Prague, oh beautiful Prague. Where do I even start? This was probably my favorite destination of the trip, and I cannot wait to go back one day. A few highlights of why: the architecture is stunning (no surprise there really), there are hills that add some more depth to the skyline, and the food is cheap and delicious. Actually, everything is cheap. Also, the weather was perfect during our stay in Prague. Cool at night and in the mornings, and about 70 or so during the day. I finally got to wear some of the sweaters I brought so I was happy.
The Czech Republic (or just Czechia now), while part of the EU, has a different currency then the Euro, called the Koruna. Most places will still accept Euros and give you receipts with both currency amounts on them. I knew about the different currency type, and we exchanged some at the train station when we arrived, but I had no idea just how cheap it really was until our first lunch there. I’ll get to that in a second.
So we arrived around noon and made our way to our apartment, which we rented via Airbnb. The owner, Martin, said it wasn’t ready yet but we could drop our luggage off. He gave us a tour and offered some recommendations on places to eat nearby while we waited. His favorite was a place called Zapomenuty that served traditional Czech food, so we took his advice and went there. It was just around the corner from the apartment; inside the decor featured photos and clippings of famous movie stars from the region. The server was very friendly and was happy to provide us with an English menu when she saw us struggling. We ordered a bottle of white wine and a glass of lemonade for drinks. Zeus ordered a lemonade and half-chicken with potato salad. The potato salad had green and red peppers, lightly pickled cucumbers (kind of like the pickles at Ted’s Montana Grill) and green onions. I ordered chicken stuffed with spinach and gorgonzola cheese with mashed potatoes. I always forget what gorgonzola cheese tastes like; it’s not a bad flavor, it’s just always surprising. Both our meals were fantastic, and there was plenty of food. When the bill arrived, we were slightly shocked because the receipt said 643 Koruna, but that is only equivalent to 24 Euros. ALL OF THAT FOR LESS THAN $30?!? It was the best.
Finally, we were able to get into the apartment and freshen up. The apartment was huge—the biggest place for our entire trip, and ironically, also the cheapest. It was a well-decorated, studio-style apartment with a full bathroom, kitchen/dining room, and bedroom/living area. The walls were white, there were vases of pastel-colored flowers on every table, and the furniture furniture was light brown and had a weathered look. There was one large window in the bedroom that opened, which we kept open every night due to the lack of an air conditioner. But there was at least a fan in this one so it wasn’t bad. The only issue we ever had was with noise—every morning around 7am like clockwork, construction started. But we were usually able to sleep through it, or it was cool enough that we could close the window.
Probably the most interesting thing about this apartment was how you got in. There were 3 doors to go through, all of which had to be unlocked and locked every time, because manager orders. It reminded me of that horror movie with Nicole Kidman, The Others. At least it felt secure.
After showering and resting for a bit, we set out to explore the city. We took a train to the famous Old Town Square and walked around there admiring the architecture of square, which features buildings of every color, the Church of the Virgin Mary Before Tyn, Old Town Hall, Church of St. Nicholas, and the Jan Has Memorial. The Astronomical Clock is also around this square, and it was so cool. We didn’t get to see it go off because we weren’t in the square at the right time but it was awesome to see. As with all the other squares we had been to at this point, I just stood in amazement taking it all in. It was such a beautiful place. It also smelled amazing, because there were multiple food vendors selling hot dogs, sausages, and the like.
We walked around the square for a while—went into a few shops and explored a little market selling goods from local artists. Then we went in search of dinner. We wanted to get away from the main square, because the touristy places tend to be a bit more expensive, and not as good. We found a place called Karlova Restaurant with live music and a huge menu. We started with a bottle of Rosé and water (gotta stay hydrated). I ordered marinated chicken breasts with sautéed vegetables, and Zeus ordered a lamb shank with mashed potatoes and spinach. I didn’t try Zeus’ but he said it was great. As for my dinner, the chicken was flavored very well and the vegetables (zucchini, red/yellow peppers, onions, and eggplant) were a refreshing break from all the potatoes.
After dinner, we just walked around seeing what we could get into. There were lots of places playing live music, which made us very happy because that wasn’t a thing up until this point. We stopped into a bar/restaurant called the Irish Times because the music was in English and sounded great. I drank wine and Zeus had a local beer, and we stayed there for the rest of the night before catching the last train home (metro stops at midnight turns out).
The next day, we woke up, got dressed, and went back to Zapomenuty for lunch. It was during the normal lunch hours this time, and there were a lot more people there. During lunch, apparently they only offer 5 specials, which change every day. Makes for faster service rather than people choosing something off the normal menu. I ordered a burrito because I was intrigued at the idea of Prague’s interpretation of Mexican food. Zeus ordered chicken with sauerkraut and potatoes. No wine today, just water, so our meal was less than $10. My burrito was…OK. Nothing to write home about but not horrible either. It had kidney beans instead of pinto or black beans, so that was different. The salsa was fresh and flavorful though.
After lunch, we took the metro out to the bottom of the Prague Castle. We had no idea about the trek ahead of us. It was long and uphill—all ramp though, very few steps. Along the way, there were street performers singing or playing instruments. There was a cafe on the side about half way up, probably because they know people are dying at that point. When we finally made it to the top and looked out over the city, it was completely worth it. The view was amazing. You could see the entire city and then some.
