- Prague, Czechia
- 25,352 miles flown + 775 miles driven
- 50°05′N 14°25′E
- Temp: 33 deg + first snow of the trip!
- 6 books read, 9 massages + 2 hot stone + 1 thermal baths in the books
- Day 37-40
Prague is yet another country that was occupied by the Russian communists post-WWII, yet it feels different from Budapest or Belgrade. Prague somehow escaped bombing during the war, so its old and beautiful red-roofed, pastel-faced buildings remain standing. It is a glorious city to get lost in as any random street offers charming cobblestones, hidden cafes, and instagramable moments. I can’t tell you how many pictures I took of streets. It was a lot. I promise to edit before I show you my photos, but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if I don’t. If you can ignore the far more pervasive souvenir shops here, Prague is nearly perfect.
I strapped on my boots (a necessary wandering pal on these wobbly streets) and set out to visit many of its landmarks, but also with the intention of just getting lost, turning when the mood moved me. Here’s where my boots took me…
I mean really, where else have you visited that you get this excited about sidewalks? I just kept walking simply because of the desire to discover another artful pattern leading the way. Any city that is just as beautiful below your feet gets bonus points.
The Churches and their Windows
Turns out windows can be just as exciting as sidewalks. If you’re coming to Prague, then you’re most certainly visiting the enormous castle complex, which houses the impressive St. Vitus Cathedral. It’s big and imposing and lavish with details, just the way the Catholics like to do it.
The Synagogues and their Windows
If you’re coming to Prague and you’re visiting the Castle complex, then hopefully you’re also visiting the Jewish Quarter. The history of Jewish persecution in Prague dates back far before WWII. During the 12th century the Pope (thanks Pope) declared that Jews and Christians should not live together and this area was walled in creating one of the biggest ghettos Europe. There is another long and complicated history since then of killing and freeing and killing again that is really worth knowing about. Admittedly, I did not. Only 10,000 of the 120,000 Jews living in this area survived the Holocaust and even fewer continue to live here today. Despite the small number, there is no shortage of old and beautiful synagogues to visit and history to absorb. One of the most impactful visuals is a visit to the Old Jewish Cemetery outside the Pinkas Synagogue. A stone path leads you through 12,000 old and wonky tombstones dating as far back as 1439, where this was the only burial ground for Jews in all of Prague for over 300 years. Over 100,000 are buried here and given the limited space, that means the dead are buried one on top of another, sometimes 12 deep.
Cures for Low Blood Sugar
Prague is considerably colder than where I’ve been previously. Yeah, I know, it’s winter and my whole plan was purposely called Going Cold. But I’ve been quite lucky with global warming up until this point. But now even gloves, hats, hiking boots and charming streets won’t keep you warm through all the wanderlusting. When I needed a break, three things hit the spot. 1) Hot chocolate, which was just that–pure 100% melted chocolate (hi mom!) 2) Overpriced rotisserie Prague ham, bought in the middle of the tourist mecca, Old Town Square. This thing was a DELICIOUS hunk of smoky, hot, porky goodness, hacked off the bone with a carving knife and worth every overpriced koruna. They sell it by the gram, so if you find this stand right in the middle of the square, do the math and tell them how much you want by what you’re willing to pay. Bonus: listen to serenading bands while you cut away at your crispy-skinned pork booty. 3) Coffee. Always coffee. There are a million coffee stands every 5 feet, down every street and around every corner. But my calling for coffee came just as I was standing outside the Municipal House, known for its Art Nouveau architecture. The cafe inside mirrors the art nouveau facade of the building and provides the perfect place for a rest and to warm your frigid limbs.
And today, when I needed a break. A real break. A day with no wanderlusting, I found a local cafe and spent the day sitting, drinking beer, sipping coffee and eating strudel, all simultaneously. People came and went, locals mainly, but there were periods where I had the place to myself. Their playlist rotated between piano concertos, easy listening and, oddly, still Christmas tunes. And as I sit here right now, blogging to you beautiful people, Jeepers Creepers is piping through the speakers. [insert shoulder shrug].
The Monastery and its Beer
There’s a monastery about a 2 minute walk from my hotel, up on a hill and out of the fray. Most come to visit and see the beautiful book collection, but these monks still brew their own beer and make wine, so naturally I went for different reasons: Unfiltered IPA and Dark Lager. Oh, and roast goose leg. Uh huh.
All of this would be enough of a reason to visit, but you throw in a few postcard-worthy vistas and you’re destined never to leave. All of this comes with more tourists, but follow my lead and come in February during the off-season and you’re likely to have a hotel to yourself (I did) and never wait in a single line. Until next time, Prague.