My Prague Blog

"Prague never lets you go . . . this dear little mother has sharp claws" 
–Franz Kafka (a culturally influential German-language novelist. Contemporary critics and
 academics regard Kafka as one of the best writers of the 20th century)

This quote made me laugh because we had such an interesting experience in Prague, and I supposed that experiences give us things to write and talk about. Perhaps the easiest way to explain my love/dislike relationship with Prague is to create a list of loves/dislikes.

Things we LOVED about Prague:
- The beauty of the city and the fascinating architecture that surprises you around every corner. We are in front of the famous Astronomical Clock.

- Our adorable and affordable accommodation at Hotel Neruda. This is our hotel pictured above. Book online for the best rate, because if you pay them directly, they charge 4x what we paid online.

- Ancient cobble-stoned streets made for horses and feet rather than modern day cars and busses.

On Charles Bridge with Prague Castle behind me.

- The biggest castle in the world - Prague Castle (on the hill behind me).

- You can find great, cheap pizza EVERYWHERE.

- Even with a language barrier, any fellow tourist is happy to take a picture for you. You just have to make all sorts of crazy hand gestures and offer him/her your camera. They always understand what you want. (We are in front of Prague Castle.)

- You never know who you will meet . . . For instance, we met a sweet couple from Portland, Oregon one evening and the cast of the National Opera the next evening.

  • Things We Learned in Prague                                                                            
  •  The currency exchange offices do not close on the weekends.
  • Parking is really expensive, so try to find a great deal before you get to Prague.
  • Read restaurant reviews rather than blindly choosing a place to eat. Trust me!
  • The “best view” in town may not necessarily offer the “best value” in town.
  • May wanna ask if you will be charged for the bread (or the napkin) on your table.
  • Don't use Euros and ALWAYS count your change
  • Pack your own water bottles everywhere you go. (Cause when you jump as much as we do, you get tired and really thirsty.)
  • Sometimes you'll be misunderstood. . . 

Our “Likes” are all fairly self-explanatory, but some of our “dislikes” deserve a little explaining. We are not at all complaining or being difficult American travelers, quite the contrary. I think we are some of the easiest people to please, but some of our experiences in Prague left us a little hesitant to deem her one of our favorite European cites. I wish that we had read a blog like this before visiting Prague; perhaps we may have been a little more prepared for the people we met. So here is what we learned in a little more detail:
- The currency exchange offices do not close on the weekends.
We rolled our suitcases into the hotel lobby around 3pm on Saturday, and immediately asked if the hotel accepted Euros or only Czech Crowns. The sign on the desk claimed they accepted payment in Euros, but the woman clearly told us that we HAD to pay for parking in Crowns. “Ohhh,” she casually added, “You will want to just change your money here with me as all of the banks are closed and they will not be open over the weekend. It’s just how Prague is.” We handed her money without thinking twice, she charged us a 6% commission, we lost $15 in the exchange, and upon walking outside realized that on every corner an exchange office offered a better exchange rate and 0% commission. Shame on us for being so naive and trusting. Frustrating.
- Parking is really expensive, so try to find a great deal before you get to Prague.
Now, I realize that Prague is a huge tourist city, and we were staying a stone’s throw from Prague Castle, but I am certain there are other places we could have parked for less than $35 a day. To make matters worse, we parked in someone’s back yard. A terrifying old man with one eye, a peg leg, and a nasty attitude yelled at us in Czech for about 10 minutes while we tried to "perfectly" park our car behind his home/bar/cafe/whatever. The good news is that the car was safe and we did retrieve it in one piece two days and $70 later. My advice would be, try to find an actual parking garage if you drive into Prague, or just fly. A taxi to and from the airport was the same price as parking a car for two days, so if you stay longer than two days, parking a car may break the bank.
- Read restaurant reviews rather than blindly choosing a place to eat.

