Welcome back blog fans. This past bank holiday weekend, Tara and I ventured to Prague. Fellow expats, the Freys, went there a few weeks ago and we ended up doing a lot of the same stuff. This was probably due to the combination of reading Steve’s blog post, borrowing his guidebook, and a common love of beer.
Due to the bank holiday, we got Monday off from work so we flew out late Friday night on Wizz Air. If you’ve never heard of them, you aren’t missing much. They rank at the bottom of the low cost airline rankings in my book. We had to pay for a carry on bag. Yes, you heard me right. We had to pay to put a bag in the overhead bin. That’s just ridiculous. Anyway, the actual flight was fine and we landed close to midnight Czech time and crashed at our pre-booked (with points) airport hotel.
The next morning, after dropping off our bags, we hopped on the handy tram and headed to the top of the town, which also happens to also be where the castle and monastery were located.
We got pretty lucky with the weather for once. It rained a little bit, but for the most part it was pretty warm. We walked around the monastery but didn’t pay to go inside.
For some reason, there was a mini Eiffel tower on top of the hill. We didn’t see the point so we just took a picture from a distance.
We made our way down to the castle and caught some live music at the gates. The band playing out front was pretty good.
We didn’t do a great job of planning our route through the castle. Apparently you needed to buy a ticket at the beginning to get into all the sites along the way. I must have missed that part of the guidebook so we just walked around the castle and saw all we could without a ticket. To be honest, I didn’t really want to go inside the church or see old furniture and gold inside the castle, so I wasn’t too disappointed. Tara however, didn’t share the same thought. She thought I purposely did poor planning so that we wouldn’t go inside the church or castle.
After touring the castle, we headed downhill towards the famous Charles Bridge. On the way down, we found ourselves walking behind these 2 women….. or so we thought. When we heard them speaking, we realized the person on the left was a man. Although, one could argue that you have no right to be called a man if you are wearing capri pants a purse. Ron Swanson would not approve.
Even from the castle, you could see the throngs of people on the Charles Bridge.
Just as we saw from above, the bridge was packed! Take a look. You could not stand still or you would get swept away by the crowd. The bridge was pretty cool though.
Ater the bridge, we made our way to Old Town Square. We hung around the square and enjoyed a beer by the statue and people watched for 30 minutes or so. It was pretty nice to not be freezing cold or soaking wet while outside on a trip.
After hanging out for a while in the square, we looked in our guidebook for some authentic Prague activities. Our options seemed to be classical music and some weird black light theatre thing that we had never heard of. We figured out that there was a black light theatre a few minutes away so we opted for that. I had no idea what Black Light Theatre was and I’m still pretty confused by it all. Here’s a video that might answer some of your questions.
The visual effects were pretty cool and interesting. In-between acts, there were mime acts that were pretty strange. At one point, I fell asleep but that was probably due more to the beer than the show. All in all, I’m glad I experienced it, but I probably wouldn’t seek it out again.
After the show, we had a nice dinner and headed off to bed. The food in Prague was really good and the prices were a LOT lower than England. Our B&B was a few minutes walk outside of the Old and New town so I think we avoided the touristy prices when ate our meals out that direction. The cuisine was similar to German. Schnitzel was pretty common. There was lots of cabbage and dumplings. Roast duck, pork knuckle, and neck seemed to be on most menus. That evening, we had 2 big entrees, 2 big beers, and 2 desserts for around 400 Korunas, or about $20. Take that TGI Fridays! And it was all delicious.
The next day we focused more on the new town. We walked to the famous Wenceslas Square and did a Rick Steves walking tour. We checked the communism museum as well and learned a lot about Czech history after WWII. It’s crazy to think that Russia ruled half of Europe not too long ago. Seeing it from a Czech perspective was pretty thought provoking.
Tara was on the lookout for placemats and kolaches so we checked out a local market in Old Town. Unfortunately, it was mostly tourist souvenirs and a lot of loud witch decorations that were motion activated. I’m not sure why there were Halloween decorations in May.
