up. I did not and want to give credit for these three words to Prague City Tourism at http://www.prague.eu/en/read-more/the-top-10-reasons-to-visit-prague-10591 Again, what struck me was the sheer number of beautifully maintained structures. A true walk through the history of humanity, culture, religion and the arts. Representing the eras of: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Empire, Art Nouveau, Cubanism, Communist era and modern, to name a few. The details on the buildings are superb. From the gargoyles to touches of gold, your eyes are constantly on the move. What a unique gathering of magnificent buildings. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/616/video
- The streets and sidewalks. Yes, I am a simple girl. There were patterned stones everywhere. Once this fact was pointed out to me, I couldn’t stop noticing the artistic work. I had to wonder how difficult this must be to maintain in a post communist era. It has to cost a lot of Kronos to repair. I wondered;where do they get replacement stones? Is there a warehouse somewhere? Who has the skill to do this? Also, I live in Alabama now but the rest of my life has been spent in frozen places. I had to wonder, how do they shovel the streets and sidewalks without damaging them? So do NOT forget to look down.
Extra MEGatip: DO NOT forget to look up everywhere that you go!
- Food. Always one of my favorite parts of travel. Having eaten traditional Czech food many times, especially kolaches, I was quite interested in what Czech people are eating If you never have had traditional Czech food, you will find it easily. Try the pubs. The farmer’s markets and street foods were my favorite. From the street vendor to the Michelin star establishments, Prague has food for every taste. *See MEGatip #2 below
In the city center, people were selling these potato chip on a stick. I did not get one because well, I had just been to Oktoberfest and needed to walk that one off. But lately, I am all about the street food, farmers markets and finding the current pulse and healthy foods. Here are a few examples of things that I saw.
6. Free things to do. I especially love visiting somewhere where I don’t have to pay for every little thing. It is quite easy to do most of your sightseeing for free. Put on your shoes and walk, walk, walk. There is Urban hiking at it’s best. There are also a few spots where you can get away from the crowds, smack in the middle of the city. Isn’t there something quite refreshing about freedom? Take in the Parks and gardens.
It is difficult to summarize such a treasure trove in a small blog posting. For me, I loved how this city was a sophisticated dame who still smokes cigarettes.
Refined when she wants to be and a fantastic beer and a smoke when she see fit. For more photos Czech our kikingthebucketlistwithmeg on Instagram. Some interesting things that I learned and may be helpful to you.
- Toilets- Europeans must not drink water EVER. I like water, tea and coffee. It is/was so difficult for me to find a bathroom. So make sure that you think ahead about this fact. if you are on diuretics (I am not but am a former R.N.) GOOD LUCK! There are maps that show where public toilets are available. And here is the scoop. I swear, these are not my words. This is from Prague.net “The cleanliness of public toilets in Prague is generally of an acceptable level. Metro stations might have the lowest level of hygiene but not all of them. Toilets in shopping centres are quite clean and it is quite normal for people to use toilets in places such as Marks and Spencer, McDonalds and Tesco which are certainly maintained and usable. It is quite difficult now to find free toilets in Prague and the normal charge is usually 5kc or 10kc. Some require you to pay directly to the cleaner on duty (more common in metro stations) and some have a coin-operated lock.
Sometimes if you are required to pay the cleaner you will find that, either they will give you some toilet paper, or there will be one roll outside the door for all the toilets, or there may not be any paper at all so it is always better to have some paper handkerchiefs ready. The women´s toilet is marked ženy or dámy, while the men´s is marked muži or páni. Toilets are usually marked WC or toalety.”
- Restaurants From the Michelin star to the pub. It seemed as though most restaurants were café style, packed and always asking if we had reservations. I also noticed that while I was in my “touring” or street clothes some of the restaurants had patrons dressed to kill. You know how you feel when the host looks you up and down and says no we can’t seat you? Or, oh we have a table for you here, how is this one near the outhouse? This does not mean that you must wear heels and fake lashes while you tour. My advice is to research your restaurants if you are a foodie or if you want to be sure to try certain places. If you are staying at a hotel, touch base with them on what type of eating you want to do, and which of these restaurants may require a reservation. We tipped our hotel desk staff. They were extremely helpful. To note, when you are out of the tourist area, and in a restaurant that wasn’t extremely busy, I noticed that people seated themselves.
- Touristy as hell. There is a Hard Rock Café. In Prague The end. So whether you are the cool type who hears Bourdain whispering in your ear saying “I’d rather have hemorrhoids and sit naked on sandpaper, than walk with the dudes in fanny packs.” (I made that up) Or you hear Rick Steve’s who is dancing like a leprechaun and cheerfully saying “come on folks join me for this once in a lifetime experience.” It is busy. Meg says Put on your big girl boots and suck it up buttercup, go there anyway. This city is well worth the crowds.
- Safety– Use your common sense just like any other big city. It is the highest pick-pocketed capital in Europe. If you are a child. Read about how to travel safely. If not, use your head. Also, don’t walk Wencelaus Square at night unless you need a flyer to one of the many strip clubs. It is like the Las Vegas strip that way. Sometimes, even during the day, they worked the theater and music show angle. Same deal. I noticed that the men (I only noticed men) would get a bit aggressive when handing out the pamphlets and yell at you as you walk away. Leaving you wonder just what iinteresting words are they speaking. #@*^&!
- Scams. It is well noted that there are a few things to avoid. Get acquainted with Cz currency before you go. Check over your restaurant bills and taxis. We even experienced on restaurant bill issue which was corrected promptly. The currency exchange places in Prague are quite notorious for ripping people off with fine print. We always use ATM machines in Prague to get cash and never had a problem.
- Charles Bridge-Take in the statues. Get a pamphlet on the statues or rent an audio tour of the statues. They are fascinating and will give you insight into the city. Take in the beautiful view of the river. I could go there every day of my life. Except for the people. There are a lot of them. Go early in the morning and late in the evening for further magnificent photographic opportunities.
- Take an architectural tour. This city is like the woman I mentioned. You will really get to know her through her buildings. I did a “self tour.”
- The Astronomical Clock-Another interesting way to see -Have the clock to yourself to admire at any time outside the top-of-the-hour. If you find yourself tiring of the crowds on Old Town Square, pop up to the rooftop terrace at U Prince hotel, order a cocktail, and enjoy the view from above. It’s particularly nice at sunset.
- Vysherad and graveyards-a small castle and a cool graveyard with many of Prague’s composers, writer’s, sculptors, poets, politicians….I like cemeteries. I find that I learn a lot about people and culture when I visit them.
- Shop-shop Prague. I had zero shopping time on this visit. I stayed in the Vinohrady neighborhood and my subway stop was below the Flora mall. I had my juice there in the morning before jumping on the subway and grabbed my sandwich for lunch while I went ga-ga looking at the boots and jackets. There is also high end shopping near the Jewish quarter.
- Stay-I loved Courtyard Prague Flora by Marriott in the Vinohrady neighborhood. After a night in a noisy well located hotel in Munich. I was in a spot where I needed quiet and sleep. I was able to get this in a perfectly comfortable room with very helpful staff. The subway is across the street and is a 7-minute ride into the Old Town Prague. Highly recommend. Trolley is also steps away. It takes a bit longer and I didn’t have minutes to spare! Walking to Old Town is also quite do-able.
- Wine-Like it? Try Czech wine and wine bars in Prague. Take one of the vineyard tours in the countryside.
- Horse or old car tour– I could see where a carriage ride in the winter would be gorgeous. And, the old cars are kinda cool.
- Visit this wonderful site for everything that you might want to know about Prague to make your visit a success. http://www.prague.eu/en