Magellan’s Solo Trip Report to Prague
Subtitle: How I Froze My Ass Off in the Czech Republic
Hi everyone: Just got back from my solo trip to Prague (thanks to all who gave me suggestions). I want to warn you in advance that my grammar is shot in this posting. The frostbite is now healing, but two of my fingers are still frozen solid. It makes it a little challenging to type this way, so please cut me some slack. Also required: some serious slack-cutting from those of you who currently reside in cold climates. I’m a wuss: I’m not used to truly cold weather, seeing as how I was born and raised in California where we are weaned on sunshine. Yeah, I lived in Chicago for two years, but I also LEFT Chicago to come back to the west coast, because I just couldn’t take it. Thus setting the stage for my trip to Prague….
NUTSHELL VERSION: I’m a solo mid 30’s female, and I rented an apartment in Prague for 7 days, and then thawed out in London for 3 days afterwards (where 50 degrees seemed like the tropics after Prague). My goal was to get a real feel for Prague by exploring it in depth, to see how it might feel to actually live there, and to just spend some time wandering around. I also wanted this to be a “slow travel” trip where I focused on Prague alone, rather than running off on a zillion side trips during my week there. In addition, I tried to do things a little bit differently due to my new health kick. In other words, I got plenty of rest, ate (relatively) healthy food, stayed in at night, and avoided pubs and clubs. This was made easier by the fact that this was my first “winter” trip to a cold climate. My suitcase was double its normal size in order to accommodate sweaters, scarves, and coats, which actually made “slow” travel mandatory – not only because I could barely carry my luggage, but also because I couldn’t move very fast while wearing no less than 147 layers of clothing.
GUIDEBOOKS: Used my usual fare: Rick Steve’s “Prague & the Czech Republic 2007” and Lonely Planet’s “Prague.” Also used the Lonely Planet Czech phrasebook. Lonely Planet had cooler quirky things to see and do, such as the “Kafka Walk” and the “Weird Art” section. Lonely Planet also had better maps. Rick Steves was better organized and was more helpful for transportation with metro and tram. Both had good recommendations on food and restaurants, and on entertainment. I liked Lonely Planet a bit more because the place names in the guidebook were in listed in Czech, (and in Prague, the place names are in Czech – not English). When I used the Rick Steves book, he mostly uses the English names (with Czech names in little print) which I found irritating (e.g. I’d be looking for the English name of a place, when on the street it was only in Czech, so I found myself constantly having to refer to the guidebook to find out where the heck I was. Soon, I just tossed the guidebook and used the map provided by the very helpful TI center just off Old Town Square).
FLIGHT: Flew my usual British Airways to/from Prague via Heathrow. Puttered around Heathrow during a 4 hour layover. Glad for the longer layover, because last time I barely made my connecting flight. British Airways was great as always. Since I knew what to expect with the “one bag only carry on rule,” going through security was a breeze.
ACCOMODATIONS: The best decision I ever made in my travels was this one: to rent an apartment for a week at Masna Residence http://www.masna-apartment-house.cz/, which is part of Prague City Apartments www.prague-city-apartments.cz Masna Residence was a GREAT place to stay. I had a huge studio that could have easily fit two people. The apartment building was located two blocks from Old Town. Directly across the street was a little restaurant/internet café called Bohemia Bagel, which saved my sanity on numerous occasions because of its salads, internet connection, and smoke-free environment (one of the few smoke-free havens in Prague). My studio was very spacious with high ceilings and a HUGE bathroom. If you like watching TV to relax at nice, it had a nice big flat screen TV, but it only showed Czech-language programs, (which actually proved to be very entertaining). There was a clock on the microwave and on the TV, but no actual alarm clock, so you might want to bring your own if you stay there. I figured out how to set up the alarm clock on the TV, but the office also provided wake-up calls. Also: apartment had a washing machine, a heated drying rack, microwave, stove, small fridge, coffee maker, and electric kettle, and a safe. Floors were hard-wood, so I could hear the upstairs and downstairs neighbors, but most people are gone most of the time anyway. Would recommend an apartment on the 3rd floor or higher (yes, there’s an elevator) due to street noise and noise from entry way. Fabulous place to stay - I would highly recommend it.
