We’re in Prague. We don’t know how to pronounce VLTAVA, it’s a river. We’ll be staying here, on the botel Matylda and Klotylda (see my review here), a converted restaurant and hotel respectively. They’re moored to the banks of the Vltava, everything is within walking access. There’s a lot to see and things to do in Prague, a history built up over 2500 years since the Celts arrived in these parts some 500 years Before the Common Era (BCE).
The experience of different places, meeting different people and tasting different food during your travels is refreshing. Finding your way around awakens the senses and inspires, as much as it informs. If this your first time reading this, start at the beginning.
We wasted no time heading for the old city. It actually looks pretty big but we’re told that a large part is actually the “new town”, a newbie wouldn’t easily tell the difference. We must agree the inner old city is an incredible passage through time from the Gothic eras through the Renaissance into modern times including evidence of World War 2 and Communism. Prague generally has a lucky feel about it. Apparently housing prices are on the up, unemployment is very low and the people seem to be positive about their future. When asked if they think things will be better in the future than the past, the answer is overwhelmingly “yes”. This is something we’re not accustomed to hearing in South Africa.
Food was high on the agenda. Besides being festive with all the Christmas markets, food was abundant. A must to try is the roast pork, sausages, sliced bread dumplings, cabbage dishes, duck, goulash stew.. and we ate all of them at least once. It’s all nicely accompanied by mulled wine of different flavours, hot chocolate, and coffee.
Many of the foods being eaten on the streets are sold as authentic to the point where dates are posted above the door to identify the establishment and its recipes as being over 60 years old. Don’t believe it, the trdelnik (not a typo) is only about 7 years old and was developed pretty much for the tourists! This delicious rolled dough braised over coals and coated with sugar is best eaten with Nutella, and anything with Nutella is good.
Tip: The ham and cabbage dish bought from the street stalls is delicious. It is not expensive but the price you see is quoted by the 100 grams and you will be served a HUGE plate weighing at least half a kilo. Keep this in mind.
Coffee shops abound, hot chocolate shops too. In the tourist areas, they’re not cheap but always delicious and the coffee shops are warm and cosy. Pastries are delicious. It’s all good. You’ll put on weight.
Tip: look out for the rapidly disappearing workers’ canteens. Because of the increasing rental costs for space in the city, they’re not all able to survive but they serve the local real people and food costs what it ought to. Ignore the big international brands I say, head straight for the sometimes underground canteens. A large meal consisting of single-guy-cooked-concoction + soup + dry cake slice for, like, $5. Cheap. Look here: www.jidelnasvetozor.cz
They say 30 saints line the Charles Bridge, a 516m long structure that crosses the river whose name we cannot pronounce. Its construction was commissioned by Holy Roman Emperor King Charles the 4th. The birds use the saints as their perch, as with most international cities, with the usual consequences. In Prague, the saints are well looked after though, as are most of the historical structures with their golden adornments. Everything looks clean and maintained.
Ah, here’s a tip from our guide: never attempt to cross paths with a tram. We’re told they’re locally referred to as “moving buildings”, and you generally wouldn’t walk into the wall of a building. We heeded the warning.
Anyway, you cross from one side of the city, over a tram line and start the walk across Charles Bridge. If you want nice IG pics, go asap in the morning. By 10 o’clock it’s all over and the place is teeming with tourists looking for their perfect spot on the bridge. Never think Charles bridge will be empty for you.