Located in Central Europe (not Eastern Europe, as many people believe), Prague is unlike any destination out there, especially when it comes to the countries in Western Europe. With its dark, somber Orthodox architecture and heavy, hearty food, it’s no wonder that this city is the fifth most-visited in Europe. Really, Prague just has that sort of magical, fairy-tale charm to it, and to this day remains one of my favorite places I’ve visited on the continent.
Bidding goodbye to Belgium, I hitched a BlaBlaCar ride from Brussels to Paris in the evening (fyi my first and only carpool ride through international borders). My driver was a man in his forties who was also bringing back three other French passengers. There was a crazy amount of traffic as we were leaving Brussels, but after that it was a fairly smooth, four-hour ride back to the French capital.
The driver dropped me off at the Charles de Gaulle airport close to 23h00, and I was to spend the night there before catching my flight to Prague early the next morning. I spent the night trying (and failing) to sleep on the uncomfortable seats in the terminal and subsequently woke up at around 5h00 to check in and get some breakfast at the Paul bakery before boarding the plane at 7h00 and taking off soon thereafter. Arrived in Prague around 9h00, but stuck around, because I was to meet another assistante with whom I would be visiting the city; her flight was due to arrive around 13h00, so I waited around in the airport until she came.
The assistante arrived and we took the bus, then the metro over to the city center, where our hostel was located. We arrived at our hostel (about a 15-minute walk from Old Town Square) and checked in; I also had to deal with some stuff concerning my clothes *long story short, I had gotten bedbug bites from the hostel in Brussels and was panicking that my other clothes had been contaminated as well. More on that in another post*. Gave my clothes to the staff to treat and clean before going out briefly to buy some new pants and shirts to wear at the nearby TESCO. I ended up staying in the first night in Prague, still shaken by the bedbug incident from Brussels, but any case my travel-buddy assistante was kind enough to stay with me and have dinner in the hostel bar (I ordered duck, which is definitely something you should get while in Prague, for it’s one of their signature dishes; it was pretty tasty, too!).
I received my clothes back the next day, but apparently, the hostel’s dryer was broken, so my clothes were still damp as heck. Frustrated, I had to wait until the next after to go to the cleaners (it was Sunday that day) to shell out more money have them cleaned (once again, just for good measure). After that, I could finally relax.
Any case, I decided to head into town for lunch and went into a small Czech restaurant that had been recommended on my city map; it was located about 5 minutes from Old Town Square and the prices were very reasonable (fyi the Czech Republic is definitely cheaper than Western European countries, and so it’s a budget-friendly place to visit!). I got the beef goulash with bread dumplings (basically, like steamed bread) and a Pilsner beer (a Czech brand). Hearty and filling, the food was stick-to-your-ribs good and in total, it came out to about 6 euros!
After lunch, I headed out to Old Town Square, obviously populated with tons of tourists and street artists like any major town center. The Prague Orloj (clock tower) impressed me with its intricate, golden hands that gleamed in the mild, October sun and the Týn Church was magnificent with its imposing Gothic architecture. The colorful buildings alongside the square’s borders added a nice, bright pop to the otherwise austere landmarks.
I passed by St. Nicholas Church where I saw that there was a classical concert happening later that evening (fyi classical concerts are big in Prague and not very expensive, so do attend one if you can!); I purchased my ticket in advance and proceeded to head towards Charles Bridge, the iconic, historic bridge of the city with its dozens of religious statues dotting the sides along the river. It was also swarming with visitors and souvenir vendors as I weaved in and out of the crowd.
I crossed over the bridge and decided to head up to see Prague Castle, located on the hills of the city. It wasn’t an easy climb, but I made it up and was rewarded with a lovely, red-rooftop view of Prague; I must’ve snapped dozens of photos just of the same view- so damn pretty!
I also wanted to check out the inside of Prague Castle/St. Vitus Cathedral (they’re connected together), but the line was ridiculously long, so I decided to opt out of it. Which is a shame, because from the photos of the inside on the Internet, it doesn’t look too shabby; I’ll have to revisit Prague just for that!
I wrapped around the castle court before heading back down to the town center; along the way, I bought myself a trdelnik, which is a common, Central European pastry that reminded me of a cinnamon pretzel, albeit in a long, cylinder shape! It was a nice snack to have, and for its size, it was a good deal at 2 euros!
Back in town, I still had some time to kill before the evening concert, so I went into a KFC (yup, American commercialism…) to relax and use the Wifi (shhh…). Later, I went to St. Nicholas Church at 16h30 to get my seats and wait for the 17h00 performance to begin. The concert consisted of a trio of musicians– a pianist, a violinist, and an oboist– who played classic pieces from the likes of Bach, Schubert, Massenet, and even the country’s own Dvorak. Having grown up listening to and playing classical music, I found pleasure listening to these pieces, even though the whole performance was a bit rushed (I guess to make it last only an hour). It was already dark when the performance ended, so I headed back to my hostel; Old Town Square was still gorgeous as ever at night, as well as having a mysterious air to it:
The next morning, I went out with my travel-buddy assistante to see the John Lennon Wall, which was used as a graffiti place for the youths back in the eighties to express their unhappiness with the Communist regime. While it was certainly a colorful wall, it didn’t really impress me that much; I found it a bit too kitschy for my liking- but to each their own!