NOTE ON BOOKING: If you book Masna Residence on their web site, be VERY careful when you go to reserve the apartment. I accidentally hit the wrong button, and ended up paying for my entire stay in advance: that was more than $700, five whole months before I even took the trip. After numerous frantic emails to Prague City Apartments (bless them for their patience!), they assured me that many people choose to pay in advance - and that if I canceled prior to my arrival date, I would receive a full refund. Nevertheless, it gave me a bad case of nerves knowing I had shelled out $700 to a place I’d never seen. Also, I wished I would have a waited just a bit before booking the apartment. When I booked my studio, it was 78 euros a night. By the time November rolled around, the rooms were down to 64 euros a night – but they were also almost completely booked. In the long run, it was TOTALLY worth the money that I paid, but it would have been nice had it been a bit lower in price.
SHUTTLE SERVICE: One of the best things about Masna Residence is that has a “shuttle service” to and from the airport, which is free if you stay there for a week or more (and it’s really cheap if you’re staying less than a week). It was really wonderful having someone pick me up and take me to the airport with my heavy luggage. When I’m tired, I don’t want to take public transportation. So I was really, really happy when they told me about the service.
Of course, when the “shuttle” service picked me up the airport, at first it seemed a little bit sketchy. When I emerged from the “arrivals” section of the airport, there was a man with a sign that had what APPEARED to be my name, but it was a rather chopped up version of it. I pointed at the sign, and smiled and said, “Masna Residence?” He nodded, took my suitcase, and said, “You come with me.” We got into a tiny little car and then we sped off through the Czech suburbs in 30 minutes of total silence. (Caveat: When I say, “in total silence” I mean that there was no speaking. There was, however, some serious base thumping in the background from the odd “oldies” radio station he was playing - which featured both Snoop Dogg and Karen Carpenter in the same 30 minute block). Throughout the ride, I kept thinking about that sign...maybe it WASN’T my name!!! Maybe I had actually gotten into the wrong car and was being taken off to some mail-order bride service, never to be heard from again!!! (Yes, I flatter myself – my favorite pastime). But when we saw the lights of central Prague, all of a sudden the driver started pointing out landmarks, and I breathed a sigh of relief. The driver was really sweet! He also carried my bags to the door of the apartment office. I felt like a jerk. The driver was totally professional, and the car was nice, new and clean. If you use this service, it’s a wonderful service and beats the hell out of taking the metro or a cab. Just know what to expect. I used the same service on my way back to the airport to London, and the (same) sweet driver even gave me a smile and said, “It was nice to meet you. Thank you for visiting Prague.” I gave him a nice tip…you know, ‘cause of how I was thinking my jerky thoughts on the ride in.
LANGUAGE: I studied Czech for 5 months prior to my trip using mainly the Pimsleur method. I can’t tell you how helpful this was for me. Many of the Czech people I spoke with got an absolute kick out of the fact that I had taken time to learn the basics of their language and I was complimented on my Czech no less than 7 times. Of course, my first attempt didn’t go so well: on my first night in Prague, a Czech man asked me for directions. I meant to say, “Sorry, I’m not Czech.” But being mightily jetlagged, I mumbled, “I’m sorry that you are not a Czech (woman).” He not sagely, and said in Czech, “Ah, yes. I understand. I’m sorry too.”
For the Czech people, their culture and language seem to mean a great deal to them - especially in light of fairly recent historical events - and it seemed to be taken as a sign of respect that others outside their culture would take the time to try to learn the language. Anyway, their delight was really gratifying.
Note: While most people in the city center spoke English (where many university students work) once I ventured outside of the city center, many people did NOT speak English, or knew only a couple of words. So it was very helpful to be able to speak at least a few words of Czech.
