Free weekends are unacceptable here. When we noticed an empty block on our calendar for our last few days in July, it just had to be filled. So began our destination contemplation.
After some hasty research, price comparisons, and discussion of our personal wishlists, we came to a consensus: Prague.
The beauty of European travel is that a short 1-hour flight is all that separates the pastoral lowlands of the Benelux region from the Old World charm of East-Central Europe. Prague is the first place I’ve been to that projects the enchanting and traditional images of “Europeanness” that I’d always imagined. Like straight from the pages of a storybook, or Disney World, buildings with quaint, colorful façades line the Old Town Square, musicians play traditional Slavic tunes, and the smell of roasting ham wafts out from street stalls…pretty magical, if you ask me!
The most famous landmark of Prague’s Old Town Square also happens to be Europe’s 3rd most disappointing attraction, as rated by tourists. Don’t expect some elaborate show when the clock strikes every hour; the twelve apostles simply parade by and a small golden rooster crows. It’s ornate face also boasts moon phases and zodiac signs, but I can’t understand any of that in relation to time, but it’s pretty impressive for a 14th century masterpiece.
We then took care of all the logistically necessary things: check into hostel, convert currency, grab food. Also The Czech Republic is in the EU, it still uses the Czech Koruna, which was a difficult conversion for me to wrap my head around. Everything was in really high denominations, for example, my lunch, which would have cost me about $8 USD, was over 200 Koruna.
We walked around Havelské Tržiště, Prague’s market dating back to 1232, explored the shops in Wenceslas Square, and then noticed that everywhere we turned, there was a sweet, doughy smell we could not escape. The culprit? Trdelník. Not a single street corner was without a stand selling these traditional Slovak pastries that are cooked on a rotating spit and then dusted in cinnamon sugar, until they become a cone of happiness (or shame – depending on how you feel after).
After treating our tummies, we decided to treat our feet and venture outside our comfort zones with some pedicures. Not just any pedicures, but fish pedicures! They are banned in several of the U.S. States due to health risks and over somewhat obvious reasons that we all turned a blind eye to today, since, when in Europe…
The sensation of hundreds of little fish biting, nibbling, and sucking at your bare feet really isn’t that bad when you just imagine it to be a tiny, powerful jet blasting away the dead skin. It actually tickles a little.
After our feet were feeling good as new, we put them to good use and walked across the Vltava River to the other side of the city, where we found a winding trail up the side of a hill that led to a nice dog park with an overlook of the city. All the puppies at the top made the climb worth it all – plus the thousands of gorgeous photo ops that I will spare you.
After our hike, we had dinner at a nice Italian restaurant right in the Old Town Square before calling it a night. As draining as travel is, sleeping with a foreign male stranger on the bunk above yours doesn’t make for the best night’s sleep. Especially when random roommates come it at 3am and snore like a freight train. #ThatHostelLifeTho
We were more than happy to get out of our hostel and start our day bright and early in the Town Square. We took a walking tour of the city, and, having gone on countless tours of museums throughout my time abroad, it made me realize how a good tour guide makes all the difference. Our guide, Ian, was a Brazilian-born, English-speaking Prague resident who made the move overseas when he met his Czech girlfriend while studying in Spain. He explained to us that even after living in Prague for 3 years, he struggled to speak a word of Czech. Not an easy language; some words don’t even contain vowels.
Our tour took us everywhere: The Astronomical Clock, Jewish Quarter, Old New Synagogue, Wensceslas Square, Saint Nicolas Church, Art Nouveau Municipal House, and House of the Black Madonna.
We stopped mid-tour for some lunch at a Czech pub; I had a traditional meal of roast pork, sauerkraut, and potato dumplings. I was psyched for the dumplings, since I’d always expected them to be like pierogies, but they were instead like a tasteless, starchy matzo ball.
After lunch, and the obligatory 2nd round of coffee for the day, we crossed the Vltava river and walked up Medieval streets to the famous Prague Castle. While we didn’t get the chance to go inside the Castle, we at least got to admire the gothic exterior and take a peek inside Saint Vitus’ Cathedral.
We then got ice cream and strudel, and rested our feet for an hour, before topping off our day in the most classically European way – with classical European music! Our lovely venue was Saint George’s Basilica, the oldest surviving building in Prague Castle, dating back to 920 A.D. It now serves as a concert hall, and the beautiful frescoes candlelit chapel make for the perfect setting to listen to some Pachabel, Bach, and Vivaldi.
Prague’s name as “The City of One Hundred Spires” came from an observation by a Czech mathematician…but over 100 years ago. Nowadays, the city has over 500 spires. We got to admire those spires, along with its signature red roofs, on our journey downhill from the Castle.
After dinner at a pub, some late night ice cream and Trdelník (we take sweets very seriously), gallivanting around the market square (Prague’s night scene is INSANE), and laughing a little more than our stomachs could handle, we turned in for a poor night’s sleep. But couldn’t have been any happier. This great city was made better with even greater girls, and I’m so glad to have enjoyed it with them!
Walk -> metro -> bus -> airplane -> train -> bike -> HOME.
Prague, you will be missed. But it’s good to be back.
Until Next Time,