I had high hopes for Prague, and to be frank, my first impression was a total let down (but wait, it gets better!)
I arrived on a dreadfully gloomy day. As a Seattelite, I’m not one to be bothered by grey skies, but this time I was- that’s how I know it was particularly bad.
On top of the awful weather I ended up walking aimlessly around the ugly part of town with all my luggage in hand for what seemed like hours. Since I decided to cancel my couchsurfing accommodation and had yet to book a hostel place to stay, looking for a place to keep my luggage unfortunately took a large portion of my day. Because of the language barrier I was directed to the luggage section of a department store when what I had actually asked for was a locker room……
At that point I was not a fan of Prague. The weather was awful and I had somehow managed to only see the parts of the city that looked like abandoned prop sets from the movie “I am Legend.” Nobody understood me and I understood nobody- it didn’t seem like it could get much worse. I had two days left until my sister arrived, and I already felt alone, bored, and lost in the city. I panicked and found myself at the train station buying a ticket to Dresden, Germany (which I’ll blog about after this) scheduled to leave early the next day.
Fast forward to two days later when I returned to Prague refreshed and ready to give the city another chance- and thank goodness I did because I ended up absolutely loving it!!
I’m not exactly sure what happened, but there was a marked difference in my perception of Prague after my return from Dresden. I suspect that having my sister join me the day before Christmas Eve might have had something to do with it though:) I consider myself pretty independent for the most part, and although I of course miss my family whenever I’m away, I rarely get homesick. However, it is always a bit harder to maintain homesickness by the wayside during the holidays, so it was really comforting to have my sister join me during this time (plus it was cool that this was our first real solo trip together).
Anywho, we spent most of the Christmas Day touristing and wandering around the old town center of Prague, admiring the beauty of the city. Prague has got quite a medieval charm that sets it apart from a lot of other Victorian/western style European cities. It’s got tons of spires and gothic style buildings that have probably helped (appropriately) coin it the city of 100 spires. The city’s charm was only enhanced by the Christmas markets/decor that were scattered around the city. I can’t say that going on a walking tour and eating Czech food on Christmas was very conventional, but nonetheless it was a Christmas well Spent!
Of course I tried to sample as much of the local cuisine as possible while in Prague, some of which included: goulash (basically a variation of beef stew), pilsners beer (kind of tasted like a Corona to me), trdelnik (or chimney cake- a caramalized sweet bread), Christmas ham, lots of sausage and potatoes, schnitzel (breaded and fried meat), svickova na smetane (sirloin meat in sauce and served with bread dumplings), and langos (I’d describe it as something between a savory doughnut and a pizza). Though it’s true that the Christmas markets were chalked full of holiday treats and tasty local cuisine, the best meals I had were at two small restaurants that served three course meals for a little over six euros per person. One was in the Mala Strana district close to our Hostel, and the other one that was recommended to me by a local was close to the Dejvická metro station. Both came with tasty appetizer soups, hearty entrees, and small desserts-and all were authentically Czech! Yum, I’m craving them just thinking about them right now!
As far as accommodation goes, we stayed in the Hostel Santini in the Mala Strana district which I’d recommend to anybody looking for a place in Prague. The hostel is located in a UNESCO heritage protected site so it’s quite beautiful- not what you’d expect a hostel to look like at all. It’s also conveniently located close to Charles Bridge which of course crosses the Vltava river and leads directly into old town Prague.
Some highlights of our time in Prague include:
– Panoramic view of the city from the top of the Prague Castle
– Hippy artists playing music by the John Lennon Wall
– Discovering that our Hostel was just a 5 min walk from Lennon Wall
– Stumbling upon swan breeding grounds below Charles Bridge
– The cheap and hearty food that you could stumble upon (the further from the center, the better deal you’d get)
– Arriving in Prague just in time to see the Christmas Markets
– And of course, being reunited with my sister 🙂
Though 5 days initially seemed like too much time in Prague, by the end of it all I was wishing that I had allotted more time for this leg of the trip. As far as my mini euro-trip goes, I’d say that Prague was the most charming/beautiful of the cities I visited.