HOW THIS TRIP WAS DIFFERENT FROM MY USUAL FARE.
I was actually sober the entire time! (Yes, I was sad about this part too)
Ah, a watershed moment, indeed. Every time I travel to Europe, I use it as an excuse to party like a rock star. Yes, it’s incredibly fun, but inevitably I end up with bronchitis or tonsillitis or at the very least a terrible cold, which then usually knocks me out for the next three weeks afterward. I’m getting way too old for this type of crap. This time, instead of dancing until 5am, I decided to travel the “healthy” way and to not party or go to clubs, to eat more fruits and vegetables (hence renting an apartment with a kitchen), to avoid places with cigarette smoke (which was almost impossible in Prague, where I think even the dogs smoke), and to not completely exhaust myself running around for 12 hours a day.
Yeah, so I got a LOT of rest. Maybe a little too much. I actually took NAPS on this trip. For some reason, I simply could not adjust to the time change. I think it was because it was winter, and I was constantly shivering from the cold. I found some strange primal instinct taking over and wanting me to curl up under the covers each afternoon to hibernate – right in the middle of the damn day! Napping on a European vacation?!!!? The end times are here!
Fortunately, some deeply buried survival instinct kicked in, and I remembered my sweet grandma telling me how to dress in Chicago (“Wear a shirt with SLEEVES dumb ass!” Ah, dear old Grandma - those were good times, good times indeed.) so I replaced my shorts and tank top with an actual coat and long pants, and – lo and behold – the shivering stopped! Genius, I tell you!
The fact that it was so frigid also made it a lot easier to stay inside at night. An ice-cold Pilsner doesn’t hold the same appeal when it feels like its 19 degrees outside. The decision to not go out to clubs was also made easier due to various “aesthetic” influences: clubs and pubs were mostly filled with 18 year olds anyway, which would mean the bulk of the clientele is actually young enough to be my….errr….younger nieces and nephews. (Note to 18 year olds – if I were you, I’d get all my friends together and get my butt to Prague. Right now! Go! This place was MADE for you!).
These poor saps clearly paid for their excesses too – the evidence of which was quite visible each morning, when there were large, sparkling pools of vomit (splattered in strategic spots all over Old Town Square) to greet me on my way to my first cup of coffee. On one particularly colorful morning, I heard some barely-post-pubescent lad groaning and hurling violently in a nearby alley, “repenting” for his sins from the previous night (“Ohmygod! I will never drink again!!!”). Yep, that made it easier to stay home at night.
The upside: I didn’t get sick at all on this trip (the first time I’ve avoided getting a cold on a trip…ever) and I feel great. The downside: several late nights on this trip I’ll admit that I was bored s***less. I actually READ MY BOOK at night (WTF !?!) something I have never done before. Really late at night when I couldn’t sleep I even tried out the TV. But again, since it got only Czech channels, the only thing I kind of understood was a nature show about grumpy little men who raise falcons in some old mountain town. I also tried in vain to watch a Czech reality show at 3am that was similar to Big Brother (I will always wonder why Domenica smashed that ashtray over Ivana’s head), but to no avail. I couldn’t understand a thing.
SILLY LITTLE THINGS THAT SURPRISED ME THE MOST:
FOOD: I was surprised at how much I liked Czech food (and my newly expanded waistline is currently displaying JUST how much I liked it). Trolling around Tesco doing my grocery shopping was great fun. I also discovered that Prague has great salads. Coming from California, where we have pretty darn good produce, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But the salads were wonderful at most places – which was surprising in a place with such a cold winter climate. I found that after several meat and dumpling dishes, I was just dying for salads. My favorite salads were at Bohemia Bagel. Gawd bless those kids! This place had Internet access, folks with cheery dispositions, wonderful hot chocolate, and one of the few smoke-free eating establishments in Prague.
