Nine months in Prague


First things first, I study 'English studies' (English Philology) but, rather than going to the UK or Ireland, I decided to go to Prague.

I was in Prague for my year abroad as part of my course, and I just fell in love with the city. In fact, when I visited it way back when, its well-known university attracted me, and I knew in a few years it would be, for a few months at least, my university: the Univerzita Karlova v Praze or Charles University. So, when they gave us the list of places available for the Erasmus year abroad and this uni was on it, something told me I had to return to Prague again, this time not for just a few days...

And now for the serious business, the stuff that will help you if you ever find yourself over there.

Prague

The Good (+)

The city is simple stunning. You won't get bored of it, no matter how many times you take a stroll through it, seriously. Here are some of the most famous/pretty places to go.

  • Staroměstské náměstí: Old Town Sqaure. The clock, Church of Our Lady before Týn, Jan Hus statue and one of the St. Nicholas churches are all here. Also, at Christmas and Easter they run a little market with stalls of souvenirs and typical Czech food (Trdelník, Langoš, mulled wine, etc. )
  • Václavské náměstí: Wenceslao Square. Perhaps the most eye catching part of this 'square' (I don't really see it as a square, but oh well) is the Národní Muzeum/National Museum, which you'll find at the end of the square, but incidentally, it's been closed for a year now. Besides the museum, the street is full of familiar shops (H&M, M&S, Calzedonia, Bata, etc. ) and tourist trapping restaurants, that aren't actually any good.
  • Na Příkopě: this literally means 'in the moat' as it used to be the water barrier that separated and defended the walled city. There's more shops (Zara, H&M, New Yorker, etc. ) and restaurants here, and it stretches from Wenceslao Square to The Republic's Square.
  • Náměstí Republiky: The Republic's Square, named as such as it was here, in the art-noveau City Hall, where they signed for the independence of the country. You'll also find one of the more famous shopping centres here, Palladium.
  • Malá Strana: literally meaning 'little side'. It's not a great place to eat, or to spend any money in general really. It's probably the most expensive part of the city. Even so, it's a really stunning looking part that you have to visit.
  • Petřínská rozhledna: The Petřín Tower. It''s also known as 'the little Eiffel Tower of Prague', and you'll find it in Malá Strana I mentioned above. Although personally I think you can get better views from other points in the city, it's worth going up the tower and spending a bit of time exploring nearby. You can either climb the tower yourself or take the chairlift, which luckily enough, is actually considered part of the city's public transport, so if you have a travel pass, you don't have to pay anything extra to use it.
  • Letenské sady: Letná Park. One of the biggest and most famous parks in the city. If you want a really nice view of the city, explore this park and you'll eventually get one. I strongly recommend you visit, especially when it's nice weather, it has a really nice beer garden and there are loads of concerts throughout the year.
  • Náměstí Míru: literally 'Square of Peace'. Here you can find another well know church and some pretty streets that surround the square, with some quaint little cafes to boot.
  • Pražský hrad: Prague Castle. One of the places that least caught my eye and one of the most touristy too. Although I've called it 'Castle', 'hrad' literally means fortress, hence why it doesn't look like your typical castle. You'll also find St. Vitus Cathedral here, as well as the golden road (Zlatá ulička) among some other attractions/landmarks.
  • Josefov: the Jewish neighbourhood. In this part of the city there are loads of synagogues (the one most worth visiting is the Spanish Synagogue or Španělská Synagoga) and, of course, here is where you'll find the city's famous Old Jewish Cemetery, also worth a visit.
  • Karlův most: Charles Bridge. The oldest bridge in the city that crosses over the Vltava (Moldova River) and joins together the old part of the city (Staré Město) with Malá Strana. It's worth having a break here and listening to the music they play.
  • Vyšehrad: a great place to go for a walk now and then. Many of the country's famous artist (like the musician Antonín Dvořák) are buried in the Vyšehrad cemetery.

The Bad (-)

It's full of tourists, as well as pickpockets and other petty criminals that usually target the more touristy areas and public transport (be very careful, always keep an eye out, especially on the tram and at night). They should create a new Olympic event: dodging tourists when you're in a rush.

The Czech people and their language

The Good (+)

The Czechs have a heart of gold, something always on show: you very rarely see an older person standing on public transport. And if you do see it, you've already taken too long to offer your seat. They are also big fans of the 'let people out before you go in' philosophy. They do it for everything, just in the street or in a shop. They treat you well and make you smile. They know that their language is difficult and in reality not that useful to learn as there aren't many people that speak it. Still, I think it's a really interesting language. Try and learn just the basics at least, any language is worth learning, studying, understanding and eventually speaking.

