The city I love the most and the one I frequent often while in Europe is Prague. I have visited it five times total and it never ceases to amaze me. But the love I have for this city runs far deeper than the beautiful baroque buildings and castles, delicious pivo and gulaš, cheap prices and mountain landscapes: it’s where my ancestors came from. The Czechs are one of the most prideful nations in the world and it is no surprise that my family carried that pride with them when they immigrated to the USA in the late 19th century. I can’t help to feel nostalgic and have that sense of home, whether I’m strolling through the castle cemetery and I wander upon stones carrying my last name or having a klobasa in the town square underneath a business stamped with the title Pokorný.
Prague has been a hidden European gem for quite some time, but people are starting to find its beauty and fairy-tale atmosphere unlike any other place in the world. It has quickly jumped up to one of the top 10 places to visit. On my first visit to Prague seven years ago you could find yourself strolling across the Charles Bridge on your way up to the Castle Complex and not have to dodge huge groups of tourists while zig-zagging between photographers. That has changed but it shouldn’t deter you from experiencing one of the most beautiful cities on Earth.
I could not wait to share “Praha” with Emily and Taryn (I was lucky enough to introduce Abby to Prague four years ago) and it made my heart smile when they claimed Prague as their favorite city on the trip thus far. We arrived in Prague to begin a five day stint of exploring and memory making on a Thursday. The first night we arrived we set out to find Abby and I’s favorite local restaurant. Much to our dismay, it was closed for repairs! 😦 We found another place close; a Czech brewery and traditional restaurant that was opened in 1499. We clanked our glasses of delicious “pivo,” said “na zdravi”, and ate some gulaš and other assorted pork dishes while making plans for our next few days. We left U Fleku and took a short walk across Charles Bridge and I couldn’t help but play tour guide for the ladies on our first night out in the Old Town.
Unfortunately, rain was in the forecast for half the time we were there, so we tried to plan accordingly. The following day, supposedly rainy, we made our way to the Old Square for some sight seeing and shopping. The girls were ready to shop, and of course, I came out with just as much purchased as the three girls: one item. We explored the Old Square, and again, to our dismay, the Tower with the Astronomical clock was being repaired! Abby and I looked at each other in disbelief. Luckily, we have seen it multiple times, so I guess Emily and Taryn will just have to go back and see it for themselves another time.
Saturday was a beautiful day so we planned on trying to knock out all the outdoor tourist activities. Before heading to the farmer’s market on the Vltava River, we went to a breakfast spot that we were too late for the day before. All tables full, we decided to leave the cafe after not getting service for 20-30 minutes (waiters are paid normal salaries, not by pennies and tips…I sure hope he was just really hungover and not too lazy haha). We picked up some fruit, kolaches, lunch and other goods so that we could make supper at our Air B&B the next few days.
We dropped off the groceries at our place and started to climb up Vyšehrad Castle, the original castle and settlement of Prague. We took in the sights from one of the highest points in Prague and wandered through the old cemetery. We made our way down and followed the river up to Charles Bridge to cross over towards the Prague Castle. This climb is a little more difficult and we were ready for a beer break once we reached the top. Located a few hundred meters up the hill from the Castle is the Strahov Monastery that holds a brewery (of course, all monks seem to brew!) where we witnessed one of the most beautiful landscapes and panoramas of Prague.
A long day behind us, we made our way down the hill and to our hostel to rest up a bit before going out on the Vltava River. After a short respite, we had a quick five-minute walk to the opposite side of the river where we hauled some drinks to sit down, drink and relax for the rest of the night. A few stiff drinks later and a short stumble home, we laid down to sleep off our long day.
Sunday came and we treated it like the day of rest it claims to be. After Abby made us a delicious breakfast, Emily and I fell down for a long nap while Abby and Taryn relaxed in our Air B&B. It truly was a lazy day, one needed every once in a while after days and days of walking and exploring.
The weekend passed by way too fast and Monday brought a new day to show the ladies another square in Prague: Wenceslaus Square. More modern than the rest, we did some shopping and began picking up souvenirs. After some more shopping, Taryn had her heart set on a souvenir we had found at only one place: close to the Prague Castle but up the hill near Strahov Monastery. She made a deal, “Next round is on me if you’ll come along!” Done deal, we were sold at free beer. On our trek up the hill we found out the place would be closing in 15 minutes! Sweating, slightly smelly, and ready for a drink we arrived just in time for her to pick up some treasures to take back to the USA. We marched down the Castle Hill ready for a refreshment towards the bottom. It was only a short time later when Taryn realized she lost her wallet! Retracing our steps, calling the last souvenir shop, Taryn realized she left her wallet at that same store. She, unfortunately, had to walk ALL the way back up and come all the way back down. BUT, she had her wallet and nothing was lost and a fun story to tell was gained.
The days went by too fast and our last few hours with Taryn were spent at one of Abby and I’s favorite breakfast places, Bohemian Bagel. Endless coffee, reasonably priced, and large portions had us hooked from the start. We said our goodbyes and Taryn was off to Holland and then Ibiza while we were getting ready to head south to Cesky Krumlov and continue our journey around Europe. Luckily for me, we would have a few more days to spend in the country that I love.