SAFETY: I was surprised at how safe I felt in Prague – I even felt a bit safer than I felt in Spain for some reason. This may be because I wasn’t out that late at night by myself, but also because it felt more like a town than a city to me (of course, it also could be that most of the would-be criminals were frozen and stacked up on the side of the road, waiting for the spring thaw). The latest I ever stayed out was 10:00pm, so I can’t speak for the late-night scene. I encountered a few sketchy areas, mainly outside the city center and on Wenceslas Square at night. I never saw anyone get pick-pocketed and I never heard of anyone having any trouble there, but I did feel the need to be very alert and on my guard in Wenceslaus Square, and on the tram when I went to the Jewish Cemetery. Overall, it seemed like a safe place, and I never saw or encountered anyone who was aggressive or threatening in any way. Actually, most people were very polite. And there was always a small police presence in Old Town and on Wenceslaus Square so I knew exactly where they were if I needed them.
POO POWER: On to more important matters. The other thing that surprised me was the dog s**t everywhere on the street. I found myself obsessively staring down at the street to avoid stepping right into a disaster. I mean, I was wearing new boots, dammit! Although I saw little displays with bags in them outside of parks urging folks to clean up after their dogs, apparently this request is almost always ignored. No matter where I was I saw dog crap smeared all over the sidewalk or piled up like little artwork displays – on one street there was so much of it that it was almost alarming. If you’ve ever read “A Year in the Merde,” the author writes about the dog crap in France. I would venture to propose that Prague rivals Paris for its massive quantities of visible poo.
SURVEILLANCE: I was very surprised at the way in which the museum staff followed me around in many of the museums, making me feel like I was under surveillance. At the National Gallery, for example, I was followed constantly. As there was almost no one else in the museum at the time, I found it strange to have the guards only two feet away during my entire visit. This also happened in the Medieval Museum, in Kinsky Palace, the Museum of Czech Cubism, and in Prague City Museum. At Kinsky Palace, you either must check your coat or wear it – but you can’t hold it over your arm. I assumed this was so no one would walk out with the artwork. I’ve been in dozens of museums before, and I’ve never been monitored that closely before (I mean really, I’m not THAT scary looking!). I stopped taking it personally after a while and just ignored them or engaged them in small talk so I could practice my Czech.
PEOPLE: Noticed a ton of Slavic and Russian tourists, quite a few American students, lots of Brits, and a handful of Asian people. Almost all of the service workers were Czech. There were very, very few people of color in Prague – either as tourists OR as residents (from what I could see at least) compared to other places I’ve been.
MEN: Unlike my trip to Spain (sigh), men didn’t even look my way in Prague. I didn’t get a single glance or smile. This was because a) I was sober b) I was wearing four coats and a face mask, making me look like a linebacker who was about to rob a convenience store c) I stayed in almost every night d) I was sober e) all of the above.
FASHION: Almost all of the young women I saw were wearing boots (often with very high heels or wedges) either with (very tight) skinny jeans tucked in to their boots, or knee-length jeans (cut off at the knee). Many of them wore big sweaters, belted at the waist, and short little jackets with hoods. I saw heavier eye makeup (mostly black eyeliner), but not a lot of foundation, blush, or lipstick. I saw a LOT of real fur and fur collars. Hair was natural looking and longer. Everyone had on big knitted scarves and mittens/gloves. Many had on knitted hats with ear flaps. Lots of white boots and white jackets too.
WARMTH (the human kind): Finally, the last thing that surprised me the most was just how truly friendly the Czech people were. A few people were reserved at first, but most of all I received a very warm and friendly welcome. People were actually very helpful – one woman went so far as to walk me all the way to the grocery store - several blocks - when I was lost. Out of all the places I’ve traveled to, I can honestly say that Prague has some of the friendliest people. And that’s saying something!
THE VERY BEST THING I DID: Based on advice received from Fodors, I wanted to see the Charles Bridge at sunrise. For my first morning in Prague, I got to the Charles Bridge VERY early in the morning while it was still dark, at 6:00am. There were two other people on the bridge taking photos, waiting for the sunrise. It was totally quiet and absolutely beautiful. Since I hadn’t seen any of the city yet in daylight, my first glimpse of the city came as the sunrise slowly illuminated the Castle and the Mala Strana – it was one of the prettiest sights I’ve ever seen.
