Prague blagueby mo on 08/19/2013
We arrived in Prague around 10 PM on a Tuesday and noticed two things immediately:
1. Prague is full of 17 year old Europeans partying in the streets
2. Czech words are not easy to guesstimate, unlike German ones (especially easy if you already know some Swedish). The first and possibly only Czech word I learned was výstup, which means “exit”. Helpful for subways.
We dropped off our stuff at our AirBnB and went hunting for food and a pub. There were about 100 pubs in a 10-minute radius of our apartment, which was by the Andel station in Prague 5, just west of the river. This neighborhood was cheap to stay in because it’s outside of Old Town. Andel is clean and ultra-gentrified — nice cafes, H&M, a mall, a Google office, a KFC, and a bazillion pubs and older architecture as well. It turned out to be a good place to stay though, because Andel is a major station, so getting anywhere was very easy, and getting into Old Town was just 2 stops (also walkable in under 30 mins).
After dropping off our luggage, we went to find some goulash and dumplings and drunk Czech people in pubs smoking a shit-ton of cigarettes (this was probably the smokiest city I’ve ever visited) and then went to bed. A large meal for two with drinks cost $12, and beer was literally $2.
Normally, doing touristy things annoys me, however there is a ton of historical stuff in Old Town Prague that you just gotta see. We did a 3 hour walking tour that taught us the basics of Prague’s bloody history (multiple defenestrations), the astronomical clock, various churches, the Jewish Quarter, and the critically important fact that the inventor of the soft contact lens was Czech. The other tourists though were rather insufferable, especially this guy jesus christ.
Next we walked across the river to Kampa Island (made of trash! but nice!) and saw these creepy baby sculptures by David Černý who is this artist with sculptures all over the city, like these moving statues peeing into a fountain that is the Czech Republic, and more creepy babies climbing up the giant TV tower, etc. He also had a starring role in the No Reservations Prague episode, hanging out with Anthony Bourdain eating things and being weird, so clearly he is, in fact, culturally relevant.
Also on Kampa Island was the Lennon Wall, which is BYOSpraycan.
We hiked up Petrin Hill and went up the tower (like a mini eiffel tower) with great views of the city.
We also visited the Mirror Hall up there and a Rose Garden before walking back down the hill and finding kind of mediocre Vietnamese food (Tony had promised there’s good Pho in this town, but I don’t think we went to the right spot).
We went to a pub called U Sudu that was like a cave/labyrinth inside and played some foosball and the best game of pinball of my life, before being driven out by the shrieks of Europarty bros at the next table. We walked up to a 7-story bar/club, Karlovy Lázně, that is oft-recommended on tripadvisor etc., but it looked even more Europarty bro-y and we just couldn’t. We ran immediately in the other direction, to a nearby bar called Hemingway’s which is probably one of the best cocktail bars I’ve been to in the entire world. (To be fair, there were some teen Brazilian partiers there too, but they were fairly un-obnoxious on a scale from 1 to New-York-Is-In-Latin-America guy).
Unlike Berlin, Prague was FULL of foursquare activity, so pub-going decisions were easy to make and fairly accurate. Look for places that have at least some tips written in Czech, as well as english-speakers claiming a place is non-touristy. Here’s my Prauge Foursquare list btw.
Day 2 the boyfriend was kinda sick so I entertained myself by shopping at Tesco until afternoon, and the evening we did venture out to go see some young Mozart @ the Estates Theater where he used to play shows.
Then we pubbed it up again at Lokal, which was probably the best place we ate the whole trip?? But annoyed our waiter by eventually stopping drinking beer. (They top you off like waitresses with coffee refills in a diner, or the bottomless mimosa lady at any brunch establishment, etc.)
The next day, feeling healthier & more energetic, we did something we had wanted to do since day 1: ride in a balloon over the Charles River. We’d seen a balloon tethered to the side of the river on day 1, but the balloon was completely generic and white and had no advertising (website, phone #, brand name, etc.) on it, so the only way to figure out what the deal was was to actually walk up to it and ask the dude there (sign #1 we aren’t in Kansas anymore: total lack of marketing). The dude at the bottom told us the price (like $45ish each) and was like, “you want to go up??” and we were like, “yes??!?” He strapped us in, and told us just this before starting to reel us out: “When you up there, sometimes it sways side to side because it windy today, but is okay, it’s normal. And if you have problem, here is the radio button and we talk.” Sign number 2 we’re not in the US, no waiver to sign, so I suppose if we’d died he would have just run away?
While approaching the balloon, we saw one guy riding in it and so we asked, “Wait, can we both go up together?” and balloon man was like, “yes yes!! he is just too heavy, he weighs 130 kilos.” Way to proactively share someone else’s weight info, dude.
And the last interesting thing with balloon man was that he asked us where we were from, and we said San Francisco. “You Americans, always say your city. ‘I’m from Chicago, IL’ or ‘I’m from San Francisco,’ never ‘I’m from the USA’ what is this?” Good point. But why would we want to be associated with any of those people???
I was too scared of dropping my phone to take any pics, but here’ some other people in the balloon:
This was easily the best view of the city, since first of all being right by the river it was much more central / in the action than Petrin Tower. Second of all, since the wind is blowing you around, and Prague has some hills, you would get different angles and perspectives on the city as you swayed back and forth. Third of all, if you do the balloon, don’t wear flip flops.
On the way back down after the balloon we had to advise a lot of other passers-by who were curious about our balloon experience (how long was it? how much did it cost? how scary is it?? etc.) due to the lack of sufficient advertisement, before heading over to check out Prague Castle, which was friggin enormous, even from a distance:
Also, we found a creepy number of swans, still by the river.
good morning internet, this is how i feel about swans (and children) pic.twitter.com/4l99ibxjIm
— mo $$ mo popelems (@kudeki) July 26, 2013
Our final night I insisted on getting out of Old Town so we went to the neighborhood called Žižkov, which was supposed to be sketchier and have better nightlife. It was one of the least sketchy places I’ve ever been, and we ate in an upscale French/middle eastern restaurant so we might have been Žižkoving wrong, but we did find the TV tower (with more Cerny babies crawling up it) and this creepy-ass thing next to it:
We also found a dog in this pub:
And then went to pretty much the only club we could find, Matrix Club, which had pretty decent DnB (with a female DJ on the main stage, omg), and people were having fun, but there were like, 50 people there total, at a venue that could have easily held 500. We danced for a while and came to the sad conclusion that perhaps people are too busy consuming beer to even go clubbing here (the statistic is something like, a beer per Prague person, per day, every day, but this average includes babies and old people…) So eventually we gave up on the idea of dancing, went back to Old Town and resigned ourselves to eating fried cheese sandwiches because Anthony Bourdain can never lead you astray, especially with late-nite street food.
Pros: Prague is beautiful, shit’s ridic cheap, and especially compared to sprawling Berlin, logistics were very quick and easy. Also, fried cheese.
Cons: So so so touristy to the point where you feel you’re on a playground/in a theme park rather than in a city. We should’ve explored more outside of Old Town, cuz I hope there is more happening in this town besides party tourists bro-ing out.