To be quite honest, Prague was a city I knew little about, and to be brutally honest, I barely could point it out on a map. I came to the Czech Republic’s capital city completely naive and had very little expectations. Like most of Europe, there’s a six-hour time difference from Eastern Standard Time and a roughly 9-hour flight from Toronto. I can dig it…Thank God in business class though!!!
I arrived in the morning, and of course ready to unload my questions at the airport about currency and transportation options to the hotel. Nobody smiles initially upon interaction and to a westerner that can be off-putting. I later discovered that it’s one of their cultural nuances, so never take their dry approach to customer service personally.
Most speak English and once you engage in conversation, will help you as much as possible. It’s best to take the financial hit at the ATM machine and let your bank compute the exchange rate, than to exchange your currency at the kiosk inside the airport. More often than not…the airport will rip you off…without even smiling!! In Prague, always have their currency on hand, which is the Czech koruna. Not every merchant, including cabs, will take credit cards. I changed my money, grabbed my cab, and off to hotel.
I stayed at the Hotel St. George and it was very affordable thanks to the currency exchange favoring the American and Canadian dollar (1 U.S. dollar equals 24 Czech koruna roughly). The St. George was a great choice logistically because it’s within walking distance of the downtown attractions. A helpful staff with clean and spacious accommodations that’s hooker, pimp, and drug pusher free is all I wanted, and St. George gave me just that. Now really, how much time does anyone stay in a room on vacation anyway? It helps that Hotel St. George has old European charm, an aesthetic plus.
One of Prague’s crown jewels is the Charles Bridge. Like the rest of the city, the bridge was untouched by the devastation of World War II, so the architecture is stunning. From quaint restaurants to beer gardens in the vicinity, I found myself stopping every few seconds for the shopping (remember the great exchange rate). Many of the non-commercialized mom and pop shops surround the foot of the bridge.
Prague is paradise for the beer drinker. I’m not a beer drinker but however…I indulged in a Pilsner from the garden. Pilsner seems to be Prague’s beer of choice. They even have vending machines on the streets stacked with alcohol you can purchase along with a Snickers and hit the town if you choose. I couldn’t believe it so you know I had to take a picture.
Czech cuisine in taste for me was …interesting. I’ll still give you my recommendation for the restaurant that was fairly affordable and authentic. Restaurant Mustek is located in the Wensceslas shopping and dining district of Prague. I ordered a sampler so I get the full experience and it was giving it to me. LOL This dish was mainly beef, a slice of pork, potatoes, duck and sauerkraut all covered in its juices and gravy. By far one of the best meals I ordered the entire time I was there, with a stellar staff to match!
The Prague Castle is a must see, but be prepared to climb a TON of steps to get to it. The roads, castles, and most if not all of the infrastructure in Europe were built centuries before society became conscious of our handicaps or even electricity for elevators for that matter. I thought I was in pretty decent shape until I had to take a break before finishing my way up to the castle gate. It’s worth it once you get there and absolutely breathtaking. There’s also a church on the grounds named Katedrala Svateho Vita or St. Vitus Cathedral. The tour is approximately two-hours long.
Now what started this trek across the pond in the first place was an ice cream treat I’ve never heard of but read about, The Czech Doughnut Ice Cream Cone. It’s a fried doughnut shaped into a cone, lined with nutella on the inside, and stuffed with scoops of ice cream. I swear I ran to it with open arms in slow motion (*cue Whitney Houston’s “Run To You”*)!!! This was the sole reason I flew there from the start. It was everything and worth the entire trip…all by itself. The downtown core is full of stands and shops that make this dessert from scratch. Wasn’t long after throwing the napkin away that I met a couple of school teachers from the States that were high on weed and coke. The pair was determined to turn my trip into a Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas excursion. In the words of Iyanla Vanzant “NOT ON MY WATCH”. Lol That’s another story for another blog.
Many tourist walked the streets at night and myself included. Police presence was visible but not overbearing. If ever I had questions about landmarks and directions, other tourist and natives alike were very helpful. As a man of color, there was never a moment I felt uncomfortable.
I inaugurated this blog with Prague because it was a welcomed surprise and destination that I personally never heard people in and out of my circle talk about. Prague, and the experience it gave me has earned a repeat visitor with me. I encourage anyone that loves history, old world architecture and charm to visit Prague, or as they say, “The Heart of Europe”.