June 29, 2006

sightseeing tips - prague

Note: This entry was originally posted to an old blog of mine called Go Out and See the World. It can be seen in its original here, including all comments, which were not imported. The entries are separate from Sunny Day Happy Face, but were imported for posterity! Enjoy!

Charles Bridge - Definately spend at least an hour here, sitting, observing and buying. This is a huge tourist attraction leading over the river to the castle and to Lesser Town.

Prague Castle - If you’re into paying to walk into cathedrals and potentially wait in long lines, then this is for you. Otherwise, definately make a point to hike up the street to the castle, but stay for only an hour or two wandering the extensive area. If you pay 50czk, you can walk down Golden Lane, which is probably no longer than 50m and takes all of 10 minutes to see, but cute anyway.

Old Town Sqaure - A must see. Go down Celetna Street on your way in. Have a meal in one of the cafes - the one right infront of the clock was delicious. Picturesque and very European.

Wenceslas Square - This is multi-block street where all the shopping is (H&M, among others), internet cafes, hotels, etc. At the end of the street is Wencelsas Statue and a big building, very pretty. Turn right on the other end of the street at Na Prikope for more shopping, like Mango, Lacoste and others.

The John Lennon Wall - This wall was created as a symbol of peace and anti-communism and is reminicent of the spray painted Berlin Wall reminants. The wall is located on a side street just over the Charles Bridge. Must see.

I stayed at Hostel le Papillon which is located not far from Wenceslas Square, on a street with many small food markets. The staff is not overly helpful and is lazy, but probably very kind to Czech visitors because I think their lack of good English (and other languages) is their biggest problem. There was no room in the hostel for me and several other people, so we were brought to apartments on a busier street closer to the square. The accomodations appeared odd at first, but I quickly grew to love the 4-bedroom apartment with a shared bathroom (that smelled, but was otherwise clean). My room had 3 beds in it, faced the street, had a huge window which I sat on at night, and most of all, locked. The apartment was in a building with both business and housing, but the apartments were well-gated by its own door, plus the door to the apartment. The street, like I said, is very busy and loud because of passing cars, construction, and at night, bars. Luckiy for me, I’ve always lived on a busy street and this was rarely a problem (if not soothing). They provided towels and linens. I found the beds to be very comfortable and the towels and linens clean, though not ‘hotel quality’ (which was not expected). If I came back to Prague, I would only stay here again if completely nessisary, as this hostel has some of the only cheap private rooms in town. Through walking around, I might reccomend Pension Star, Apple Hostel, Hotel Europa and Old Town Hotel based on location and facade only, but I can speak nothing of the accomodations.

Other Tips
- If you read other websites about Prague, they will all advise you not to hail a cab on the street. The drivers are only for your money, sometimes the meters run too fast or they don’t use the meter at all. If you need a cab, call AAA Taxi, they all speak English and offer reliable, reasonable prices. They are even ok to grab at taxi stands around town.

- Visit Albert, a chain of supermarkets. If you want to experience European culture, you should go here! The supermarkets here are all small and always underground, but feature products you cannot buy in America, especially chocolates and candy. It’s fun to make at least one meal and the goods are very inexpensive (about $5 for several bottles of juice and water, yogurt, chocolate and musli).

- There are tons of street vendors that sell ‘Czech Hotdogs’ and sausages, but they aren’t really a statement of Czech cuisine and are really fatty, oily, huge and gross. I would reccomend pizza or McDonald’s over this! Also, please, gelato in any other country besides Italy is not real gelato, ok?

- Hold on to your bags! Pickpocketing is very common, usually only in tourist areas. They target people with open bags (obviously) and fanny packs (or whatever they’re called). The pickpocketers are usually young and work in teams, usually one of them distracts you while another gets your stuff. Other times, they use newspapers to disguise their hands. Whenever you go to a restaurant, keep your bag on your lap or in a chair immediately next to you, and not on the table or by your feet. Someone can easily walk by and swipe the bag, as this almost happened to me in Old Town Square. On the flip side, if you are carrying a small handbag that you can wear on your shoulder, with the zipper in front, close to you, you will have absolutely no problems. Also, wheeling your suitcase through the city is fine and very common.

- Watch for beggars. I saw one that was a dwarf amputee (I don’t know much about the PC-ness of this) who never moved from his spot and I believe really is homeless. Another man on Charles Bridge was dressed in fine civilian clothes and would kneel down to beg, but then get up, count his money, put it in his pocket, have a cigarette while waiting for the right time to beg again, and even speak to a local or a friend. I don’t know what his aim is, but definately not homeless and might have something to do with pickpocketing.

- Prague is the only place in Europe where you can buy real Absinthe (at extremely good prices), so if you’re into that, make sure to get it here (I saw a good place on Celetna Street). Also, I read that Prague has great beer and for this I cannot attest, but it is extremely cheap (you can buy it at any vendor along the street who sells hotdogs) for 25 czk (about $1).

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