- The “best view” in town may not necessarily offer the “best value” in town.
After our terrifying parking experience, all we wanted was a nice dinner in a very romantic city. We walked all around Prague and peeked into loads of restaurants. Chris told me to pick whatever I wanted, and as we crossed the Charles Bridge, I saw the place I wanted to enjoy for dinner. It was called “Certovka Restaurant” and their quaint patio looked back on the bridge. It seemed like a perfect place to enjoy the sunset and a good meal after a long day. I am a sucker for ambiance and a view and this time I fell straight into a tourist trap.
The waiter quickly took my order without so much as a smile, and as Chris proceeded to order his traditional steak meal, the waiter cut him off with a hurried, “yes, yes, and you will want to order the dumplings on the back of the menu as well to go with that steak. Okay, I will get that for you.” I should have realized then and there that they were taking us for a ride. Chris told him that he did not need that second meal, and only wanted to order the steak. The meals came, and Chris’ $15 meal was not even the size of an appetizer, it was about 2oz of steak in a thin soup with a little bit of cream cheese on the side. I gave him half of my meal and he used the stale bread (that had been sitting on our table before we sat down) to add a little something extra to his hungry tummy.
Always ask if you will be charged for the bread (or the napkin) on your table at dinner.
Needless to say, we were less than satisfied, and I was so bummed out because the sun had set, the city lights were kissing the water, and I had hardly noticed. When the bill came, there were two mystery charges and a hand written tip added to the bill. When I asked the server about the mystery changes, he grabbed a menu and pointed his fat finger at some small text on the back of the page. “That is for the (stale, old) bread that was sitting on your table.” At that point, I was so frustrated that we just paid and left. I told my dad about this experience, and he just laughed, “Ohhhh honey, once when I was in Europe, I was charged for my napkin. So I took the napkin, and the table-clothe and started walking out the door. I told the server that since I had paid for them, I wanted to keep them as souveniers.” I sort of wish my dad had been with us at the restaurant in Prague

Pack your own water bottles everywhere you go.

This menu shows the price of water compared to the price of beer (for instance). It would have cost $15 for a large bottle of water, and the same amount of beer only cost about $5. I drink loads of water, and Europeans always think I am a little crazy when I just ask for a glass of tap water. At this particular pizza joint, they were not "allowed" to serve tap water. . . .

Don’t use Euros, and always count your change.

We had walked all day, and only had beer at lunch, so needless to say, come 3pm, I was parched! All I wanted was a bottle of water. I found a vendor selling water for $1.50, and she said she would take Euros and give me change in Crowns. Great! I handed her my 5 Euros, and she handed me a water bottle and $2 worth of Czech Crowns. I must have argued with the woman for ten minutes begging her to return my Euros and I would pay her with the few Crowns that I had left in my purse. She was so rude and claimed (in Russian - luckily I understood)that she "was not the bank, and could take what she wanted to cover the conversion charge." In the end, I snagged a second water bottle and walked away. It is not the loving thing to do, and my mother would have died, but my napkin-nabbing father would have patted me on the back.

Sometimes you will just be misunderstood, even when you are trying to be helpful and kind.

After our Prague trip, Chris and I realized how important PEOPLE are to us. People make or break any city for the McCoy's. Period. It is so disheartening when you try to be as kind as possible, and people are nothing but rude in return. I choose to believe that we just ran into people who were all having a bad day. Our experience with a lot of the people we met in Prague made us appreciate Serbia even more. . . We are now happier than ever that we call Serbia home.

Just a few more pictures of our trip.

Near Prague Castle looking out over the city. 

Chris on Charles Bridge, Prague

They say that if you touch the gold dog on this statue, you will come back to Prague. People lined up to touch and get a picture in this location.

St. Wenceslas Square = Shopping in Prague!

A memorial to the three Czech hockey players that died when the Russian plane crashed. This was so sad.

I think I have made known my love of traveling, but for the first time in my life, I find that I miss just . . . "being." I shock myself simply typing those words! We've been living in Serbia for two months now, but in all actuality, we have only physically been IN Serbia for a month.

Every time we come back, I forget half of the Serbian that I had worked so hard to learn, and I feel like I'm back to square one. Maybe once I get a handle of the language, it will be easier to come and go so frequently, and maybe I am just not done exploring and learning about my new Serbian home. Although Chris is traveling two more times this month, I am staying in Serbia, and I am happy about it.