My trip to Prague saw me land in the evening at Prague Ruzyně International Airport just outside the capital, take a bus to the city centre and try to walk to my accommodation at 9 pm. Fortunately it was the beginning of summer and it was not too dark at this time. I eventually made it and decided to call it a day. During my stay for a few days in this beautiful city, I avoided the usual tourist traps and tried to discover the real Prague hiding behind. Not an easy job because Prague is one of the most popular destinations for city breaks and caters exceptionally well to tourists.
Your first task is to get something called simply the Prague Card which is a credit card-size pass for tourists that will allow you free or discounted entry to many attractions in the city. Well worth the few korunas you will spend on it. You can buy it online before you travel at www.praguecard.biz. Don’t be put off by the spammy .biz domain name. Alternatively, you can buy it in person at any tourist information office in Prague and at the airport where I got mine. With the Prague card in hand, you will know what are the best places that Prague has to offer.
It is said the most beautiful women are from the Czech Republic. It is hard to argue against that if you’ve been there. Even if you haven’t, you may have heard of Eva Herzigová and Karolina Kurkova from what was then Czechoslovakia. Perhaps it is their black bread diet or their sharp angular Slavic features or even their different culture compared to their western counterparts, but Slavic women have a reputation for natural beauty and slimness.
2009 saw the celebration of 20 years since the end of communism symbolised by the fall of the Berlin wall and initiated by the Poles with their triumphal elections of June 1989. In the Czech Republic, it was the Velvet Revolution at the end of the same year which led to the overthrow of the communist government. That year saw the end of 4 decades of communism in East Europe and in 1992, 7 decades of communism in Russia. Lenin’s October Revolution of 1917 when his Bolshevik Party stormed the Winter Palace and initiated communism as a form of government rule was history; a new beginning had started. You can learn about all this, or if you were a part of this, remember the suffering of the people and the hardship of life during this period in the Museum of Communism where you will follow a tour from the teachings of Marx and Engels to Lenin, Stalin and Mao and find out about the Spring Uprising, the Velvet Revolution and the Solidarity Movement, among others.
The museum of Communism is ironically located in the city centre on Na Příkopě, very close to a MacDonald, symbol of the West capitalism and among many burger sellers.
If you take the trouble to travel all the way to Prague, please don’t eat out at the numerous burger places, Mc Dos or coffee places. The Czech are playing catch-up with what they miss in the past during the communist years and now they are a big fan of western culture. Take the time to eschew these places and look for traditional and genuine Czech cuisine. They might well be in dark alleys, in basements or simply out of the way of tourists and away from the limelight. Be prepared to have difficulty communicating as many Czech who do not deal with tourists do not speak English or a foreign language.
Not to miss in Prague
- The massive Prague Castle and within, St Vitus Cathedral of gothic architecture,
- Petrin Hill, a haven of peace and greenery in this busy city;
- Franz Kafka’s house turned into a museum;
- Charles Bridge spanning the Vltava River which featured in the movie XXX;
- Charles University, the oldest university in Central Europe.
Did you know that Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler were two great astronomers who worked in Prague around the 16th century?
Prague can make for cheap holidays; indeed many people go there for its cheap beer and for stag weekends. There are even many Irish bars there. But beer can be had anywhere in the world. Instead, take some time to discover the genuine Prague and its Slavic culture.