I had the good fortune of spending around 45 days in this beautiful city, on work. The Capital of the Czech Republic(CR) may have an arduous and broken past, but it’s present is a beautiful amalgamation of Eastern and Western European cultures and lifestyle.
The thing that stands out most about Prague are the people- peace loving and accommodating. Not to take anything away from the beauty of the city, with its picture perfect Euro-hamlet look of slant brick roofs, a river, and the occasional Church spire piercing the crystal clear blue sky.
As a local said to me, the people of CR have been so used to being ruled by over the centuries from the Turks to the Nazis to most recently the Soviets, that being accommodating and peace loving is in their nature. In fact 90s music is the most popular, being played in every restaurant and TV channel, probably signifying their attachment to the decade they were finally set free and formed a secular democracy. I loved it as I’m a big 90s music fan too!
My best memories of Prague were of hiking in the suburban hills, walking in the old town square listening to great street music and drinking some really cheap beer at Letña park watching twilight set over the city from the elevated vantage point of the park. That’s the best part about CR and further east, the currency and expenses make it ideal for a budget traveller looking for a truly Euro experience at Indian rates(for eg. I would eat a hearty lunch for around ₹200, and maybe catch a bus/metro to the heart of the city for ₹50).
There’s a lot of culture and history associated with their repeated change of ownership too. You can see the museum of communism depicting their period under the soviets and the Nazi museum for the WW2 period. It is also a hotspot for varied architectural styles, from Baroque to Gothic. I would recommend going for a walking/cycling tour to truly appreciate this. There’s also a building called the dancing building which looks exactly like what it’s name says… Pretty cool!
The usual touristy haunts are not mundane in any case, I could go back to Charles bridge any number of times to see the painters, caricature artists and the odd quartet belting out some classics. That’s the thing about Prague, no part of it gave me a commercial vibe. It is also firmly rooted to its musical heritage with beautiful concert halls at almost every corner of the old town area selling tickets for classical concerts happening almost daily. I especially loved the walking area near the ‘Muzeum’ metro stop where you can find great street food from all over Europe on weekends.
A special mention for one of the best nights spent in the city. A few local friends took us to a place called ‘Vagon’ which is called a “Rock Club”. It was buzzing at 2am as with any club, but they played classic rock numbers and people were dancing to the music like it was a club! At first I found it really funny and strange but when we joined in I realised how much fun it was to sing and dance my favourite rock numbers like no one was watching. Definitely a first for me!
There are some great day trips to drive to inside CR like Cesky Krumlov- the most quaint hamlet of CR IMHO; Kutńa Hora- an old silver mining town; and Plžen-home town of local brew Plžen beer with its factory there. So don’t hesitate keeping 2-3 days for a round robin around CR to see these places, you won’t be disappointed.
And of course it holds a great geographic location for plotting all your European trips like Krakow, Poland; Berlin, Germany; Vienna, Austria; and my other favourite, Budapest, Hungary. Use the countless bus agencies for your travel around this part of Europe, the best of which I found to be ‘Student Agency’.
Europe as a traveller, needs a couple of trips at least to really soak in and do justice to, but I think Praha will definitely be a pit stop each time for me !