After quite a few pictures and just admiring the view, we made our way into the castle. We started with the gardens around the edge of the castle. Then, we went into the center and saw St. Vitus Cathedral. What a building it was! This huge gothic-style church in the center of the castle, with gold mosaics, bronze doors, stone sculptures and reliefs, rose windows, and more. We opted not to buy tickets to go into any of the museum parts, and because of this, we were only able to walk into part of the cathedral, but I got a good enough view of the interior so I’m not disappointed. The stained-glass windows were breathtaking and the sun shining through cast purple, pink, red, and all other colors of light all throughout. It was something else.
After the church, we walked through another garden, and then headed back down to the metro. We went back into Old Town Square and took some pictures of everything in the daylight. Then, we decided to walk over the Charles Bridge, which was stunning and offered excellent views of the city, including the castle on the hill. The bridge had vendors selling all sorts of goods—art, jewelry, etc. Every 20 feet or so, there were stone and bronze statues of famous religious figures. I won’t pretend to know who they all were.
While on the bridge, we saw a restaurant right on the water that we decided to try, so we found our way there only to find out they were super expensive and while completely empty, were not seating people until 7pm for some reason. So we left and walked around until we found another place. This part of Prague had canals running through it like Venice and Amsterdam. They were lovely. Some of the bridges had locks on them with people’s/couple’s names on them. We found a restaurant on the water that was accessible via a very narrow walkway—Crtovka.
For an appetizer, we ordered fried calamari, which was OK. It reminded us more of the free fried crab appetizers you get at sushi restaurants than it did calamari. But it was food and we were hungry. For dinner, we split an Old Bohemian-style platter of roast and smoked pork, roast duck, dumplings, and cabbage. The pork was sliced and tasty; reminded me of Thanksgiving dinner. The duck tasted like chicken, but all dark meat and a little greasy. The dumplings, which are a Prague specialty apparently, were really bland. I don’t know if this is how they’re supposed to taste or if this place’s dumplings just suck, but neither of us were a fan.
The best part of this meal wasn’t the food though (obviously); it was the view and watching the ducks and swans. I never realized how big swans are, but they are huge, and they are everywhere in Prague. We fed them all some bread and parts of the dumplings we didn’t eat.
After dinner, we walked around some shops in the area before going back to the apartment for a shower and a little nap. When we woke up from that, we went out to Irish Times again for some live music. This night it was a two-man band, Finnegan’s Wake Praha, one accordion player and one guitar player. They both sang (in English) and were also really funny and entertaining. Zeus bought them both a drink so after their set, they talked to us for a while until the bar closed and kicked us out. The accordion player, Craig Dunham, was from New Zealand and the guitar player, Vladimir, was from Prague. They were a joy to talk to, and hopefully, we’ll see them play again somewhere.
The next day, we started with lunch again at Zapomenuty again. We couldn’t help but go back because of the great prices. This time, I had chicken and veggie risotto and Zeus ordered some type of pork dish smothered with gravy and served with french fries. My risotto wasn’t what we typically think of as risotto; it was just rice with small pieces of chicken and vegetables, but it was topped with cheese and had some pickles on the side. It tasted great, though I wish it had been more of a thick risotto.
After lunch, we walked around the area and explored a few local churches before going back to Old Town Square. We hadn’t walked through any of the churches there, so we found them and explored. The entrance to the Church of the Virgin Mary Before Tyn was not very easy to find, and we weren’t allowed to take pictures, but I tried to sneak a few because it was just something else. Every few feet, there was a statue of some sort that was covered in gold. They were gaudy and a bit much, but beautiful at the same time.
Craig, the musician from the night before, suggested we visit the Alchemy Museum, so we made our way there after the church. Alchemy has a strong history in Prague, and this museum sits on top of a legit alchemy lab they found in like the 1940s or something. The city flooded and revealed some tunnels so they were able to find it. A lot of the things in the lab were originals, while some were replicated based on research. We did a short tour of the alchemy lab and our tour guide told us all about it and how they found it. Spoiler alert: they never made gold. It was really neat to see and learn about; definitely something different.
We stopped in a little cafe and split a sandwich and some cake, as well as a bottle of wine and water. Then we just walked around the city seeing what we could find. It was nice to not have a plan—just to explore. We walked along the river and watched the sunset; it was beautiful watching the sun go down over the city.
For dinner, we went to a restaurant called Kozlovna Apropos. I ordered a cider beer and they served it with ice in a glass, which was odd. Zeus ordered a beer. I couldn’t really find anything appetizing on the menu besides a caprese salad. The way the menu made it seem, I thought it would be more substantial like a full salad but it was just your typical caprese—tomatoes with mozzarella cheese, basil, and balsamic vinaigrette. Tasty, but not very fulfilling. Zeus ordered a pork t-bone with croquets. His pork was fantastic and grilled perfectly. He let me have a few bites because of my lack of a meal lol. The restaurant was pretty cool; their grill is right out in the middle of the restaurant and they just throw slabs of meat and fish on it as you order.
Following dinner, we went back to Irish Times again. This time, it was a woman playing the ukulele. She had a great voice but wasn’t as much of an entertainer as the guys the night before. Still great to listen to though. She was eventually joined by a guitar player. We stayed there until they closed again, and drank way too much wine because I did not feel good the next morning. It was the perfect day for a hangover though, because we were just traveling to Munich on a 5-hour bus ride. Plenty of time for sleep and recovery.