Of course, on the way back from the bridge, I had one of my trademark weirdo encounters. The sun was just coming up, so there were only a few people out in Old Town Square. All of sudden a college-aged clean-cut frat-boy type came jogging up to me. He looked at me with relief on his face, as if he’d been looking for me. “There you are!” he said in English. “Did you see me earlier?” I smiled and said no. He said, “Well, don’t worry I won’t hurt you.” (For the record, this is not what you want to hear on your first day in a foreign country). I braced myself to simultaneously slam my steel-toed boots into his groin and run high speed back to my apartment. But after a few odd mumblings from him I quickly understood that I was dealing with Sir Loony Tunes himself, in the flesh, and that he was pretty harmless. He was under the impression that I was some sort of….um…princess, and he wanted to “accompany” me to wherever I was going. I politely and persistently declined. Finally, he leaned forward and said, “Remember! I am God and you are a princess! Remember what I’m saying. It’s important!” I promised that I would remember. And then he ran off. Hopefully he was going to retrieve his medication.
OTHER THINGS I DID (sans Mr. Loony Tunes):
DAY 1: CITY ORIENTATION: Walked from Stare Mesto (Old Town) to Charles Bridge to Narodni Trida (National Avenue) to Tesco. Then walked to National Theater to Mala Strana and back to Old Town Square. Learned how to use my shivering as a locomotive device that could propel me forward quickly and efficiently when steered correctly.
DINNER: Had a great dinner at Crazy Cow Steakhouse on Dlouha 8, right around the corner from my apartment. (Crazy Cow is known for the “best steaks in Prague,” but they also have great huge salads. The staff was SUPER friendly. Loved the food. But the restaurant was too smoky for me). Took an evening walk from Old Town Square to New Town, Wenceslaus Square, and up to the National Museum and back.
DAY 2: PRAGUE CASTLE: Took the tram from Malostranska up to Prague Castle. Did Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral, Golden Lane, and Strahov Monastery. Walked through the gardens in Petrin (absolutely fantastic!) up to the Observatory (which looks like the very top of the Eiffel Tower), and then took the funicular tram back down to the Mala Strana. The view is spectacular.
For the record, this was the coldest day that I experienced in Prague. It was so cold that I could feel ice crystals forming in my nostrils. If you’ve never experienced this delightful phenomenon before, I highly recommend it.
DINNER: After waking from a nap, I went to dinner at Restaurace Mlenjke (a Rick Steves recommendation), two blocks from Old Town Square. Had a wonderfully delicious roasted pork knuckle (the size of a small child) with mustard and horseradish. The waiter was a total jerk for no reason that I could decipher (one of the few real jerks that I encountered on my trip – most people were really friendly and helpful). And the restaurant was so smoky that I had to leave after 20 minutes. But the food was killer! I had El Jerko wrap up my pork knuckle and I ate it the next day for lunch and dinner. Took an evening walk to Wenceslaus Square again, and then strolled up the Na Prikope to the beautiful Municipal House.
CONCERT AT SMETANA HALL AT MUNICIPAL HOUSE: As luck would have it, a concert was starting in 10 minutes, so I bought a ticket (about $40) and listened to a nice little concert of Dvorak, Mozart, Vivaldi, and others, which lasted roughly one hour. Definitely attend a concert at the Municipal House if you can. It’s worth the money (Note: I was under the impression that you had to dress up, but everyone was in jeans). The architecture was beautiful art nouveau, and it provided a lovely setting for the concert.
ART NOUVEAU: Did the Rick Steves Art Nouveau walk. Started my day at the Mucha Museum (took me an hour to figure out that his Slavic Epic wasn’t actually IN the museum. The display was small, but great if you like Mucha. The video was great). Went back to the Municipal House for a tour, but the place in the basement where they sold the tickets stunk to high heaven for some reason. I just couldn’t bring myself to stand one more minute in that stinky basement, so I didn’t do the tour. Instead….
