Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic is one of the most stunning cities I have visited so far. Architecturally Gothic with a dash of renaissance it is hard not to admire the buildings decorated in art nouveau and art deco. Prague offers a great mix of food, culture, architecture, relaxation and excitement. Go there once and you will love it. Go there twice and you may not want to leave. Three times a charm.
It is interesting to note that the Czech Republic has the highest number of beer drinkers per capita (more than Germany) and is one of the more peaceful countries in the world.
My mom is retired and lives in Prague so accommodations consisted of a fold out couch in her apartment. The apartment was further away from the centre so it took time to travel yet the transit system allowed me for multiple options on getting to the main parts of the city.
Since I was in Prague for three weeks I utilized a monthly transit pass. It came in handy when hopping on and off various stops. The tickets are based on the honour system and there are plenty of transit inspectors who check for tickets. They particularity target tourists who think they can cheat the system. I was checked twice. Maybe it was because of my black Andy Capp hat or that other time I looked out of place somehow. Maybe I should have walked around with a Pilsner in my hand to blend in more; I do enjoy cites where I can casually walk around with a tasty spirited beverage in my hand.
And like other European cities such as Istanbul, Athens and Sofia I have noticed that on buses and the metro people give up their seat without hesitation to the elderly.
The city is also bicycle friendly and there bicycle boxes at some intersections.
Even though I was in Prague a couple years ago I decided to see some of the sites again. I took the Free Sandemans Tour. It is a walking tour that lasted three hours and depending on how well the tour was you tip the tour guide accordingly. It was a good tour and learned things I would not have learned going on my own.
Some of the sites to see:
- The Charles Bridge was built in the 1300’s and many tourists flock to it. It is alleged that some of the locals hate the bridge because its cramped with tourists. During the recent May 2013 flooding the water level rose almost to the top of the bridge. There were many areas, buildings and cafes along the Vltava river that were submerged.
- The Prague Castle is one of the largest castles in the world. This castle is a must see place to visit when in Prague. The castle area is home to museums, government offices, gardens and defense towers, each with their own individual architectural styles.
- Old Town Square is where you will find the only working astronomical clock in the world, the Tyn Church and other historic sites. This is where most tourists come to hang out, take photos and eat at many of the surrounding restaurants. Most of the city tours start at this square.
- St Wenceslas Square is the main strip where you will find many shops, hotels, offices, fast foods kiosks, bars, clubs and restaurants. You will also find events, gatherings and celebrations. At the top of the square (southeast end) you will find the statue of St Wenceslas. During my visit I saw at the square a Military Honour Guard show with participants from many European Countries. See this short youtube video of two of the participating groups:
- The Petrin Tower is a mini version of the Paris’ Eiffel Tower. And despite its smaller size it is placed on hilltop and is technically higher in elevation than the Eiffel Tower.
My favourite czech pastry is called kolacek. There’s only one place in Toronto that sells it so while in Prague I made sure to have my fill. A local grocery store close to the apartment provided my twice daily dose. Other delights include palačinky, (crepes) and dumplings.
As peaceful and relaxing as the city can be there is a really good night scene. There are lots of clubs and pubs you can hang out at. If you can handle your liquour there’s plenty of pub crawls where for the first hour you have unlimited drinking before you hit at least four other pubs and dance clubs. During this hour you can drink beer, vodka and even absinthe. For participating in the crawl you receive a pub crawl t-shirt so you can remember the next morning that indeed yes you did go on a pub crawl the night before … which also explains the tattoo. And if you are getting married what best place to spend your last night of bachelor/bachelorette-hood but in Prague. Almost every night in the city I’ve seen groups of guys and gals having one last night of single life.
Karlovy Vary (Carlasbad)
While hanging out in Prague I found out about the 48th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. So off I went to spend a few days there to check out the town and movies. I stayed at wonderful place called Penzion Fan. It was a little out from the main centre yet very comfortable accommodations and service. The transit system in Karlovy Vary is slow the farther out from the city centre you are. Instead of waiting a half hour for a bus I decided just to walk.
For the film festival I purchased a three day pass where I could watch three movies a day. Though some staff did not mind if you watched an extra movie if there was any seats left. I managed to watch ten movies, walking out of two of them that were worse than bad.
The movies I watched at KVIFF:
- The Manor
- Prince Avalanche
- There will come a day
- Velvet Terrorists
- The Sea
- Exhibits or Stories from the Castle
- Mamay Umeg
- Hungry Man
Despite being in central Europe, the Czech Replubic does not have Euros for its currency. They use the Czech Crown (koruna). Though some places may offer payment in Euros but at a higher rate. And when exchanging currency in the city ask for all the fees upfront since some currency exchange places charge hidden fees ripping off tourists.
Most of my days in Prague were spent swimming at the local pool, drinking lattes, eating pastries, updating my blog and working obtaining my citizenship since my parents are Czech. Once I get my citizenship I can travel Europe more freely, without a time limit or extended visa requirements. Prague offers a great mix of food, culture, architecture, relaxation and excitement. For more things to see and do in Prague Czech the city’s official tourist portal or at TripAdvsior