A few months ago a couple of my friends and I thought of doing something different then the usual skiing/hiking/cycling routine we continuously did for the last couple of years and decided to play a globe-roulette. In the old days, globe-roulette could have been played with a model globe in the following manner: you place a globe on a table in front of the dedicated pointer. Then you put a scarf, bag, night mask, or whatever over his eyes and spin the globe. Pointer’s role is more or less obvious – he’s there to point his finger to an unseen location on the spinning globe. If the finger has been pointed to the unreachable place (like an empty ocean) you should repeat the whole thing until you find solid ground. When that happens, you have yourselves a new travel destination. Since we’re living in the 21st century we used Google Earth. I was expecting all kinds of interesting results like Egypt, Tibet, or Antarctica, but the destination we randomly selected was in the very heart of the Old Continent – Czech Republic.
I wasn’t so enthusiastic about it since I expected a wild and exotic adventure which I could share with my grandchildren over and over again and Europe never seemed like a place that could offer anything more than a nice clean cultural fun – museums, galleries, historical monuments,…that sort of thing. Naturally, I was wrong. First, we googled out all the necessary data about the trip and our destination: we found some cheap international flights, went through some articles on Wikipedia abut the country, its capitol Prague, the currency, places to stay,…the usual stuff. And before we knew it, we were on our way.
When we reached our destination, I realized how wrong I was for underestimating this place. Prague is also known as the Golden City and it has to be one of the most incredible places I have ever visited in my entire life! Although I was never a huge fan of architecture I had a change of heart when I saw its picaresque bridges, countless medieval towers, and incredible mirrored image of castles and cathedrals in the Vltava River swarmed with boats, swans and gulls. The old town has this bohemian air around it since it hasn’t been changed for more than a thousand years of its existence. Poets, painters, writers, and other artists that passed through the streets of the city have left a specific kind of mark there – the kind you probably couldn’t find anywhere else in the world. The first building that completely occupied my attention was Hrad – one of the largest castles in the world. Also, there are two more impressive temples – the Old-New Synagogue, and Saint Vitus Gothic cathedral.
There is a number of tourist guides and services available for tourists, but since we were an adventurous bunch we decided to take a tour without an escort. The fact that most of the Czech people are very fluent in English made it much simpler than we thought it would be and there is also a number of hotels, information booths and similar places where you can get free maps of the city. I also have to mention that the people are very forthcoming and pleasant, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble with finding your way or asking for directions. Be it as it may, we were warned that there is a number of pickpockets and con artists on the loose, so we kept an eye out for this type of individuals. The transportation and tours for tourists are moderately expensive, be it taxis, buses, cruises, or carriage rides (I insisted on a carriage ride since I never had one before).
The accommodation is very affordable and the service is great – or at least it was at the place we stayed in. It was a small hostel near the center of the town, so we didn’t spend too much money on public transportation. Since my party and I enjoy having a drink or two, we have visited our share of pubs and absinthe bars in the vicinity. The first thing you might notice is the superb taste of Czech beer, which is probably not such a strange thing when you take into account the fact that they have breweries twice as old as our country. Our favorite absinthe bar, the Absintherie, can be found at the end of Franz Kafka square. The place is a sort of a museum dedicated to this strong spirit as well as everything related to the drink. If you prefer pubs, I can recommend two – “Ujezd” and “Shadow Cafe”. “Ujezd” is a well-known students’ cafe ( Ujezd is also the name of the street where the cafe itself is located) and it’s usually crowded. ”Shadow Cafe” is right down the street and is a must see. What makes these two so special is for you to find out.
[Photo by Michael Cummings]