Prague Travel Guide: What’s the best thing about Prague? It’s very, very cheap. For sure it has a famous medieval town-centre that they keep banging on about, but it is so swamped with tourists in the summer you can’t even see it.
For instance, they have the oldest working astronomical clock in the world in the old market square. Tourists swelter in the sun for ages to see this ancient timepiece do its thing on the hour. I’d give it a miss, it’s just a few rotating wooden saints way up high. Given the growing crowds, and their sense of anticipation, I think everyone was expecting fireworks, lasers and something akin to the Super Bowl half-time show. The disappointment was palpable.
Likewise with the Charles Bridge, one of the oldest bridges in the world. Indeed it is centuries old and lined with statues of saints (most of them replicas now, by the way). However, the most remarkable thing about the bridge is that it is still standing under the weight of all the tourists that cross it every day.
So my advice is take advantage of the cheap beer, cheap accommodation, cheap food and cheap transport and head away from the tourist hotspots…or maybe go to the ones that aren’t quite so hot.
Less well-trodden paths:
First of all go midweek in the autumn, winter or spring. I recommend midweek because that way you will avoid legions of visitors, and also British stag and hen parties. Unless you particularly crave the company of a group of drunken and aggressive Brummies singing songs about the dubious merits of Walsall F.C.
Although, to be honest, I’d never realised that Walsall F.C. were indeed ‘the greatest football team the world has ever seen’. You learn something new every day.
At least the hens give the stags something to focus on, other than starting fights with the locals after they’ve been asked to stop pissing in their empty pint glasses. If you do want to engage with your fellow countrymen, then you might want to join their sweepstake on who is going to be the first stag to shag the bride-to-be. Lucky girl.
I have now put watching Walsall F.C. on my bucket-list, it sounds like a wonderful experience, but it might be just as exciting to go to Prague during the ice-hockey season. It is their national sport, and I would imagine games are fairly lively with plenty of blood-letting. The old soviet ice-hockey stadium is interesting….
….as too is the nearby Industrial Palace. It’s currently a building site as they are renovating it. Even in its undressed state it a beautiful art-nouveau version of the UK’s long-gone Crystal Palace.
The Trade Palace, another leftover from soviet times, is now an art gallery and somewhat similar to London’s Tate Modern. Prague’s main artistic legacy, however, is art nouveau, and the stand-out artist of the period was the Czech Republic’s very own Alphonse Mucha. They are very proud of him, and rightly so. He’s the one that did all those posters of alluring ladies with their wispy gowns and sinuous limbs.
One of the permanent works that Mucha left in Prague was the decoration of the Mayor’s Parlour in the art-nouveau Metropolitan House. Well worth the few quid for a guided tour, and you won’t get to see it otherwise.
You could also go take a look at the second-most ugliest building in the world. This is the old soviet television tower which has a boutique hotel, restaurant and viewing platforms clamped on to it. To add insult to injury, they then had an artist create baby-sculptures to crawl up it. The locals hate it, but I quite liked it.
The ugliest building in the world, by the way, is allegedly the Pompidou Centre in Paris. I quite like that one too.
Prague’s public transport system is one of the best in the world. At around £3 for a day-ticket there’s nothing to stop you whizzing hither and thither by tram and tube to discover hidden nooks and crannies, which can all be punctuated by cheap beer stops.
The Tram Number 22 will take you the length and breadth of the city. Here’s one of the jump-offs on the 22 tram, and one of the most moving commemorations I’ve ever seen.
It’s to all those that had their lives destroyed under the communist regime.
The best thing about Prague, though, is the people. They really are very nice, once you are out of the touristy town centre. Fortunately they mostly speak English. The Czech language is a law unto itself, and best not even attempted. It bears little relation to any other language, and the only similarity is to the gibberish spouted by some poor soul undergoing an exorcism.
Maybe the only word you should try is ‘thank-you’ which is ‘Dekuji’, pronounced ‘Deck-oo–ie’. See what I mean, it’s nothing like ‘Merci’, ‘Gracias’ or even ‘Danke’…other than beginning with a ‘D’.
One thing to be wary of in Prague, should you see it wandering around, is The Golem. This is a murderous creature created out of clay by a 16th century Prague rabbi.
The Golem was intended to protect the persecuted Jews but it got out of hand…as man-made monsters inevitably do…and it went on a killing spree. So if you are currently assembling body-parts in your shed and eagerly awaiting the next electrical storm, I’d find some gardening to do instead. Creating lifeforms never ends well, especially when they become teenagers.
I would thoroughly recommend Prague’s ‘Jazz Republic’ jazz club for an excellent night out, but I did find a Golem lurking in their smoking room bumming ciggies off tourists. I reported it to the management, but they said he has a bit of a thing for Miles Davis tunes and he’d only dismembered a few customers this year.
p.s. As you can tell I’ve just discovered the ’rounded picture’ feature in WordPress, and I’ve always believed that if a thing is worth doing, then its worth doing to excess.