People describe Prague as a fairytale.
When we first landed in Prague, there was a line of about twenty yellow taxis outside of the airport. We wandered up to the middle of the line trying to evaluate how to select a driver. Our meek attempt to get the driver’s attention was met with a finger pointing to the front of the taxi line. With luggage in hand, we shuffled along.
Our taxi driver was suspiciously excited to discuss the impending 2016 presidential election. He assured us that we would enjoy our time and warned us that, “People who come to Prague don’t want to go back to America.”
His English language skills were not representative of the rest of Prague.
There was a lack of basic information for American tourists; it was as if they wanted the tourists to be lost. But being lost in Prague was magnificent. During our stay, we’d always end up back on the cobblestone streets of Old Town with a gelato in hand while watching everyone crowd around the famous astronomical clock.
Before arriving, we had made a list of places we wanted to see and foods we wanted to eat. At the top of my food list was a dessert called “trdelník.” It’s a dry version of a cinnamon roll with different additions (chocolate, caramel, jam, nuts, ice cream, etc.) on the inside. I loved them so much that before leaving Prague, I insisted that we purchase one more trdelník. Steve claimed that he wasn’t hungry enough and since that’s never stopped me, I defiantly waltzed into a trdelník stand and burned my arm against an inconvenient outward facing stove.
There was this one night where we went up to the rooftop bar of The Dancing House. We split a bottle of wine and watched the lights fade across the city. It was an intimate experience to watch the red and orange rooftops fade with the sun.
A seemingly small restaurant called “Pasta Fresca” made it onto our radar once we’d arrived. This restaurant’s charm is that it boasts homemade pasta and is much more extravagant on the inside than it appears on the outside.
There was a small grocery store near the dormitory where we lodged. Every couple of days, we’d visit it to purchase bananas, bread, deli meat, and something we named “doohickeys.” The correct name for them is “Hořické trubičky” and they are thin, rolled up wafers with chocolate in the middle or chocolate to dip the wafer in. It was as if we were buying the generic version of Oreos, but even so, our doohickeys hit the spot.
We discovered a sort of hidden vineyard near Prague Castle. It was tucked away under the massive stair case leading up to the castle, but had local wine and cider. We sat under the patio of the vineyard and watched the sun slowly set.
The people in Prague had little tolerance for our limited language skills. We knew how to say “hello” and “thank you” but looked and sounded American. I once tried to purchase a small scone in an effort to get change to buy a tram ticket. The cashier was shouting at me while I shouted back, “I don’t speak Czech!”
Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic, a country that many people still call Czechoslovakia. It’s a place where 1 US dollar equals about 25 Czech Korunas. Prague is disorienting and stunning, yet an incredibly well-crafted city. There are cathedrals and castles filled with relics that are dripping with gold. It has a vast history and attention to detail that many American cities lack. We were constantly wandering in and out of the main areas while stumbling upon new neighborhoods and viewpoints. Even as our trip was coming to a close, we happened upon a peacock garden near the Czech Senate.
As we were reminiscing on our journey, Steve said to me “Remember when we ate dinner inside that rock?” I was puzzled at first, but remembered our visit to the Strahov Monastery. The monastery was founded in 1143 but now features a restaurant inside of a structure that looks like a cave. We sipped blueberry flavored beer but politely slipped out before purchasing anything from the overpriced menu. We probably ended up eating doohickeys or pizza from one of many kabab/pizza stands that night.
Prague is a place where beer is cheaper than water, people speak their mind, parks and views are plentiful, the meat is dry, but the bread is perfectly puffy. We’d found a place that was eccentric, vibrant, littered with restaurants claiming to have authentic Czech food, and trdelník stands.
To this day, I can’t believe that people get to live in Prague and not just visit it.