VELVET REVOLUTION AND COMMUNIST WALK: Exit stage left to Na Prikope and to the Museum of Communism, which many people delightfully note is located between a casino and McDonalds. Museum of Communism had one of the most powerful and disturbing videos of the Velvet Revolution that I’ve seen yet. I was really grateful for capitalism after seeing it. I think the Museum of Communism was my favorite museum of the city. See the “Communist Prague” section in Rick Steves for the rest of the stops on this walk.
KAFKA WALK: After yet another nap, I did an evening walk: went around to all of Kafka’s former homes (see Lonely Planet’s “Kafka Walk” in their guide to Prague for locations). Then went into Tyn Church and walked along the river to the National Theater and back.
DAY 4: THIS DAY WAS A WASH. I woke up at noon, so my morning plans were shot to hell, so I decided just to wander around. Went to the wonderful open air market behind Old Town off of Melantrichova. You can get really good chocolate, baked Czech goodies, and little arts and crafts at this market. I bought a lot of little stocking stuffers here. You can also buy fruits and vegetables and little snacks. For some reason, I found this to be so charming that it’s one of my favorite memories of Prague. Everyone was cold and bundled up, drinking hot cider and hot chocolate, and the sunlight was a pretty mixture of gold and pink. It looked just like a Christmas card. I also loved all the little side streets – they reminded me of the Latin Quarter in Paris.
DINNER: Went to a restaurant called KOLKOVA (on Kolkova Street – a Lonely Planet recommendation). They had great food and a non-smoking section (yay!) in the basement. The wait staff were all charming and helpful, and I had a really nice time there.
BLACK LIGHT THEATER: Went to a show at the Image Theater on Pariszka, just off of Old Town Square (Note: I had to buy my tickets the day before. Shows for same day were all sold out.) I saw a show called “The Cabinet.” I found the Black Light Theater to be very, very strange (envision an odd mix of the old Sprokets routine from Saturday Night Live - “Now’s the time on Sprockets when we dance”- the Blue Man group, and your local junior high school drill team) but I liked it and I would definitely recommend it. There were several children in the audience – and the kids under 10 seemed to like it the best. From what I understand, this was one of the few shows with very little sexual content. There are other places with shows that are a bit more risqué, so I would check first about the content of the show before you bring your little ones.
DAY 5: NATIONAL GALLERY: Took tram 26 to the National Gallery at Veletrzni Palace, and it was totally worth the trip. The National Gallery has tons of Czech historical art and modern art from various masters such as Picasso, etc. Building itself is ugly and functional, but it’s exactly what I expected for a museum that housed modern and post-modernist pieces.
NOTE: It was in this area of the city where I noticed more piles of puppy poo than any other area of the city. By this time, I was quite experienced and ready for the challenge: I deftly practiced my expert slalom skills, darting this way and that around the poo, emerging (mercifully) unscathed.
The architecture in this part of the city was interesting: a mix of flat ugly graffiti-covered buildings punctuated by absolutely stunning buildings in the art nouveau style. Noticed lots of questionable characters loitering in alley-ways. It was definitely out of the city center, but jeezlouise, it wasn’t THAT far out of the center, so I was surprised at the difference. Fewer people spoke English. The coffee was one helluva lot stronger too. I cannot for the life of me remember what I did for the rest of the day. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that I encountered numerous groups of surly-looking young men who appeared to be smoking a mysterious substance out of an odd-looking device while waiting for the tram. Though I tried to avoid them, they kept blowing pungent smoke at me and laughing. I’m guessing that could be why my short-term memory was shot that day.
DAY 6: ZIZKOV: HOMAGE TO FRANZ KAFKA: My most daring venture was making the pilgrimage to Kafka’s grave, which is located in the Jewish Cemetery in Zizkov. If you want to see some seriously communist-looking buildings and some not-so-pretty areas of Prague, take tram 24 all the way out to the Jewish cemetery and pay your respects to The Franz. The cemetery is actually really beautiful, but the surrounding area is not. Also – remember that it’s closed on Saturday.
