Just got back from Prague and let me tell you . . . it was fantastic. First and foremost, we were extremely lucky with the weather. All week long, we were obsessively looking at weather.com with optimism, just to be met with never-ending rain weather-icons ominously predicting rain until who knows when, which is quite problematic to the weekend traveller. So, it was a pleasant surprise that the weather that greeted us in Prague was absolutely gorgeous and summer-like (yes, I said summer-like, not spring-like because it was indeed that wonderful) which was a surprising and welcome change from the recent horrible winter-like weather that Barcelona was and still is experiencing.
Let me organize myself:
Day 1: we arrived to where we were actually staying in Prague around 9:30 at night, which seemed a relatively acceptable hour to us to grab our keys (we had our first airbnb experience), drop off our bags and look for a nice, cutie, cozy romantic place to have our first dinner. Well, the plan was good in theory but in execution had its flaws, as we sometimes forget that not all countries operate on the late-night dinner rituals that anyone who has found themselves upon the Iberian Peninsula is accustomed too. That being said, it was around 10PM when we were finally able to venture out into the wilds of Prague, which is just about the hour when the kitchens all close, every. single. one. of. them. So, in a bit of a mad dash, we finally found a place, where the waiters were already cleaning up BUT with a kitchen open until 11PM, in a hotel not so far from our accommodations. The restaurant was in fact The Imperial Cafe on Na Porici. It had a beautifully decorated Art-Deco Baroque interior, the menu was definitely designed from the international tourist that wants a taste of the Czech cuisine, however overall it was a bit so-so. It wasn’t necessarily the quality of the food that was meh, it was just that we didn’t leave there thinking it was the best meal of our lives. Though, if you are hungry after 10 and want to sit down for a meal, I would definitely recommend it. There is no other option.
After dinner, we wandered around the Old Square awhile and then headed back since we wanted to take as much advantage of the next day as possible.
Day 2: We woke up pretty early and wanted to take a shower before we headed out for the day. This is point at which I am not 100% convinced with airbnb. Now, we did choose to rent a bedroom in an apartment instead of an entire apartment just for ourselves. This was because of our innocent hopes and dreams that our host would become our new Czech best friend and prance us all over the city as if we were his kinfolk. Though our host was extremely friendly and pleasant, he was more than anything, our host, whom we paid to use a bedroom in his house. Nothing more, nothing less. However, our host rented two bedrooms. Thus, it was not a pleasant surprise to wake up and have to wait to take a shower when you just want to start your day. That being said, we were able to get out of the house by 10:30, which between me and him is no easy feat, and this was included the waits for the bathroom. We paid approximately 30 euros a night for our room, next time, I do think it is worth it to shell out a bit more and have, at least, bathroom privacy, we all know that I am a bit freaky when it comes to public-bathrooms.
The morning started out a bit grey, but we didn’t think anything of it, walking directly to the Vltava River and hopped on the first boat for a river tour, which was a great way to start our sightseeing with views like this:
So basically, it was fantastic. As the tour was around lunchtime, we were even able to grab some beers and sandwiches on board, to enjoy while enjoying the sights.
After the tour, we wandered around a bit more in the Old Town. We saw that near the Square, there were some stand with very very very long lines and smoky meat being roasted as we spoke. Of course, we got on line too, after all, who am I to deny hunks of slow roasted pork with potatoes? The result, a huge chunk of Prosciutto di Prague with Potatoes with cabbage and bacon, and of course a 1-liter beer to wash it all down. A meal doesn’t seem to be a Meal in Prague without an ice-cold Pilsner Urquell. As we were waiting for our second tour of the day to start, we ordered this “small snack” and ate it at a bar stool, while standing, just like the locals. One word of caution, in the more touristy neighborhoods, like the centric Old Square, I did have the sensation that these types of ventures do try to take advantage of the language/money barrier. For example, at the stand where we bought the Prosciutto di Prague and Potatoes, the prices that are advertised, seem very cheap, but they are the prices per 100g (which is not clear at all). So, in the end, your “cheap lunch snack” costs more than what you would pay in a restaurant as the “chefs” of the stands seemed to have very very very heavy hands and tend to lean toward very very very generous portions, if you catch my drift.
Later on that afternoon, we decided to go on a walking tour which was also fantastic. In the main square of the Old Town, it is quite easy to get bombarded with an over abundance of tour options. We decided to go on the walking Castle tour of Sandemann’s New Europe. It was advertised as a 3-hour tour, though our tour guide was extremely enthusiastic and kept us walking and talking for at least 5 hours, so it was definitely worth the corunas that we had paid (more or less $10.00 pp). On the tour we walked through the extensive grounds of the Prague Castle, which are enormous, as well as walked over the Charles Bridge, which is so ripe with history and anecdotes you could spend years listening to all of the stories and tales that this area is rife with.
For dinner, we decided to go to a Vietnamese restaurant that our airbnb host recommended to us. So, we wanted to be out of the house and in the restaurant by 9PM, to not have any “kitchen-closed”-esque problems, which we were able to easily do, though we were tired from our long day of touring. However, what was unexpected was that the Vietnamese restaurant was closed anyways, due to a private engagement. At this point, we were pushing 9:15 and had less than 45 minutes to find a cute, cozy, delicious, wonderful restaurant where we would have the best dinner of our lives. Easy peazy, except it was not.
Prague is a very wonderful city, though it is an extremely touristic city. So, as tourists, we were staying more or less in the center of all of the action, which is wonderful for site-seeing, but maybe not the best for culinary options as most restaurants seemed tailored for the over-paying, under-discerning tourist – and we are a very very very picky couple when it comes to food and moreso with our overall restaurant experience. We love to eat well and a lot. We enjoy food and a restaurant that also reflects that in its decor. Now, I don’t want to be mistaken that I want to eat a fancy, posh-type restaurants. In fact, the opposite. To me, the perfection is a good home-cooked meal in a restaurant that could double for a kitchen in a cozy country cottage. To our surprise, at around 10 minutes to 10PM, we found something close to these requirements in Alla Stella Nera, near the Charles Bridge. I would classify this restaurant as Italo-Czech cuisine, which though was not the best in the world, BUT the ambiance certainly made up for it. Light jazz music floating in the background, sweet, lovely decorations like you had woke up in a different century.
The night ended with a delicious beer-tasting at the Museum of Beer on Dhloua Street, where there are over 30 beers on tap. A fantastic end to a fantastic day and night.
Day 3: We woke up to the shower situation, again, but today it was not as pressing of a matter as we were leaving in the evening and had to pack up our bags anyway. When we got out of the house, we went again, right to the river, and had a lovely breakfast overlooking the castle. Afterwards, we decided to take a walk to the top of the Old Tower in the Square. The views were magnificent and you had a bird’s eye view of the entire city which is truly precious. We then had lunch at a Bistrot where you can see the chef grilling the meat that you just ordered right in front our your eyes. I can’t remember the name of the place, but it was tucked away in a small corner and every single person that walked by stopped in.
The day ended with me getting a Thai massage (painful but luxurious) in a “typical Thai massage house” and then we stopped to have a cold drink taking in the last of the views before we had to pick up our bags and head back to the airport.
Overall, it was a fantastic trip to a marvelous city. We were only there for one weekend, Friday night to Sunday night, and though nothing felt rushed, I wish we could have stayed longer just to laze around the cozy winding streets, with a hot spicy wine and visions of the alchemy, astrology and mystery of the olden-days floating through my mind.