I’m back! I spent the last week and a half on vacation in Prague, in the Czech Republic, and it was a great trip. It’s referred to as both “Europe’s most beautiful city” and “the Las Vegas of Europe,” Monte Carlo and Dubai notwithstanding. Granted, I never heard them both in the same breath, but it does live up to each one.
Of course, I now have the requisite chest cold and sinus infection that comes with long haul plane flights. Grr. I don’t get sick often, but when I do, it knocks me out. Other than short trips to the pharmacy, and occasionally Pluto’s downstairs, I haven’t left my apartment for over three days.
Regardless, Prague was great. I hadn’t seen much of Europe before – just the UK, Greece, and Turkey – so I was glad to expand my intercontinental horizons. Here are some impressions:
- Phenomenal, awe-inspiring architecture. It’s hard to describe how it feels to wander through streets, churches, and entire castles that were built a millenium ago. As a friend wisely observed, it’s one of the few major European cities that’s never been bombed.
- Phenomenal, awe-inspiring beer. Evidently, the Czechs more or less invented pilsner and lager. The only downside is that most traditional Czech pubs serve only one kind of beer – their own – and only pub food like schnitzel, steak tartare, and bread with “beer cheese.” Still, it was hard to complain.
- On the other hand, the tourist areas did have plenty of familiar-feeling bars that served the normal range of cocktails, at the normal inflated prices.
- Along the same vein, it’s become a common European party destination, particularly for young Brits on stag dos (aka bachelor parties).
- Lots of smoking.
- Narrow, labyrinthine streets, most built centuries before cars. Cobblestones everywhere!
- Excitement, and apprehension, about joining the EU. It takes a few years, and no one has any illusions that it’s a silver bullet for anything.
- Everyone has a car! This was especially surprising for such a dense city with good, if imperfect, public transportation. Not to mention the narrow streets, blind curves, and utter lack of anything approximating a grid.
- The people are a little more reserved, formal, and quiet. Reading and classical music (especially Dvořák) are big parts of Czech culture. Even bars and clubs aren’t quite as noisy as here.
- Service is more personal. Tipping isn’t nearly as important as repeat business and building relationships.
- Measurements on menus. 300g steak tartare, .3L wine, etc.
- Beautiful people. More guys in suits, jackets, or generally fashionable clothes. Many more girls in skirts and dresses.
- The Sex Machines Museum. No, really.
- There are undergraduate degrees in marionettes and puppetry. Talk about institutionalized culture.
All in all, it was a great time. I was sad to leave, especially since we lost the one camera we’d been taking pictures with! At least we’ll still have pictures from the wedding. I’ll put them up when I get them.
Back to the salt mines…