PRAGUE CITY MUSEUM – Instead of getting back on the tram, I then went downstairs for my first metro ride to Florenc station to see Prague City Museum. The metro was nice and clean, and very easy to use. The museum was a nice little surprise in a not-so-nice area of the city. The museum featured Antonin Langewiel’s huge model of the city, historical paintings, and a nice display with medieval clothing, shoes, and jewelry. My advice is that if you choose to go to this museum, save it for the very end of your trip. It’s fun to recognize all the places you’ve seen and actually know what you’re looking at.
This was my last day in Prague, and it was also my favorite day of the trip because it was unscheduled. I decided just to wander around and sit at various spots along the river. First I wandered to the Mala Strana and accidentally found myself at the JOHN LENNON WALL, which was very moving.
KINSKY PALACE had a Wenceslas Hollar Exhibit (a GREAT exhibit if you like etchings and engravings). This was my favorite exhibit, next the Museum of Communism.
MUSEUM OF CZECH CUBISM – went at the very end of the day, around 4:30pm, and they knocked 50% off the price. It took less than an hour to see the exhibit.
TOP OF THE ASTRONOMICAL CLOCK – I think it’s best to go at the top of the hour, so you can look down on all of the people waiting for the clock to chime. Early morning and sunset have the prettiest views. Did not do the tour.
BEST DINNER: My best dinner in Prague was at RESTAURACE U PROVAZNICE, a Rick Steves recommendation. The staff was really warm and welcoming, and the restaurant was cozy and fun. They also had a non-smoking section. This restaurant was the kind where you sit at picnic table style seating next to other diners. Interestingly, no one spoke to the other diners at their table. Rather, everyone interacted only with their own group. I had my favorite Czech dish, svíčková na smetaně, houskový knedlík (beef tenderloin in cream sauce with bread dumplings). The food was superb.
LESSONS LEARNED: Overall, trip was great. If I had to do it over again, I probably would have waited a few months to book everything. I planned this trip WAY too early. When I returned from Spain in May, I was filled with travel fever, and I booked this trip during the first week in June. Mistake! I remained excited until the end of August, and then I realized I still had another 3 months to go. Over the months that passed, I watched the prices of flights and hotel rooms drop lower and lower, while my blood pressure soared higher and higher. My excitement waned severely until a week before the actual trip. Once I got out my suitcase, I got excited again. I could have saved more money had I waited to book certain things. But oh well. On the flip side, a lot of places were booked solid when I arrived, and I had a nice place to stay.
Also, I learned that staying in one place for a longer amount of time is nice in its own weird way. At times I really had to battle my urge to get to the “next” place or see the “next” site and to rush rush rush. My goal was to explore every nook and cranny of Prague and to really get to know the city. And I think I accomplished that goal.
While I love to travel alone, I also learned that sometimes it might actually be nice to have a friend with me - on one or two occasions that is. I always travel solo, but there have been a few cities where I wished I had been with a friend or a “friend” (IF you know what I mean) to accompany me. Prague had a very romantic atmosphere, a bit like Florence or Paris. There were several times when it would have been nice to be with someone. That said, I’m glad I went anyway. Going solo is wayyyyy better than not going at all.
All joking aside, in the end I was surprised that the cold weather actually grew on me. It was so pretty to see a REAL early winter landscape and I rather liked wearing an actual winter coat (just like in the movies!) When I left California, it was 78 degrees. When I left Prague, it was 22 degrees, snowing like crazy, and they had to de-ice the plane. But I felt really happy. Overall, it was a wonderful trip. True - my nose fell off from frost-bite, and I really don’t look quite the same….but hey! Let’s look on the bright side: that’s one helluva souvenir!
Happy Holidays! Magellan.
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Magellan’s Solo Trip Report to Prague