The Czech Republic has never been a country I’ve had a burning desire to visit. In England, the city of Prague is synonymous with rowdy stag parties. It’s cheap prices and busy nightlife make it a hotspot for groups of drunken, onesie wearing British revellers. I noticed my friend Chris had also never considered visiting the Czech Republic when he innocently asked me what the capital of Prague was…
Prior to leaving England to embark on our road trip, we had made no solid plans. What we did have however, was a 14-seater mini bus and two weeks to spare. When driving through a country en route to an altogether different destination, there was nothing stopping us from settling down for the night in it’s capital city. We were on our way to Croatia and had about a week left, so we thought it was worth CZECH-ing Prague out. (ha ha ha)
Me and Abbey in the Old Town Square
I’m so glad we took the time to visit this impressive city as my initial thoughts of Prague were proved completely wrong. Instead of finding disrespectful British tourists throwing up in gutters, we were greeted by a city rich in European history and medieval architecture.
We started the day by taking a walk along Charles Bridge, which crosses the Vltava river. The bridge was built centuries ago and has 30 different statues mounted to the balustrade. These wonderfully gothic statues (which are now mostly replicas) represent the many European saints and religious stories of the area.
Me and Chris by Charles Bridge
For example, pictured above is a statue of John Of Nepomuk (left), who was the saint of Bohemia. On 20th March 1393 he was thrown into the river Vltava from the Charles Bridge. John was a priest under King Wenceslas IV, who decided to execute John when he refused to reveal the Queen’s confessions. Kind of an overreaction, right?
It’s now a tradition to touch the plaque on the statue to bring you good luck. It’s also said to guarantee that you will once again visit the city of Prague. I knew I definitely wanted to come back, so I touched it several times just to be safe!
For me, Prague was like a picture from a storybook. Just looking around conjured up thoughts of rustic fairy tales and distant lands. The skyline was bursting with medieval towers that could easily be hiding a princess or two. I also had my own green fairytale realised when we stumbled upon the many absinthe bars the city had to offer.
Absinthe was incredibly popular in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century, but was eventually banned for turning everyone a bit loopy and in many cases, dead. It was legalised again in the Czech Republic in the 1990s, and has since become somewhat of a cultural icon, hence the fact we found specialised absinthe bars everywhere.
We all bought a shot or two, which was served by pouring water over a burnt sugar cube and into the absinthe. We also indulged in some absinthe flavoured ice cream. I would have much preferred mint chocolate chip, but the novelty of an alcoholic flavoured ice cream was too intriguing to pass up. My verdict? It was gross.
Absinthe ice cream in the absinthe bar
Our last objective of the day was to try some traditional Czech cuisine. When I think of this area of Europe, I think solely of potatoes and meat. I wasn’t far off as when we asked the waiter for “the most Czech thing on the menu”, we were presented with a platter of roast duck, pork ribs, smoked pork neck, grilled pork sausages and potato dumplings. Phew, that’s a lot of pork! To complete the authentic Czech dining experience, we washed it all down with several 1 litre tankards of local Staropramen lager.
It was a shame that we could only spend one day in Prague, there were so many sights we didn’t get time to see. Considering I touched John of Nepomuk’s plaque, I know I will one day return and when I do I will definitely visit Prague Castle. I’ll also spend a bit more time visiting the cathedrals and I’d like to taste more of the famous Czech nightlife.
My whole experience of Prague just goes to show that you can’t judge somewhere before you’ve been. It’s not something I’ve done much of in the past and certainly not something I will do again. It’s always best to visit somewhere for the first time with an open mind and a clean slate. You must make up your own mind from your own experiences.
Next stop, Croatia!
Amazing views on the drive to Croatia
Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by a place? Or have you ever felt let down because you expected something different? What did I miss out in Prague that I must see next time?