Prague wasn’t my idea. It was Veronica who first suggested the Eastern European city when we agreed on a trip to Amsterdam after I raved about my first visit in the fall of 2016. We had a bunch of recommendations from friends, family, and our Airbnb host, but the ultimate plans lay in the hands of the infamous Google Doc. Y’all are familiar with it. It’s that printed out document that includes the itinerary planned down to the minute. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then you’re probably not the Type A planner to build one out or even the Type B sidekick to look it over. I played the Type C straggler on this trip and went with the wind or the flow or the plan, I basically just followed the leader. What an experience it was. Prague was spectacular and had so much to offer by way of amazing architecture, history, and really, really good food.
I’m still trying to get my bearings. Traveling from place to place is not only confusing for my body but also for my mind. I woke up in Prague thinking I was still in Medellin, Colombia and while walking through the park, I could’ve sworn we were in the center of New York City. It didn’t take long to feel the differences in the culture in Prague, though. The locals seemed more reserved and a bit less expressive and outgoing as, say, the Amsterdamers we experienced a few days before. I later learned that feeling may have a lot to do with communism. Prague wears its history on its sleeve. The city’s buildings were colorful and all looked very original, considering the city’s core avoided much of the destruction of WWII.
We hit all the major food groups in Prague – palačinky, trdelník, vepřo-knedlo-zelo, guláš, knedlíky… and the translations – Czech pancakes, traditional Slovak rolled pastry topped with sugar and sometimes filled with chocolate or ice cream, roast pork with bread dumplings and stewed cabbage, stewed meat with gravy and bread dumplings, dumplings served with meat. I beg of you if you ever visit Prague, please eat your way through the city. Even 5 lbs. heavier you won’t regret it. Here is a list of restaurants and cute coffee shops to start: BRUXX (Belgian), Restaurant Blue Wagon (Modern European), Sweet & Pepper Days (Bistro & Coffee), SOVA (Modern European), CAFEFIN (Coffeeshop & Healthy Breakfast), Dandy (Cute Bar), Café Louvre (Touristy European Restaurant with poor service but great food), Restaurace Mincovna (Czech), Café Imperial (Czech), Super Tramp Coffee (Cafe), Café Savoy and Café Lounge (Very popular, book ahead).
- Playing Uno and Black Card Revoked to pregame before going out
- Meeting new friends on a walking tour (one who builds yurts and doesn’t own a cellphone and the other who hustles as a resident heart surgeon and Airbnb host)
- Every. Single. Meal. Except for dinner with a view at Marina (not sorry)
- The exchange rate of 22 Kč: $1
- Traveling an hour and a half to Karlštejn Castle only to be turned away at the door because it was closing time
- Delivering on Kavan’s request for candids
- DJ Mustard at M1
Oh, you wanted actual highlights:
- A legitimate visit to Karlštejn Castle
- “Free” walking tour of Old Prague with Miles of Prague Free Tour
- View and atmosphere around the Prague Castle, also a good place to view at night
- The best rabbit at Čistý stůl, a restaurant near the Memorial to the Victims of Communism
- Exceptional service at Bad Jeff’s Barbecue (and yes, this Texan approves)
- Amazing traditional Czech food and great atmosphere at Mlsnej Kocour
- Watching the sunset at Riegrovy Sady Park (although it was cold and cloudy)
- Walking across the Charles Bridge, through Kampa Park, and to the Lennon Wall
- KGB Museum… if it were open.
- Museum of Communism for the historical context and information
I was on the brink of being “over Europe” as in, no need to travel there anymore because all of the buildings and old churches start to look the same after ten cities (silly, I know). Then I visited the Museum of Communism. I’m still fuzzy on my world history and am lost on some of the details of WWII and the Cold War but the subject completely piqued my interest. The idea that governments can shape a society and a culture so drastically that it takes generations to recover and not just in overturning laws, rebuilding infrastructure and in the language, but in the lives and attitudes of the people. I think this is why I felt the difference in the people and their lack of friendliness/outgoingness off the bat. It also makes me think about Americans and how we traipse around the world with a completely different lens, carrying our independence and freedom and capitalism on our shoulders. I’m sure this plays a part in how other people perceive us.
I may not travel back to Prague or the Czech Republic but my interest surely is peaked to travel more of Eastern Europe: Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Russia…
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