After the communism museum, we headed for the Jewish quarter to do some further exploring. We ended up back at the Old Town Square so we decided to try this hollow cylinder pastry that everyone seemed to be eating.
It was okay. Nothing too amazing, but glad I tried it. Now I can check Black Light Theatre and Trdelniks off my bucket list.
Next up, Jewish town. We did a quick walking tour of the Jewish quarter. Not many pictures here. In fact, only one.
We ended our walk across the river and poked our heads into the Pilsner Urquell store to see if we could find some cool Czech style beer glasses. Pilsner Urquell is the major beer in Prague. It’s everywhere, and it tastes pretty good. Anyway, the store looked pretty basic but there was definitely more than meets the eye. We quickly found the exact style of glassware we were searching for, which was really nice. It was also a reasonable price.
While paying for the beer glasses, I had the best conversation of my life. It went something like this:
Clerk: That will be 250 Korunas for the 2 mugs
Doug [hands over the money]: Here you go
Clerk: Thanks. Would you like a free beer?
Doug [in shock]: ummm….. Yes [pause]. Can my wife have one too?
Clerk: Yes, Sasha will make it for you, go to the back. You can drink in the beer garden if you like.
So we walk to the back of the store and there is a very nice lady pouring us 2 fresh beers. She shows us to the patio where we found a few other satisfied customers. This is the ultimate model for customer satisfaction. All other stores should take note. I would gladly go shopping with Tara if this was the result.
Since we made it all the way until 3:30 before our first drink, we decided to reward ourselves with a trip to the beer museum. However, on the way there, we got a little sidetracked. As we made our way back across the famous Charles Bridge, we spotted an open air market on Kampa island. We walked down to investigate and figured out that it was a wine festival with free live music. Score! First a free beer while shopping and now a wine festival on the way to the beer museum.
And to top it off, the vendor next to the live music stage was selling a Belgium Trappist beer that I didn’t get to try in Belgium. My beer radar was in full swing on this day. We hung out at the festival until the band quit playing and then explored the island a little bit.
Not sure what these weird baby statues were all about. I felt weird being near them.
After the distraction of beer, more beer, live music, and weird baby statues, we decided to get back on track and head to the beer museum.
I stole this idea from Steve and I’m very glad I did. This place had a HUGE beer menu. We got a 5 beer sampler. It was really cool trying some of the local craft breweries of the Czech Republic.
Every pub in Prague seemed to only have 1 or 2 beers on tap so this place was a welcome change where we could explore a little more variety.
After the beer museum, which was actually just a pub with a lot of beers on tap, we headed off to dinner. Once again, the food was delicious and cheap. And after a long day of tasting the local culture, we were pooped. We headed straight to bed after dinner.
The next morning, we had a couple hours to kill before the airport so tested out the Russian built metro system and ventured outside of the city centre to an authentic Czech market in search of kolaches and placemats. Kolaches originated in the Czech Republic, but they are actually pretty hard to find. You’d think they would be everywhere, just like frittes and waffles in Belgium, but no. You really have to search. This market was only a few metro stops away, but you could tell it was not a tourist attraction. I think we were the only non Czech shoppers there. The vendors did their best to try and woo us into their stalls but they didn’t really have anything worth looking at. However, there was an indoor portion that had a lot of fresh food and we even found……. KOLACHES. About time!
A kolache is just a pastry with fruit in the inside. The origin is Czech. They pretty popular in some US states. There is even a kolache festival in Prague, Oklahoma.
After that, it was time to head back to the airport and fly back to England. All in all, I really enjoyed the Czech Republic. I learned a lot about the history, the food, the beer, and the people, so I consider that a success. And the best part was that we came in way under budget. We only spent about 65% of the Korunas that we brought. It’s pretty easy to do the exact opposite in other European cities if you aren’t careful. And I’m starting to wonder if I don’t have some Czech heritage in me. My mom always made dumplings as a kid so maybe there’s something there. I’m starting to ramble now, so I’ll end it here. Adios