Prague is my favorite Eastern European city. It’s what I imagine the 1920’s were like to some small degree- a simpler time where Jazz clubs are as popular as ever and, smoking inside is as commonplace as cobbled streets (which are very common…like my use of alliteration…). My first trip to Prague was just not enough, and I made the 4-hour coach journey from Munich to Czech Republic the following weekend to experience more.
The first time I went to Prague was early October, and the occasion was to celebrate a colleague’s 21st birthday. Thanks to yet another long weekend (Bavaria as a region has more holidays than any other part of Germany), me and 12 coworkers arrived at our hostel, Mosaic House, at nearly midnight, and would have mistaken it for a night club if one of our colleagues hadn’t stayed there previously. We quickly ditched our belongings in our 6-bed dorm rooms and joined the party downstairs-the bar offered a variety of cocktails, shots, and my favorite Czech beer, Staropramen. After a few drinks we decided we weren’t as exhausted as we thought, and headed out into town to continue the merriment. Walking down the busy streets I instantly fell in love- from the timeworn architecture of the buildings, to the live music clubs where everything from jazz to rock tunes drifted out to the streets- Prague came alive at night. We settled on a club that was 3 flights of stairs underground (maybe an old bunker) and the retired to our hostel at a slightly inappropriate hour.
The next day all 12 of us set out to see the city, starting with the famous Dancing House (an architectural feat, and pictured ) and a stroll down the Vltava River. We had exceptionally good weather, and other people must have thought so as well- as the streets were packed with tourists. We crossed Charles Bridge (famous for being pedestrian-only and infamous for being a pick-pocketer’s paradise), went to the John Lennon Wall (Love me some Lennonism and the general parallels between music and history), the Castle (Prager Burg), walked through Letna Park (Letenské sady), finally stopping at the hidden beer garden overlooking the city. We returned to our hostel, making sure to stop by the Astronomical Clock in the Town Hall on our way.
Later that night, I met up with one of my American friends (that I had met a few weeks previously on the Zugspitze, but that’s another story…) at a US themed expat bar called Expats (I wonder how long it took them to come up with that) and I had never felt more at home since moving to Europe. I was suddenly surrounded by all Americans, drinking beer, with a football game on the TV playing in the background. After a few, we headed out to “Hemmingway Bar” (an up-market cocktail bar I wanted to visit because I heard rumors Hemmingway is Lit….), and after not being allowed in, the bartender from Expats decided to take us to a few lesser known bars.
Then, the bartender, Patrick, told us his story- and his account makes him, to-date, one of the most interesting people of my generation that I have met. Apparently whilst he was at a crucial age in his late teens, a relative gave him the book The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart, a novel about a psychiatrist who begins to make all his vital decisions by rolling dice. Patrick decided to follow the cult book, and rolled the dice on whether he should go to university, or run away from home. When the dice chose the latter, he packed a bag, and left his southern English home in the middle of the night, not knowing where he was going, but sure of his decision. He made it to Berlin and stayed with some friends, through ups and downs somehow made it to Prague, and had landed a bar job with dreams and plans of opening his own bar in the near future. I don’t know if I would class it as stupidity or genius, but I have yet to meet a person who would have the courage to do something so spontaneous, and I applaud him for taking the road less traveled.
After a long night of story swapping and debauchery, I returned to my hostel, with more plans of exploration in the morning.
I awoke early going to a café (by myself) for breakfast, and met up with a few people from our group of 12 to visit the communist museum followed by the museum of torture (I highly recommend both). I returned to the Expat bar that night for an American Football game with my newly made friends, ended up visiting a strip club ( my first and last time, but the experience from an anthropological perspective was interesting nonetheless), and finally had to wake myself up for 5am to catch the bus back to Germany with my colleagues.
The next weekend I headed back to Prague, joined by my 3 flat mates. We opted for a large Airbnb slightly outside of town, planning to use the metro in and out of the town center. Our Airbnb was better than expected, and had a beautiful patio with views of the famous TV tower. Much like my first adventure, we also arrived late, and had to quickly rally to get into town. We actually went to a few bars I made note of on my previous visit-including a punk rock bar (that was not our scene…) and a cheap student bar (which was more our scene). We made in into Hemmingway Bar, and at long last I could have a Daiquiri just like my beloved author would have wanted.
The next day, we followed the same tried & tested tourist route as I had my first trip; the only excursion being a stop on the river to take out a pedal boat. This activity is definitely one which seasoned travelers don’t indulge in, but the view of the city from the water was spectacular, and pedaling around proved to be fun. We saw the rest of the attractions, stopping for lunch at an Irish bar for pub food (which is what Brits, and even myself, had been craving since moving to Germany-aka the land of the bland). We returned to our hostel tired, and after a full day of exploring opted for a nap. I unfortunately woke up not feeling 100%, and stayed in for the rest of the night (in a beautiful flat in Prague-life could have been worse).
My flat mates went to Karlovy lázně (the biggest nightclub in central Europe) coming back with mixed reviews that highlighted its size/music diversity but reprimanded it’s large crowds, and even tried out my American Expat bar (which they did not enjoy as much as I did). The next day Ben and I awoke early to go shopping in the center of town (it was a beautiful day, and we weren’t used to being able to shop on Sundays-a luxury oft taken for granted!) where we got Zara fashions and had a cheap lunch of beer (for me-as I was feeling better) and heaps of Thai food.
As for getting back to Munich, we decided to take a BlaBlaCar, which is a fairly new carpooling service, and in my opinion is modern day hitchhiking. We got picked up from our Airbnb around 5, and the 4 of us squeezed into (Radim’s) car. The drive was mostly pleasant, except for one highway exit incident where we were going way too fast and our driver almost lost control and killed us, and one incident when he dropped us off and asked us to be friends on Facebook. Safe to say my reviews of BlaBlaCar are very skeptical, though I appreciate the innovative business idea.
Prague is a unique city; I always manage to have a good time, and leave with a new perspective, appreciation, and an overwhelming desire to return.
Borrowed clothes: For my first trip to Prague, my flat mate’s visiting girlfriend Amy lent me a strappy backless black dress, in hopes that I would wear it to Karlovy lázně, however it remained in my suitcase for the entirety of the trip (and I still haven’t been to that nightclub…it doesn’t appeal to me). Additionally, my mom sent me a pair of overalls the week before I made my Czech trip (as they came back in fashion summer 16’), and the front pouch came in so handy for map-carrying and keeping my wallet safe from pick-pockets!
Pro Travel Tips:
- In Prague the currency is Czech Crowns, which is approximately 26 CZK to 1 Euro, even though Czech Republic is part of the European Union
- Smoking inside is still widely accepted- just something to keep in mind if you’re asthmatic or generally hate smokers
- Almost everyone speaks English- so learning the language is not necessary. I met an expat who had lived there for 8 years, started a business, AND married a Czech woman-with little to no knowledge of Czech.
- Go with a small group-not a group of 12.