Friday, May 8, 2009

Praha + Plzen

Last weekend was a special one, I visited Prague, for the 3rd time. I think it's one of the few places I've visited more than once or twice, and that's because I liked the city. Despite the many tourists and the fact that you'll have a hard time finding a real, genuine Czech, the city is quite beautiful and fun, there is something for everyone here : museums, boat trips, the castle, beautiful gardens, lots and lots of excellent pubs and restaurants. The weather was fine so people were out biking, strolling, or taking a boat ride on the Vltava.

I've been to Prague for the first time last november when I went on a road trip with some friends and I spent a whole weekend wandering the streets during the day and the pubs during the night. I had a great tourguide, a friend living in Prague, and now I can share some of his little stories and jokes, plus, I'm learning new things every time. So I think, modesty aside, I am a pretty good guide myself.

So, last weekend, we started from the other side of the Fred and Ginger dancing building. I'm not always a fan of contemporary architecture, but this building, that looks like it's being sucked into the eye of a tornado, is quite nice, and not to damaging to the surroundings...or to your eyes.

We continued towards Narodni Divadlo, the national theater, here in a picture from last November. The theater was build as part of the Czech national revival, with everyone contributing. Shortly after construction though, it burned and had to be rebuild, and again, the people gave money. A symbol of the Czechs' love for the theater.

Next to it is the second scene of the theatre, one of the communist buildings that stain the face of Prague. Luckly though, the city was not as plagued by the communist style as much as Bucharest was.

We continued along Charles Bridge. Be careful if you are in Prague in this period as the bridge is under construction and parts of it are closed, making the pedestrian traffic quite difficult. And it's full of tourists. So there are frequent jams and it's hard even to take a picture, not to mention meeting your beloved on the bridge. (With all the people there, you could pass right next to him or her and never know, luckily, mine was next to me) The artists are still there so you can buy little souvenirs.

Mala strana and Kampa are parts of Prague that I really love because of the bars and the fact that sometimes at night they seem deserted and taking a walk in this part of the city is like going back in time. But in a spring weekend, during the day, tourists are everywhere, so be careful for pickpockets and toilet queues.

The Prague Castle is like a city inside a City, very good view of the town and a nice area to stroll around. I don't recommend going to the Golden Street. I've put pictures so that you don't have to. Tourist paradise here, basically you pay money to see some antique stores with watches and other little nothings. The tunnels in the attics have beautiful armors and weapons but still not that interesting. There is a vineyard on the hill, for the passionate and you can stop for a drink or some good food in a restaurant.

Just across the river is Josefov, the Jewish town. It looks like anything but a ghetto, because this side of town, once prone to inundations was rebuilt and has some of the most beautiful and grand houses. You can still see the sinagogues and the Jewish cemetery. The tour of the synagogues and the cemetery is quite expensive and not really worth the while if you don't have a particular interest. So if you want to see the cemetery and not pay for it, there is a trick, a small window in a metal door, right across the street from the back entry of the Rudolfium. You'll certanly see tourists peeking through it. Otherwise, the quarter is interesting if you want to buy souvenirs, Bohemia crystal especially.

Another thing I like about Prague is that all the interesting places are within walking distance. Unlike other cities such as London or Paris, where you have to rely heavely on public transportation, here, you can spare yourselfs a few crowns and buy a beer instead. The public network is quite good, covering most of the town with the metro, also it's cheap, but you can walk just as easily.

Close to Josefov is Staromeska Namesti, with St Cyr Church and the Astronomical Clock, just follow the tourists if you don't know where to look. And if you see people waving an umbrella althought it's sunny outside, just know they are guides, so stay close to them, you might hear interesting stuff.

I'll let you in on a secret, I have a plan to start a mass aplause in front of the astronomical clock by strategicaly placing my friends in the crowd.

For shopping, a very good spot is Wenceslas square, where you have Bata, H&M and the works. From there we went to Karlovo Namesti and then took the car back to Plzen.

Next, Plzen on a Sunday afternoon. The fourth city in the Czech Republic, about an hour West of Prague and the only one liberated by the American Army, in WWII, as I came to learn during the weekend. It's quite nice to stroll around, and I think it's also a nice place to live (I only spend some of my weekends there).

The first visit of Plzen was a bar tour and the next day we almost didn't recognize the surroundings. There was a beer festival in the main town square (duh, they produce 70% of Czech beer here). Some picture, just to give you an idea of the look of a normal Czech town (Prague is by no means normal, rather filled with tourists).

In Plzen you'll have no problem to find real Czechs so you can stop them on the street and talk to them, they do exist outside the capital. And me, a crazy Romanian.


  1. you crazy? nahhhhh!!!

  2. there was a crazy Romanian girl behind me in the photo :P 'cause me really normal, they all say so


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