Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Czech it out - Prague

Hiya guys. Thanks for all the emails folks, i am back in town and will start updating the blog as soon as i can. The reason i have been MIA is because over the last month we have had a bit of a nomadic existence spending a few weeks traveling across England and then parts of Europe.

Ill start of in no particular order with a stunning town which hasnt really made it into our popular imagination yet. Prague is the capital of Czech republic and a town which made it through WW II nearly unscathed.

The old parts of Prague are seeped in time, with cobbled roads, spires at every corner, old buildings and a soundtrack of classical music which plays throughout.
I found Prague to be a very walkable city, though we got lost a few times we ended up discovering parts of the town which were off the beaten track. We literally stumbled across the
Prague astronomical clock by getting lost in the streets and ending up in the old town square.

The smartest thing we did was choose a hotel between the Prague Castle & The Charles bridge. This way we go to spend a great deal of time on each landmark and we didnt have to waste time seeking them out.

The Charles Bridge is fantastic, its beautiful, the views are stunning too, perhaps overcrowded but that is to be expected. you meet some interesting people just walking along its length.

Prague castle is a massive complex perched atop a hill. Its been built and added to over the last century and it has only become larger and larger. However it holds little in terms of beauty except for its views and for the old cathedral in the middle of the complex.

This stunning building is like most cathedrals a work of art, walking through its dimly lit interiors automatically makes you whisper in awe.

A trumpet plays a tune to mark the passing of the hour along the towers on the Charles bridge. A fun little ceremony you can stand and watch.

The Prague food scene is grim, local cuisine is mostly bland. Lots of potato and meat but really little taste. they do serve an interesting hot, spiced red wine which is fun to try in the cold. Other than that, you can find just about any and every cuisine in the city, Italian, German, Czech, Indian vegetarian, fast food chains etc. So if you are fussy about food or a staunch vegetarian, dont worry too much.

Prague also has a small metro system which gets you from end to end with ease, its easy to navigate and use, the tickets cost between 18-23 crown (.80 cents - 1Eur) per journey. You buy the tickets from shops around.

There is also a well laid out tram system of old and new trams which cuts across the city and gets you most places very quickly. How to get tickets for the tram is yet a mystery to me.

Quick Tips For Prague -
  • 2 nights & days ought to be enough.
  • base yourself between the Charles Bridge & Prague Castle
  • Nerudova street above is a great spot to stay. All locations are walking distance from there.
  • If you use the metro buy your ticket and validate it immediately by shoving it small yellow boxes located across the entrance.
  • If you dont, you will be fined for ticket less travel.
  • There also scam inspectors walking around so insist on an ID.
  • Eat & drink away from your hotel and you will find Prague to be fairly cheap
  • The wife says do not buy shoes & bags from any retail chains, all way more expensive than Berlin or London.
  • Prague has its own currency, the Euro is acceptable but not everywhere and not for train & tram tickets.
  • Find a o% commission agent with no minimum amount. ASK FIRST.
  • Try and convert prices and you will find at times its cheaper sometimes 10% or more to pay by Euro (as it was for our hotel & tickets)
  • Do not take cabs, you WILL be ripped off. If you do, make sure they go by meter but good luck making that happen.
  • Prague is a city of music. A concert or opera is a must.
  • There is a concert in every church and prices are upto 15 Euro. Best avoid these churches.
  • Head to the Opera House. A fantastic building which has opera and concerts from 20-40 Euro done by professionals. The day we went they were showing Carmen which we had seen last year. Sigh...
  • Keep your eyes open nearly every building has a history and a famous resident. Read the plaques.
  • Follow the signs, they are in czech but you can get the hang of it quickly.


Srishti said...

Hey Gaurav, I have the option to spend four months next year in either Prague or Florence. I'm not sure if you've been to Florence, but if you have, which would you recommend?

I haven't been to either city but I have a feeling the food in Prague won't compare to Florence...

Gaurav said...

Hi Srishti, interesting options. I have been to a few places in Italy but not to Florence or Rome yet.

I wish to spend about a week in each place atleast and the opportunity to do so has not shown up yet.

I think Florence as a city has a lot more to offer over the course of four months when compared to Prague.

Prague is stunning but it is quite small to hold your interest over that long a period.

Food wise you will be much happier in Florence whether you are a vegetarian or not, the local cuisine is significantly more attractive, varied and complex in Italy then in Prague.

Another deciding factor would be the cities in and around. From Florence you can access a variety of Italian cities and Switzerland as well.

However Prague is a much better base as Budapest, Warsaw, Berlin, Vienna, Zurich are all within 3-6 hours driving distance (costs as low as 10-15 Eur)

Also, Prague in comparison to Florence is remarkably well preserved while Florence is the city of Ghiberti & Michelangelo & the Medicis..

Prague is also the old eastern Europe, a world which is fading fast.

I know i really havent given you an answer here..sorry.. dont think i can pick either.

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