The ancient beauty of Prague

After our recent experience in Copenhagen, we were unsure whether €70 for 4 nights in Prague would stretch the distance, however the prominence of currency exchange places (with zero commission) gave us a strong incentive to try. Five hours on the bus meant we were pretty excited to finally arrive in Prague (Student Agency bus company – would highly recommend; free wifi, hot drinks, movies and even a place to charge your phone). It became fairly obvious that we had crossed the border (although yet again, we couldn’t pinpoint when) when the language on the signposts changed from German to an entirely incomprehensible code! Blind Eye Hostel was located 15 minutes from the bus stop, and about 30 minutes from the Old Town Square. It was clean, spacious, quiet and had free breakfast; again I would highly recommend.

After meeting some fellow New Zealanders at the hostel, we headed into town to meet three Otago boys, all studying abroad in Europe. It was quite the Kiwi reunion! We met at a bar called U Sudu which was a five storey, former World War II bunker built entirely underground. Thankfully we only moved one floor at a time, as the likelihood of me getting lost would have been very high. After some thrilling rounds of foosball, and some celebratory absinthe shots we moved on out to explore Prague’s nightlife; a notable highlight was a club where girls got free drinks, and only the boys had to pay! Needless to say, we had a great night.

Being in Prague for the lead up to Easter turned out to be fantastic. The Easter Markets in both the Old Town Square and the New Town (Wenceslas Square) essentially run for the duration of April and are highly festive, with so many delicious smells wafting, colourful trinkets glittering and happy people roaming. Chimney cakes were a big thing here (known as “Trdlo” – not sure how that is even a word), as were hot dogs, and potato dumplings with sauerkraut. The Czechs have a strong claim over goulash, which we found out when we went to Mlejnice Zatecka for dinner with Marco, who is currently working in Prague. The goulash came served in bread baskets, and was so rich, hearty and warming – it would have to be one of my favourite things I ate whilst I was away. Another amazing (and cheap!) meal was Pad Thai from Yammy – a place right by Wenceslas Square; somewhat ironically, it was probably the best Pad Thai I have ever had in my life.

 

As we learnt on our walking tour, the Czech Republic has the most fascinating history. Our tour guides grandmother was born and bred in the Czech Republic, and throughout her life she lived in 9 different countries, despite never moving from her family home. The Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square has a fascinating tale; legend has it that the man who designed the clock had his eyes gouged so that he couldn’t design another one like it, so he committed suicide by throwing himself into the cogs of the clock-tower. Another interesting building is the Gothic-style Church, known as “Our Lady before Tyn” which has two towers- the ‘Adam’ tower is slightly thicker than the ‘Eve’ tower, apparently to protect Eve from the weather, but far more likely to be a construction mistake! Other sights we saw on the tour include the Powder Tower, the House of the Black Madonna and Museum of Cubism, the Art Noveau Municipal House and the Jewish Quarter (with the Spanish Synagogue, Kinsky Palace and Jewish Cemetery).

After the tour we walked down Pařížská Street (an exclusive and expensive shopping street) to Letna Park where the Metronome (Communism Monument) resides, along with stunning views down the river which aligned perfectly with all the bridges (including the main bridge – Charles Bridge). From here it is possible to walk along the hill to the Castle and then to the Petrin Tower (aka the mini Eiffel Tower) where you can climb to the top for 360° views of Prague. I would probably avoid visiting Madame Tussauds and the House of Torture – whilst cheap, and a great way to kill a rainy afternoon; they don’t take very long and were mildly disappointing.

All in all, the unbeatable combination of people, atmosphere, cheapness and inherent beauty mean that as a tourist, Prague has been my favourite place to visit so far.

I also made a video, check it out here.

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