I write this sitting now at JFK. We have more stories to tell from Prague – hopefully many of which we’ll be able to tell in person, the best possible way to do so. There are a great many individual experiences we accumulated in this jewel of Central Europe. Here’s a quick-hit list of impressions:
… a dog town
Never have Daria and I been to a city where dogs are such a prominent part of everyday life as in Prague. Dogs are everywhere. There are no strays. They’re all well behaved. There’s an occasional poop on the sidewalk – but that’s not a dog problem. Bottom line: if you love to watch pups, you’ll enjoy that part of Prague.
… a party town
Prague has a reputation for being a bit of a Vegas, Cancun and New Orleans all wrapped in one for the rest of Europe. There are lots of bachelor and bachelorette parties. There are lots of people in their 20’s having a great time (and maybe behaving a little badly). Lot’s of groups in their 50’s and 60’s having a great time (and maybe out-doing those in their 20’s).
… jammed the F-up
Old Town Prague, where most tourists spend their time, is crowded. There are Mongo-horde tour groups (Daria and my term for the packs of 10 to 100 Chinese tourists) that have different ideas of social etiquette – you can get run over. The Charles Bridge – the single most iconic feature of Prague outside of the castle – is crowded like Bourbon Street. We pat ourselves on the back for staying in Prague 4 – a local neighborhood well outside the tourist areas.
… easy to get around
Ok, this one is a bit of an understatement. The tram, metro and bus network in this city is absolutely world-class. Frankly, it puts New York to shame. Mildly intimidating at first and not the easiest to get a monthly pass for (sold at limited sites). However, once you get past those very minor obstacles, the entire city is open to you for a price so cheap it’s basically free. It’s difficult for words to describe the freedom to meander and lose yourself in the streets. To walk until your feet just can’t take it anymore. Then, open up Google Maps and find a tram is 2 minutes away that will take you a block or two from where you lay your head.
… filled with fit locals
If you’re a wanderer, Prague is going to kick your ass. It’s hill country and virtually all streets are cobblestone. There are no wobbly calves in this town. Europeans in general have a reputation for being more fit than people from the U.S., U.K. or Australia. In Prague, you’ll wonder why Czechs don’t crush the Olympics – maybe they find it too dull. And all while taking in a steady diet of beer, sausages and cheese. As an aside, it seems the best local beer gardens are on the sides of very large hills – we wonder if it’s to keep the tourists away.
… and giants
I swear some locals leave their broadswords at home. I’m 6′ tall and have spent most of my life looking at shorter people than me. About 10% of the population in Prague must have some serious Nordic blood. Women in flats who I look up at to make eye contact. Casually large people who could pick you up and pinch your head like a grape.
… casually awesome
Heading to a local kavarna (coffee shop) in Prague and ordering breakfast, you’ll notice how great a spot you’ve found and how the food is so well prepared and beautifully presented. The coffee has none of the acrid taste of the burned beans we’re used to in the U.S. (hidden by the mounds of sugar and syrup in U.S. coffee drinks). All this in a place that’s just a coffee shop for half the price of a similar meal in the U.S. No pretense. You’ll feel you’ve found a gem until you realize that this is how all the local kavarnas are in Prague (outside the tourist areas). Truthfully, this is the case all over Europe, but this post is about Prague.
Culturally, there’s something going on here that neither Daria or I have figured out. Sure, the tourist areas are brimming with trash. That’s sort of expected (though you’d think Vienna pays little miracle imps to clean that city 10 times a day – that place is almost oppressively clean). But even local neighborhoods are littered. Thinking more on it now, I suppose it’s on par with trash in NYC. But with how much special beauty is everywhere in Prague, I find it jarring. It’s also not as densely packed with denizens.
Daria and I have taken to boxing places in one of two categories: rock-n-roll and Mozart. Prague is 100% rock-n-roll. Much like Detroit and Pittsburgh (I know those cities have a bad reputation right now, but if you haven’t been it’s not fair to judge from afar), Prague has a rebellious spirit. You see it in the girl with tattooed legs and a blonde mohawk, the graffiti everywhere and in the unpretentiousness. We greatly enjoyed our pop-over visit to Vienna while we were in Prague. It really helped show the chasm of differences in what it takes for a city to be either Rock-n-Roll or Mozart (Vienna is obviously the latter).