I was looking for a place to spend our 10th marriage anniversary and Prague was not in my list. Not initially. One of my friends lived there for a few years and he always had good things to say about Czech Republic. He often mentioned, as far as I can recall, words such as “pretty women”, “bustling nightlife”, “great food” and…”beautiful bridges”…The girl part wasn’t convincing enough for me since I’ve been married for over 10 years. But, whenever I would look things up online, I’d often stumble upon assertions by different bloggers as to how Prague looks how Europe really looked pre-war, and, that’s precisely became my reason to visit the country. I must add that at the time this artcile was published, there was no way to reach Prague on a direct flight from the US. I hear, however, that that’s about to change. I packed my bag with all my camera accesories and my newly purchased GoPro 6 and, I booked a Lufthansa flight with a very short transit in Munich. There was no other reason to book a Lufthansa flight except for the fact that it was due to arrive in Prague in the middle of the afternoon, which ensured that I get to have a feel of the city and enjoy some local Czech food for dinner. I always felt that flights landing really late at night kind of ruin the day; you arrive in a new city and you’re excited to explore, but you can’t really do much for another 8 hours because most places and stores have already closed for the day.
My driver from the airport to the hotel was a local who had lived in the US in the 90s. Although, he loved his country and Prague in particular, he did not hesitate to mention how much more he had made as a truck driver in the US without having any legal work authorization as opposed to almost 10 years of work combined in Czech Republic as a Czech citizen. The man seemed knowledgeable. His views on the US was comforting and somewhat reassuring because they greatly differed from what I’d heard during a trip to France earlier last year. Politics aside, it always makes me happy to encounter locals in my trips who still believe in what America can achieve; people that believe America, for the most part, is a nation full of good people. This idea is dear to my heart!
The primary difference between Czech Republic and most West European nations is that even though it’s part of the European Union, you don’t get a lot of freebies from the government: if you want money, you work for it! Which makes sense because the system culvivates a sense of purpose and helps the country move forward.
As we were driving past the Jewish quarter, I learned that most Jews have left the Czech Republic…with only over 2 thousand Jews living in the country, most of whom in Prague.
I was staying at this hotel located about 6 mins walking distance from the Old Town Square, home of Prague’s largest Christmas market and the iconic astronomical clock. My first impression on Prague was that it was a very well maintained city. Streets are clean, stores look shiny and it’s very well lit. Prague also reminded me of Paris as the Czech in general seemed to be well-dressed. The clean, well-maintained steets walked upon by decently groomed Czechs added of “look how pretty everything here is” tone to it! Christmas market at the Old Town square will make you want to try a variety of food and you should. Prague is not the place for a chunky guy like myself to start a diet plan. So, off I went to try some halusky which is a mix of potato, cabbage and bacon… (ask for price before you buy at Christmas market; they might give you too much to eat and charge 3 times)…
About half hour later, I realized that the portion I was given was just too much. The vendor must have scammed me on purpose or genuinely believed that a fat US person is used to large portions. Anyways, do try tradional klobasa (sausage) and it will be the most delicious sausage you will ever have. Czech food is grossly underrated. It is one of the best world cuisines if you like meat and potatoes. Add some beer like Pilsner Urquell or Staropramen, and you will find a nice little corner of happiness.
In Prague, I also found something noticeable; small convenience stores called Mini-Mart that are open 24 hours. You can find a wide variery of Czech beers, chips, cookies, and a large section of edible cannabis products; I didn’t try them and can’t vouch.
If you’re looking to go shopping, Wenceslas Square is the place to be. The square also has its own Christmas market and Christmas tree, albeit much smaller than the one at Old town. Charles Bridge, most of David Cerny’s sculptures, the Prague Castle and most traditional restaurants like Lokal Dlouhaaa are located within walking distance from each other. If you’re American and not used to walking, you can take a taxi but you will miss out on some of the most glamorous architectural wonders that the city has to offer. It’s worth it to walk in Prague. Even if that means talking a break every few minutes…
Now here’s five DONTs of Prague that might help you save money and take some stress away from you:
– Don’t buy anything at Charles Bridge; they are extremely overpriced. You’d be better off shopping at the side streets at Wenceslas square.
– Don’t exchange your dollars at their exchanges even if they are advertizing that they do it for 0%. It’s a scam and you will get far less in koruna than your currency is worth.
– Don’t think Prague is super cheap. If you’re from the US, don’t expect Czech republic to be “Eastern Europe cheap” because, first off, Czech Republic is in Central Europe and not in the East. Secondly, the prices here can sometimes feel more like Germany or Austria than Slovakia. With a slight discount.
– Don’t be afraid of taking public transportation; Prague is safe. Even at night and the Czech are very helpful people.
– Don’t expect for them to speak English. While many young Czech speak English, it’s not like Scandinavia where almost everyone speak good English. You are most likely to encounter someone who doesn’t speak English. So, try learn some basic Czech before you come; this will help you!
Prague, in my opinion, has similar traits as Paris and Las Vegas; you will never run out of a nice place to take that family photo or a selfie. Although you will see a lot of young tourists here thanks to Prague’s great and affordable beers and nightlife, Prague is a great place for couples of any age group. In fact, if you’re married, be ready for a second honeymoon feel…
Give this city a chance. It will raise your bar really high!