Throughout the weeks we’ve spent crisscrossing through Europe, we’ve visited many incredible places, beautiful towns & lush cities. Its as if the entire continent is a fairytale with its long histories & exquisite architecture; but without a doubt Prague has been my favorite city so far.
Ok so we weren’t really sure what to expect from the city; we had heard a great deal about it & it was high on our list of places to visit but we don’t personally know that many people who have been here. Most of the people we do know are backpackers like us, working their way around “lesser known” East European routes so we thought maybe it’d be a bit under the radar? Yeah that was a big no; if Prague was ever under the radar, it is not anymore.
Prague’s tourist traps, old town square, Charles Bridge, & Prague Castle are some of the most crowded we’ve encountered. Markets are full of non-Czech souvenirs (most are actually Russian origin) & vendors sell all sorts of odd foods that aren’t traditionally Czech either. The best has to be the ads for the “beer spas”; we certainly didn’t meet any Prague natives who have ever done a beer bath & admit they find it weird people would like bathing in beer tubs with people they don’t know…but when in Rome I suppose? Even still, the droves of tourists don’t seem to take away the serenity of this place, the lazy flow of the river or the quirky street vibes.
It’s obviously a city that has flourished after shaking off their communist occupiers, though the memories run deep. Unlike Berlin, we made it a point to take an alternative tour & during a brief conversation with our guide, he described how his father saved for 5 years to have enough Czech money to trade in for Soviet bonds & purchase one pair of denim jeans at the” western” store; some 40 odd years later he’s still proud to pull them out of the closet.
We learned loads of random facts about the city; one being their history of “defenestration” i.e. throwing someone out a window. Apparently, there are many well documented instances of this throughout Prague’s history, most recently in 1948, though apparently its disputed.
Second, it is believed in Prague that only one part of a statue should be gold & if you touch/rub the gold section it will bring you good luck. On the far end of Prague Castles stands a well-known statue the “Youth” which depicts a naked lad & well, you can guess which part is gold…
I don’t know if it’s actually believed that rubbing the gold brings good luck or if it is something that locals made up to entertain themselves with naive tourists; either way, it’s pretty hilarious.
One of the reasons we loved Prague, despite its overabundance of tourists, is that it doesn’t take long to find hidden gems in its labyrinth of streets & tucked away courtyards. Two or three streets just off the main square & you can find yourself in a completely different world.
During our tour, we caught a glimpse of the artsy & tech side of the city. Various art cafes throughout the city showcase local artists, both well known & novices alike, & we even toured a “bitcoin café”. Yes, you could only purchase items using bitcoin (there’s an “atm” inside), offered workshops on hacking & even housed a 3D printing lab in the basement.
One night, we heard through the grapevine of a spot called Containall-Stalin, an outdoor bar & music venue of sorts on the grounds of an old Stalin memorial. Though its fairly easy to find in the Letna Park, it still fills with mostly locals & a few expats for an evening DJ. With good, cheap beer & amazing river views you can sit for hours people-watching & listen to the music.
The city is also having some major foodie & beverage moments. Besides being known all over the world for beer, we discovered a small spot devoted solely to one of my personal favorites – the “Gin & Tonic”. You can try a bit of everything from bitter & citrus to dry & earthy, floral or sweet. There are even ones with bacon as well as plankton & dried tuna, because, of course there is. With over 150 diverse types of gins there’s one for everybody! No, I did not try the plankton though lavender I am happy to recommend.
Since breaking out of its soviet dominated era, the city has reacted with stretching its cooking legs so to speak & after years of a heavy foods rap, Prague now boasts one of the largest number of vegetarian/vegan restaurants & markets. Even with this, we still managed to end up in a basement specialty burger joint & so far, it’s the only time I’ve really missed eating meat (though the portabella burger was tasty).
We couldn’t soak up enough of this city. Strolling along the river on our final night in Prague, we knew we could spend a year here & never learn enough about all its charm & mystery. If it hasn’t been on your “bucket list” before, it should be now & soon. Though it is quickly becoming a tourist “it” spot, the city has survived worse & I don’t think she’s bound to give up all her secrets anytime soon.