We got breakfast afterwards at a small bagel shop nearby; I ordered a spinach quiche and also decided to go for mulled wine (because it’s never a bad idea to have alcohol early in the morning, right?). Definitely warmed me up, especially on a chilly morning in October! Afterwards, we decided to split and do our own thing for the day. I wanted to go check out Prague Castle again, but ended up hiking the opposite side of the hill; I even went through some bushes and unpaved trails, which was quite the workout, but in the end, I stumbled upon an absolutely gorgeous view of the city, even more so than the one directly from Prague Castle! It’s called Petřín Hill, and not only was it gorgeous with the nature and parks surrounding it, but also there was virtually no one there, so the silence was very peaceful; it was a great way to escape from the crowded, touristy center for a little bit and feel the nippy, but welcoming winter breeze on my face. Definitely refreshing, to say the least!
I headed back down into the town center, where just for the heck of it decided to check out the Sex Machine Museum, which I later discovered also exists in other European, touristy cities (including Amsterdam, of course). It was interesting walking around the small museum and seeing the different toys and contraptions used throughout history, from the 19th century to today. I don’t think it was completely worth the 7 euros (especially when the video on the history of the sex industry wasn’t working that day), but any case, it was a bit out of the blue to see whilst in Prague.
Got an early dinner at the same Czech restaurant I’d gone to for lunch the previous day, then returned to my hostel to relax for the rest of the night. The next morning, the assistante and I went to check out the Palace Gardens, which were located just beneath Prague Castle against the hill’s slope. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to see, because most of the flowers and plants were gone for the upcoming winter, but we did beforehand visit a park where there were tons of peacocks! Surprising, but pleasantly so!
Afterwards, we decided to split again for the day; I headed back to Old Town Square to try a new Czech restaurant nearby; it was this huge, cafeteria-style place, and it served the same-old, traditional Czech food. I got the beef goulash again (love that stuff), along with potato dumplings this time and fried cheese (another Czech specialty; it reminded me of a large, fried mozzarella stick). Once more, the food hit me heavily, but with its love.
I wandered around the city center after lunch, strolling on the large boulevard that lead up to the Narodni Museum (closed at the time, due to reconstruction). Feeling rather tired, I headed back to my hostel to rest a bit before going out again later that evening to try some absinthe, which is another thing to do in Prague (at your own risk, though!). I first ordered a shot to try out, then had a cocktail blend of it. To be frank, the drinks did absolutely nothing for me; I didn’t hallucinate at all! Perhaps I needed to drink more to get the effects, but I wasn’t all for shelling out more money for that (plus, it tasted like Nyquil, so not very pleasant!). I ended up going to a bar for some “regular” drinks before returning to the hostel for the night. Well, at least I can say that I tried absinthe!
The next day was my last in Prague; I was to head back to Paris later that evening. The assistante had already left earlier that morning, so I spent the day on my own, visiting as much of the rest of the city as I could. Got a hearty breakfast at a cafe near Old Town Square (which served a pretty good pumpkin-feta quiche) before heading to check out the Parliament, which also contained the lovely Wallenstein Gardens (and more peacocks!).
I also popped into the Shakespeare and Synové bookstore, which reminded me of Shakespeare and Company in Paris with its wide collection of English books. I spent an hour or so just browsing through the collections, even sitting down to read a couple like the bookworm I am!
Finally, I headed back to the heart of Prague, back near the Narodni Museum where I bought myself a *massive* hunk of traditional Czech bread (for the road) and returned to my hostel to rest a bit before heading over to the airport in the evening. I checked in and boarded my plane at 20h20, and it took off right after. Landed back in Paris around 22h00 which by then was too late to catch the train back to Normandy, so I stayed the night at the airport before getting the first bus out the following morning. Something interesting actually happened to me that night while hanging out in the airport (in a good, funny way), but I’ll save it for another post. Any case, I stayed there overnight and got the 6h00 shuttle to the city center before getting the train back to Normandy and arriving back in the afternoon, tired but satisfied.
Like I said before, Prague was amazing. From the architecture to the food to the views, everything about this city was beautiful. I stayed four nights, but personally, I think three is enough to see the majority of things there; however, I’d choose to stay four nights if I were to make day trips to other towns in the Czech Republic.
…and overall, my les vacances de la Toussaint during my first year as an assistante was a nice way to start off my travels in Europe for the rest of the year; I was still learning how to budget travel, but practice makes perfect, right? From Lille to Belgium to Prague, I certainly spent my time well during those two weeks!
I’ll be writing more about my adventures from this Toussaint vacation soon, as I did do a little bit of traveling domestically, despite having grad school and not much money. In general, I’ll continue to post more of my travels later, around the same times that I had visited in the previous year.
Until then, à plus tard!