As we keep traveling we find that some trips are better than expected, some are underwhelming or veer slightly off course, and most have at least a few variables which you can’t plan for. There were so many beautiful and wondrous parts of Prague I can’t wait to share. However, our trip didn’t start off stellar and we had a few unwelcome guests such as the awful head cold I came down with the day before we left that lasted all weekend, the ongoing fog throughout our stay, and the utterly obnoxious and offensive bachelor party that made our flight one of the most awkward and annoying travel legs of our lives. That aside, we made the most of our long Thanksgiving weekend and took in our fair share of “firsts” and sights. It seems only appropriate to first start with our firsts…
We drank absinthe! for the first time, in a bar adorned with images of the famous “green fairy”. If you ever need a quick warm up, I would strongly recommend an absinthe bar. Not only is the drink prepared warm by literally lighting the liquor on fire and melting a sugar cube through a strainer above to sweeten the liquor, less than 2 shots later you will be more than feeling “the effects”. This place proved to be a welcome halfway point during our walk from the apartment to the Prague Cathedral. We did pick up some absinthe and preparation utensils to share with our family over the holidays. However, most nights everyone was hurting too much to indulge. Next year, no excuses- be prepared!
We ate a non-traditional meal, both trying new local delicacies for the first time. Sean opted for the goose liver while I chose something a little less “gamey” but still fairly obscure- pork neck. Washed down with an Urquell, the local beer, and a very poor attempt at american style chicken wings we were fueled up for the day ahead!
We experienced our 1st European Christmas market together – mulled hot wine and all! We were lucky to be there on the weekend of the big lighting ceremony in the center square which gave us the opportunity to sample delicious local street food such as Trdelnik (sugared donuts cooked on a spindle), browse the local vendor stands for Christmas gifts and watch traditional Czech performances on stage. This was definitely the first moment I started getting into the 2014 Christmas spirit and it was enough to make me not look back. Within the chill, there was a certain coziness.
We experienced our first (and probably last) jazz club. It was a nice break from the cold streets, the christmas market mobs and the typical night life we pursue so we said what the heck. We were envisioning more of a band, live music feel just catered to the jazz genre and a fairly spacious venue. We were clearly in the 5th percentile for age and the music felt like more of a combination of instrumental solos. The atmosphere was a tad tight and snobby so we stayed for a while and continued on with our evening. Glad we did it, but let’s just say we aren’t planning our future travels based on jazz club availability.
The Charles Bridge. The view here is literally one of the top 2 or 3 most naturally beautiful landscapes I’ve seen in my whole life! You will definitely be amongst a crowd when you go here since it is one of the main attractions of the city, but totally worth it if you are not in a rush. Take some time to enjoy the street musicians, browse jewelry and art from the local vendors, and embrace the photo ops. (Even with a layer of fog, we still got some goodies). If you are going with your fiancé or spouse, don’t forget to bring a lock down to the start of the Charles River bridge. Lock it to the fence and throw the key in the Charles River as a symbol of everlasting love.
Prague Cathedral. The cathedral itself is another marvelous european structure with pretty neat raw signs of nature’s aging very apparent on different facades of the exterior. What’s more cool about this sight though is the stroll up and down, the views, and the seemingly hip wine and snack bars along the way. I say seemingly because most were closed due to the time of year we went. I can imagine in the spring and summer, the terraces would be open and it’d be an awesome place to grab a glass of wine and watch the sunset after snapping a few pics at the cathedral. We tried some hot rum and enjoyed our second trdelnik.
Old Town & Wenceslas Squares. These spots give you the energy and architectural flair of the Czech Republic and puts you right near hundreds of local shops and unique markets to browse the day away. People are typically very friendly, especially one shop owner we bought some xmas gifts from who kept telling us how much Sean looks like Enrique Iglesias and that we need to have lots of babies! Don’t forget to pick up some of the iconic Czech products such as bavarian crystal jewelry, blown glass house goods, and handmade wool accessories (the hat I’m wearing in many photos was a local purchase) .
TRAVEL TIPS FOR PRAGUE GO’ERS
- Be at least a slightly adventurous eater. This has probably been the country we’ve visited with the most different types of cuisine than we are used to yet. The food is still prepared very fresh and generally to your liking, but the menus are much more based around local meats and dishes vs. tourist taste buds. Embrace the spirit of trying anything at least once, and know your chicken fingers and fries will still be there when you get home!
- Learn, love and live to walk. Of any city we’ve visited, Prague is definitely a walking city and thankfully so. Down little alley ways, around river bends and through main city squares are sights and smells that will awaken your senses and peak your interests. I think we only took a taxi to and from the airport. We hoofed it the rest of the time – in the cold, amidst my sickness, and I’m not sorry at all. I will say that having an apartment with a sauna to come back to at the end of the cold walks, however, was an AMAZING perk! Would gladly recommend the AirBnB place we stayed at any time.
- Prepare to be present (offline). Each city and destination has its glamour and beautiful sights, but Prague takes it to a whole new level. The unbelievable architecture in vast open spaces, beautiful cityscapes and animated people watching of the locals makes this a city one to truly disconnect from your media and love each moment. When the rest of the bucket list items are done, we would love to go back at a warmer, brighter time of year and experience it all again.
Needless to say, Prague gave us the perfect setting to reflect on how much we have to be thankful for! Can’t wait to see where in the world we are during Thanksgiving 2015…Any guesses?