DONT EAT THE PRETZELS: and other tidbits from Prague
View of the bridges from Petrin park
Well our time in Prague is coming to a close. Just about done, then on to Paris. It's been a good past couple days exploring the city, I honestly wish I had more time, not because there is more to see but because there is more to experience. I've seen the clock tower, Prague castle, the parks, eaten the food, seen the red roofed buildings, the Charles bridges. But I want to learn Czech, really be able to connect with the people. This language is so vastly different than anything that I have learned in the past. All I've gathered so far is please, thank you, hello, beer, and house, which all put together won't get you that far in a conversation. Czech people don't seem to be too open to outsiders, unless you count the money hungry tourist traps you find around old town.
The Vltava river runs through Prague. This is a small section divided from the whole by buildings.
Speaking of tourist traps, our first night here we got totally ripped off when we sat down to eat at a pretty cute outdoor cafe in Wenceslas square. There were pretzels on every table and I really have to admit, the pretzels really got us. The prices looked decent on the menu that was displayed so we sat down and ordered lunch, which all in all tasted pretty good. We ate a few pretzels which were not very good, pretty stale, and even tried fried cheese which seems to be a delicacy around here (literally just a mozzarella stick in a square shape, supposed to be served with tarter sauce but ours didn't even come with it). It wasn't until we had already paid and we're sitting there debating over what seemed to be an exhorbantly large bill for lunch for the four of us, that the waiter came over to inform us that he had forgotten, each pretzel cost 50kč and since we had eaten four of them that would be another 200kč. That's nearly 2 dollars per STALE pretzel!! Turns out although the meals themselves were not very pricy there were hidden fees everywhere! We walked away feeling taken advantage of and vowed not to eat in anymore tourist heavy areas. Since then we've had some delicious meals, none costing more than about $100usd for 6 of us (and that's on the pricier side!) Turns out Prague has a lot of brewpubs, so naturally being the portlanders we are, that's where we've been gravitating. The Czech food is a lot of meat and potatoes, not a lot of vegetarian options, and even though I'm not vegetarian, I don't like eating a lot of meat so it's nice to also be able to find a large variety of other foods (such as some delicious Indian food!).
Brewery at the monastery in Petrin park
I'm sitting here in a quiet corner of petrin park drinking some plain yogurt for lunch (because the market had no spoons), listening to the clock chime 3pm (or 15:00). I spent today on my own, wandering around on the trains that crisscross the city. I went to the bouldering gym, which has its own bar attatched, a fun place to be on a Friday night I'm sure! I didn't get anything to drink because I was ridiculously hungry but climbing was fun. I like to check out the local gyms when I'm traveling, it's always fun to get shut down on some international plastic! This one was called the Boulder Bar and was only 120kc to get into. I did get some weird looks when I showed up, I don't think they get a lot of solo American girls showing up to climb, but everyone was at least somewhat helpful. I've found Czech people aren't the most friendly to tourists, but it seems to help when you at least attempt to speak a few words of Czech with them.
The few empty streets of old town were really beautiful
This city is very tourist heavy. I'm really glad Portland and even Seattle have no where near this amount of tourism, it really wears me out. Old town is really beautiful but when you're navigating hords of people to see anything it's just not that fun. I've found it a lot more enjoyable to just wander through the side streets, avoiding the main squares and just observe the architecture, the people washing dishes in restaurant back alleys, a man smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee out of his apartment window. I've found some great spots around the city, but they are few and far between. The big sights are worth seeing once: st. Charles bridge, the astrological clock, Prague castle, etc, but we managed to do all that in a total of 5 hours the first afternoon we were here. I took a lot of photos those first few days, trying to get the beauty in a photograph while cropping out the crowds of people all around, now my camera has stayed mostly in my backpack, coming out only to capture moments. As I said, I've seen all I need to see, now it is just time to experience.
The Charles bridge from the next bridge north
Coffee and cigarettes
A few experiences that I definitely recommend in Prague besides the ultra touristy areas: Wander through Petrin Park- go to the top, there's a great view, but take an alternate way from the main path, start in the west and wind your way up the cobbled paths. we found an awesome crumbling building in the woods, and an old cathedral with no one around. Also the monastery up there has it's one brewery, worth a stop for a drink and some snacks.
This building was falling apart and ivy covered; a lovely little find in the middle of the city park
An old cathedral moved to Petrin park in 1929
Trdlenik-this Bavarian pastery is everywhere, and it's delicious! Dough baked in a spiral and baked over an open fire with cinnamon sugar on it, you can get it plain, with Nutella, or with ice cream (or some places you can find it with both! Or even other options) Wander! Abandon the map and just stroll through old town and the surrounding neighborhoods, just pick a street that looks inviting and walk. Google maps gps tracks your location even without service or wifi so if you star your accommodations ahead of time, you can always pull it up when you're ready to head back to find your way home.
A great spot I found sitting in a tree overlooking the river. Sat here for a few hours and read and typed up this blog post.
The John Lennon wall
Eat dinner at Lokál Dlouhááá- we had multiple people who had either lived in or spent a lot of time in Prague recommend this place. It was quite loud but fun, delicious. I had the cod with cumin butter and smashed potatoes and I have to say it was one of the most delicious meals ever. Just melt in your mouth fish dripping in butter. Cumin butter is incredible. Get out of town for a bit and take the train to Karlštejn castle. Although the village was definitely tourist oriented there was nearly no one compared to the crowds surrounding the sights in Prague. The castle was beautiful, although they make you pay for a tour to go inside, and we honestly found it kind of a let down, the outside was almost cooler. There are three different tours exploring different parts of the castle. The main one was 330kc for adults and 230kc for students and showed the living quarters of King Charles IV. That was the one we did. The other options explored the church and the great tower. The great tower one might be really nice but they said they didn't allow photos. Bit of a rip off, but worth the trip and probably worth the 10-15 dollar admission if you haven't seen many castles.
The castle was more impressive from the outside
The view of the village below from the castle walls. It's definitely an uphill walk to get up there.
St. Vitus cathedral--definitely made me thing of St. Vitus dance the route up the chief in Squamish. Am I too focused on climbing? I think not.
More park finds. I think I could spend days exploring the parks.