PRAGUE: BEAUTIFUL AND CROWDED AND PERFECT AND CRAZY
A long long time ago, in a lifetime that seems very far away, Caitlin and I visited Prague. We started the trip with friends in London, which ruled. There’s something so fun about being with cool people in faraway places and we had so much fun. From London, we decided to visit the good old Czech Republic, of which we knew almost nothing, just the way we like it.
I had read somewhere (or at least thought I read somewhere) that Prague was a big vacation spot for Europeans, and I had seen some cool pics of the Charles Bridge and that was pretty much all I needed. Seriously, I/we pretty much decide on places to go based on random photographs or snippets of conversation with random people…and off to Prague we flew.
Since this was like 2016 or something, long before Jetset Wanderlife was a lightning bolt in my fingers and a synapse in my brain, we landed in Prague. I don’t remember much, but here goes:
The first thing I remember is how Eastern and Soviet it felt. Yeah, maybe it wasn’t or isn’t, but it was the most Soviet place we’d seen. We couldn’t read the writing and hence couldn’t take the tram. We did manage the bus from the airport to our hotel, and our host there was really helpful. He recommended some restaurant around the corner and off we went. Also, our hotel had a cool view of an intersection of a couple semi-busy streets which was fun.
The restaurant he recommended was traditional Czech food, which included duck (meh), pork (eh), and what they called sour cabbage, which was basically really good sauerkraut and it was awesome. Plus, we had no idea what Czech Korunas were worth, so we didn’t know if it was expensive or not. Good stuff.
I also remember going into this massive grocery store downtown (my obsession), and buying a ton of pastries and eating them in a park. So good. And the lady who served them, who spoke no English, and I, who speak no Czech, couldn’t communicate so I just pointed. She had a very sad and Slavic face and seemed really miserable, but maybe I’m projecting.
Prague ruled. I’ll just say that. It is such a gorgeous old city which so much…I dunno, character? Just cool statues and fountains and it’s just gorgeous. Luckily, right before we went, a brother of a friend (shoutout Gridleys) had been there and told us the astronomical???? Clock was cool. What clock? No idea, but some stranger said it was cool so we were sold. And it was!
No seriously, the clock is so cool. A massive crowd waits around for it to go off, and yeah, it’s just a giant clock, but it has a SKELETON ringing it! I wasn’t stoked to see it nor to wait in a big crowd but I really enjoyed it. We happened upon it going off again another time and we loved it. You just kinda have to do it if you’re there. It’s old and famous and bloody cool.
Prague castle is gorgeous and ominous looking. We walked up to it but didn’t go in, kinda felt like I’d seen enough castles in my day, who knows if it was worth it to go in? We walked around and just enjoyed the view from above the city. So pretty with the swans on the river.
But alas, I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m a big fan of first impressions. Not personally, for I have made many poor ones and don’t care much. But for experiences, man! I’m like Dorian Gray, always looking for the new sensation (in moderation within my standards, of course). I still remember the feeling of seeing the Colosseum for the first time. Walking into the David’s room in Florence was a spiritual experience for me, literally breathtaking. One of the most powerful experiences of my life. Which brings us to the Charles Bridge.
I’d seen some cool pics of the bridge, but I mean, it’s just a bridge, right? I need to stop underestimating things, but maybe it’s a good thing because my mind has been blown like 8,000 times. Anyways, it was really crowded in Prague. Like, really crowded. And those skinny Euro streets in the summer August heat and humidity can get very uncomfortable. We were headed for the bridge, having no real clue where it might be, and suddenly we turned a corner and BOOOOOOOM. That cool creepy black bridge with all the amazing statues…it’s just dope. It’s like a silhouette floating above the river, all black. It was full of pedestrians and street vendors and such, but just seeing the statues was really cool. It kinda reminded me of those statues on top of the Vatican, super cool and artistic but creepy too.
Plus, with the castle up ahead and the river down below, it’s just surreal. So surreal. And seeing some rando wearing a Karl Malone jersey just solidified the goodness. The bridge alone made Prague worth visiting.
Something else worth visiting? Kutna Hora. See, back in the day (shoutout 2004) when I was in New Zealand preaching the good word, someone sent me a postcard from Europe. I want to say it was Bulgaria but I truly have no idea. It had a ton of human skulls on the walls of a castle or something, and I’d never seen anything so interesting/morbid. Naturally, I filed it away in my “do this someday maybe possibly if I ever become cool enough to leave Utah” part of my brain and that was that.
So when we saw a manual for Kutna Hora ossuary we knew we had to go. It was actually a cold, gray, rainy morning (stereotypical scary story, no?) when we ran to catch some random van filled with tourists to drive out to the little town. It was actually quite a beautiful countryside and was fun to pass through cities and towns. Kutna Hora is creepy and awesome, and it was the first time I’d ever seen human bones (besides some ripoff in Rome when the Capuchin Monk Crypt was closed and I paid like 5 Euros for some other church’s “crypt” which had like one skull). Anyways, I’ve already pontificated on this topic when I wrote about the Paris Catacombs but it’s quite startling to see mortality in such stark terms. It’s actually a bit scary, although the delightful patterns of skulls and femurs makes it a bit less so.
Anyways, I can’t really think of a word to describe it because awesome seems to have a positive connotation and it was actually somber and quiet and respectful but it was good. I don’t know what’s the right word but we enjoyed it immensely.
One thing that I noticed is while we had some free time in Kutna Hora after the ossuary, we wandered around some shops and got food and saw these kids sitting on a bench in the town square (if you can call it that), smoking cigarettes. They seriously couldn’t have been older than 14, and it made me wonder what/if there are smoking laws there. I know lots of Euros smoke but it was sad to see.
Welp…that’s about it for my memories of Prague. It’s dope and you should go.
Oh wait, just remembered the Lennon Wall! It’s dope! Caitlin saw it online and wanted to go, and I was less than stoked about it. After all, while his music is amazing, John Lennon was not a good person and his being celebrated in the age of empowerment is…odd. But alas, she insisted, and I’m so glad.
It’s just a bohemian place where I felt very much at home. The wall itself is cool, just covered in graffiti and faux-inspirational quotes (“Be the change you want to see in the world” “Why aren’t U smiling?” etc) and a bunch of Lennon faces and Beatles lyrics. It’s actually a lot like the Pie Pizzeria in SLC where the wall has tags all over dating back to who knows when. But it was a chill atmosphere, people jamming on guitars and reading and just enjoying Prague. Plus, some genius was charging extortion-level prices to buy paint to tag the wall, which we didn’t do. But the photos of the wall I do have adorn my debit card and people often ask about it. Worth a visit IMHO.