Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mama's goin' to Prague!

Geez, I LOVE this city.

So my madre is going to Prague for the first time, and I am SUPER excited for her -- as some of y'all know, I lived in Prague for a couple of months, and had the chance to take the Boyf there a year ago to revisit some of my favorite places.

I emailed her this list of things to do today, and I wanted to share it with you guys.  Here goes:

-Eat smazeny syr- it is fried cheese, and it is at the 24-hour kiosks on Wenceslaus Square.  It's a mozzarella burger thing and I ADORE IT.  Also not a bad place to try a sausage.

-Czechs dress casually almost everywhere, including nightclubs.  No need to dress up or seek out fancy restaurants unless you particularly want to, the Czechs don't.

-You should read something by Milan Kundera, but Czechs don't really talk about him -- I guess his political exile is shameful in some way, but I think his books are more helpful than Kafka's when understanding the Czech people.  Vaclav (that's "va-ts-lav," people) Havel also wrote some beautiful essays during his presidency which are really worth a read.

-Use Czech words, most people don’t bother and it means a lot to folks to hear travelers try (all the totally wild and poorly behaved -- mainly British, sorry Mom! -- stag parties and such make the Czechs wary of English speakers, even though everyone speaks English in Prague)

-Most neighborhoods are extremely safe at night, and it’s actually more dangerous in Praha 1 (Old Town) because of the sheer number of foreigners.  Pickpockets ABOUND in Praha 1, but there is really no violent crime anywhere in the city.  The crowds can also be maddening in certain areas, particularly near the astronomical clock, it's easy to get robbed or just knocked over.

-Avoid most jazz clubs, they are tourist traps

-Try to catch a concert at the "Dvorak Hall," the Czech Philharmonic is GLORIOUS

-I never saw blacklight theater, but if you do, pick a reputable theater such as the national theater

-Garnet is local, but amber usually comes from Poland, so be careful if you want Czech jewelry (there is some Czech amber, I believe)

-Holesovice, Dejvicka, Andel, Vinohrady, Zizkov – all are more “normal” neighborhoods (and you have to go to a normal neighborhood, Praha 1 is SO FULL OF FOREIGNERS), that you could easily get to by metro, tram, or walking if you’re up for it.  The food is WAY cheaper in these areas.  If you are paying the same amount for food that you would in the US, you are overpaying and the quality is sadly almost universally going to be lower because they know to treat you like a tourist (it's gotten more expensive lately, but this rule still holds).

-The metro is clean, safe (at night, too), and super useful.

-The tram is a good way to see the city if you are too tired from walking, and according to this it is tram #22 that does the scenic loop of the city, which is a nice way to get oriented when you first arrive without a ton of walking.

-Don’t hail cabs, it's super dangerous. Walk, use public transport, or call a reputable cab company.  If you find a driver you like, keep their info and call them when you need a ride.

-The walk up to Prague Castle (Prazky Hrad) is STEEP.  There might be a tram route, I know there is one that goes at least halfway up the hill, I think from near the national theater or the Praha 1 end of the Charles Bridge, but I don't know the number...

-Just ask for beer (pivo/a), don't specify which.  You'll get a Pilsner Urquell or a Staropramen, and they taste WAY better on tap there than elsewhere (the Czech Republic is known for its quality mineral waters and spas, so beer tastes better there because it's made with czech water -- also a GREAT reason to buy bath products made in the CR, because the mineral content of all the products is off the charts)

Okay, that is what comes to mind -- what do you know about Prague that you would add to this list?

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