08.05.15 – 14.05.15
Our bus to Prague was completely sold out, and we couldn’t really figure out why, although it was a Friday afternoon. Until we arrived, then we discovered that the Ice Hockey World Championships were underway in the Czech Republic. So there were people everywhere, wearing jerseys supporting their country whether it was Czech, Sweden or even Canada. I guess being Aussies means we’re sort of out of the loop when it comes to sports like ice hockey.
We’re staying at the Post Hostel, it’s a little bit out of the centre of Prague, maybe a 25 minute walk but only 7-10 minutes on the tram. The hostel is brand new, only open for about a month, so everything is completely new. Even the towels are still fluffy! We’re in a four bed again, and the rooms here are absolutely huge. Plus after our first night when the Canadian couple in the other two beds checked out, we had the whole room to ourselves for the rest of our stay. A private room for the price of a four, bonus! Almost everything about this hostel is amazing, with the tiny exception of the location, but it’s hardly that difficult to get into the centre.
On our first full day in Prague we did another free walking tour, I guess we’re just in the habit now after Berlin. The tours we did in Berlin were really good, and we had great guides, so the hopes were pretty high for Prague too. Our guide was Ian, a Brazilian expat living in Prague for three years with his Czech girlfriend. He was good, telling interesting stories of Czech history well –like the ones featuring ‘defenestrations’, parts in history where if someone was disagreeable they often ended up getting thrown out of a window.
That night we also had our first experience with Czech food, at a local place just down the road from the hostel called U Pôsty. Czech food is quite heavy, lots of stews, big portions served with a lot of vegetables –usually including cabbage. Daniel had beef cheeks while I opted for the duck. I think mine was better than Daniel’s by the sounds of him bemoaning the lack of tenderness –I think Daniel thinks himself a beef cheek connoisseur now.
We’re still adjusting to the radically cheaper prices here than of Amsterdam/Berlin, where a pint of beer here will cost on average only $2.50-3.00 –often cheaper than buying water. We spent a bit of time at the Prague Beer Museum, where they have over 30 beers on tap, including one cider, which is rare! I was never a beer drinker back home, but have undergone a transformation in these couple of months –mainly out of necessity because it’s always the cheapest and most readily available drink!
Prague is a beautiful city, but I can’t help but feel the tiniest bit underwhelmed by it. I think maybe it’s because many people talked it up a lot, so unfortunately expectations were sky high. And really, my grief isn’t with the city itself, it’s the hoards and hoards of tourists everywhere. I think I heard more English being spoke than Czech at any given time, and we really had to make an effort to seek out local eateries and hangouts. Plus, worse than tourists were the endless groups of British stag do’s we came across. I’m not sure of the collective noun, maybe a ‘gaggle of lads’? A ‘swarm of dickheads’? We couldn’t believe how many of these groups we kept coming across, and you definitely could never miss them, as they were usually the ones filling up the pubs by 10.30am and creating the most noise too. Someone actually told me that this is becoming a real problem for Prague and they are trying to crack down on the sheer number of British lads coming here for the weekend to get drunk and causing up to 20% of the weekend crime rate*.
So these two factors dampened our experience of Prague a bit, along with our visit to the castle in which we paid to be on a group tour but the guide was truly annoying. He made terrible jokes the whole afternoon, would wait for laughter which never came, and then laugh himself. Cringe. This was probably the only negative experience we’ve had with the Sandemans tour group. Apart from this trifecta though, Prague is still a beautiful city with a lot to offer. I’d say skip the astronomical clock hourly show–or if you go, watch the reactions of the punters fill with confusion and disappointment rather than the show itself- and instead look for some actual local spots where you’ll here more Czech than English drunkenness. Daniel’s absolute favourite was a butcher called Nase Maso, where you can order your week’s meat, but then they also offer a small menu for you to eat in store. We must of gone there almost three times, and on average you can get a slice of meatloaf, sausages and four beers for about $AU 10. All the meat is completely organically sourced, and the farmers handpicked by the owner. I probably preferred the café next door however, an open sandwich specialist called Sisters. They have a relatively small selection but this means they are always fresh, and I could eat the beetroot, feta and walnut one for the rest of my days.
Although I started off Prague by singing the praises of Post Hostel, this isn’t where we finished our stay. On the morning of my birthday on the 13th of May, I was whisked off to a mysterious location; which ended up being the Grandior Hotel. It was a pretty decadent upgrade, and we had a lot of fun enjoy the simple luxuries like the free soaps, our own en-suite plus decent pillows. If you’re travelling without budget, then don’t hesitate to stay here. Although, would you believe, that even five stars doesn’t even buy you decent Wi-Fi? Even though in some ways Prague didn’t quite reach my lofty expectations, it was still a great stop –and somewhere I’ll always remember spending my 24th birthday. Like I said, skip the astronomical clock and maybe spend the afternoon in the senate gardens. Onwards to Budapest, Hungary, somewhere I’ve never heard a bad word about.