The Bad (-)

I guess you will have read that Czechs aren't, for the most part, the most friendly, hospitable or polite people. I guess in most cases that applies. Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to meet many Czech people during my stay in Prague. You'll rarely see anyone come to help if you have a problem either, at uni or just out and about. Of course, like I've already said, there are exceptions and they usually come in the form of students or other people that have come over from abroad, not necessarily Erasmus, and they are usually more open to helping out their compatriots. Oh yeah, they also drive like maniacs.

Prices

Here's a list of general prices, in coronas and in euros.

  • Travelcard for 3 months with student discount: 720Kč / 28€
  • Kelloggs Cereal: 60Kč / 2. 30€.
  • Loaf of sliced bread: 16Kč / 0. 60€
  • Dove Shampoo: 76Kč / 3€.
  • Milk: 20Kč / 0. 70€.
  • Apples: 36Kč/kg / 1. 50€/kg.
  • 500ml Beer (in the city centre): 30Kč / 1. 20€.
  • Absolut Vodka 700ml: 300Kč / 12€.
  • 3 chicken breasts: 110Kč / 4. 30€.
  • Spanish Olive Oil: 100Kč / 4. 00€.

Food in general is usually cheaper than in Spain, whilst clothes are about the same if not a bit more expensive (Zara is much more expensive for example). As you can see though, the travel pass is really cheap compared to places like Barcelona (where a 10 journey travel pass costs 9. 25€).

Public Transport

Efficient, on time and cheap. Like I said, the 3 month travel pass with student discount (you need an ISIC university card to get it) is only 30 euros. With this pass you can use the tram, metro, bus, train and funicular for the Petrin Tower. Also, having the pass means you don't ever have to worry about a ticket to get on or off. Be careful if you try and get a free ride, if you get caught it will cost you about 40€. Especially if you're younger, go in groups and they won't realise you're foreign.

Gastronomy

Czech food (and in general this whole part of Europe) is hearty and revolves around meat, soup and potatoes. Here are some of the local dishes you should try.

  • Guláš: Hungarian origen, it's made up of beef, onion, pepper and chilli. Goulash comes from this dish.
  • Soup served in bread: usually goulash soup, with garlic and potatoes. They put it directly inside the bread, as if it was a bowl, and hey presto, you've got a cheap, but very filling dinner.
  • Knedlíky: simply dumplings. It can be made from flour, potatoes, bread you can use to fill meat, vegetables, fish or even something sweet.
  • Deep-Fried Cheese: you'll be lucky enough/unlucky enough to find this if you spend too much time in the halls diners. I'll never understand why they have a dish that is just pure cholesterol...

Recommended Places

To eat

  1. La Casa Blů: hispanic-american restaurant. I recommend the chicken and nachos with cheese!
  2. Smíchovský radniční sklípek: my favourite place for Czech food. Here I recommend the goulash soup, they bring it in a bowl with Czech bread (delicious) to dip.
  3. Hany Bany: a nice atmosphere next to the faculty of arts. There's Czech food, burgers... and the cappuccino is really good!
  4. Pizzeria Pavaon: Italian restaurant with amazing lasagna!
  5. Hole-in-one: I recommend this place especially to those people staying in the Hostivař halls as it's only a 5 minute walk. It's an Irish restaurant but they have a bit of everything and it's all really good.

To grab a coffee or bite to eat

  1. Café Louvre: at first glance it might seem like a really posh place, but actually the prices are pretty standard. Everything I've had there is really good!
  2. Standard Café
  3. Ovocný Světozor: chain of bakeries where you can grab pastries, ice cream, milkshakes, waffles, coffee, etc... all at a good price.
  4. Kavarna Róza K. : cafe decorated with antique furniture. I was in love with their Apple Strudel with cream.

To go out

  1. Vagon: for me, the best place in Prague. You'd like it too if you like classic rock music, cheap beer and den-like clubs. You've got to go at least once.
  2. Red Room: a great place to grab a few beers and listen to live music.
  3. U Sudu: another great place to grab a beer, with a few different rooms each with their own style of music playing.

Other decent places to go out are Harleys and James Dean if you like rock and mainstream music. Other mainstream bars are Sasazu and Nebe, but I can't really say much about them as I never really went.



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