Here in Upper Franconia (in Bavaria in Germany) we’re really rather near to the Czech border, and having wanted to visit Prague for a few years after admiring many a photo on Facebook, I was thrilled to discover this geographical fact.
Deutsche Bahn run a coach service from Nuremberg straight to Prague – it’s pretty cheap and only takes a little over three hours, so, along with three of my fellow English-language-assistant-in-Bavaria friends, Charlotte, Ollie and Joe, we got up rather early on Friday morning, convened at Nuremberg station and set off for a weekend of fun in the capital of the Czech Republic.
You know how there’s always a group of rowdy Brits on public transport? Yeah, well... Somewhat embarrassingly, I think that was us this time. Oops. Still, a few group crossword efforts later, a Londoner, a Mancunian, a Welshman and a Leicestershirite (seriously, people, what are we called?) arrived in Prague.
For four language students, it was suddenly very odd to be in a country and not speak a word of the language. As Ollie so greatly put it, ‘You know when you bash your head on your keyboard in frustration? That’s what Czech looks like.’ And to us ignorant Brits, it really does. Sorry. Throughout the weekend, whenever one of us attempted to pronounce a word, another would follow with, ‘Bless you,’ and somehow, it never got old. Oh, how easily amused we are.
Naturally, I had done my research and had compiled a whole host of useful information into a colour-coded word document. It wasn’t an itinerary, I’m not that girl, honest, but it’s always useful to do a spot of research before a trip, don’t you think? I truly am my father’s daughter.
The city’s relatively walkable, but there’s also a good tram and metro network, and public transport is so cheap compared to, say, London.
I tell you what, pretty much everything in Prague is CHEAP! Sure, there are tourist traps, but in general, everything is really budget. We enjoyed this muchly. And to us, the money just seemed silly. Regard: 32 Czech Crowns = 1 British pound, so as we got out thousands of money, we felt rich. I mean, just look at our receipt from dinner. We spent THOUSANDS! It’s cray.
We certainly took advantage of the Czech treats on offer over the weekend – traditional stodgy but delicious meals of dumplings, meat, bread and potatoes occurred, and it was gooood. Charlotte and I also made sure to try a Trdelník each. A whatnik? A Trdelník, duhh. They’re a Czech speciality – a cakey pastry made from dough rolled round a stick then grilled, and topped with things like cinnamon sugar and ground nuts, and sometimes filled with Nutella too. Yeah. All that. They were deeeeelish.
On our first afternoon in the city, we managed to stumble across an absolutely adorable little bakery/café above a wine bar just round the corner from Charles Bridge – they were baking traditional Czech spiced biscuits right in front of our noses, and it was the perfect place to stop for a sit-down and a cuppa. Charlotte and I were even given a free biscuit each (unlucky, boys!) which was really kind. As much as I love Starbucks, Costa and the like (both of which were all over Prague, oddly enough), I always think it’s nice to go to boutique cafés and try something a little different every once in a while.
Speaking of Costa and Starbucks, they weren’t the only home comforts we saw in Prague – there was also Debenhams, Tesco, and *get excited* M&S! I made it my mission to find the M&S and then duly dragged the others in. (The boys got their own back with a trip to an Irish pub to watch the football on Sunday.) Oh, how I love M&S, and I couldn’t not treat myself to some proper tea, mince pies (FINALLY!) and one of their festive sandwiches. Mmmm…
So yes, we may not have restricted ourselves to purely traditional Czech delicacies over the weekend, but we did also discover a really great café with three locations round the city called Bohemia Bagel. We may have gone there twice. First for soup and bagels for lunch, the second time for a much-needed massive Sunday brunch post-Saturday night antics (I shall gloss over the details of the night, but a fair amount of hot wine was consumed. And just for the record, Czech mulled wine ain’t got nothin’ on German Glühwein.)
Our delicious brunch at Bohemia Bagel included cinnamon and blueberry pancakes with maple syrup (my choice, obvs), egg and sausage bagels, and big ole classic English breakfasts. And, thanks to the free wifi, we even watched a bit of Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch on our phones. Just like being at home. Almost.
Bohemia Bagel is very student-friendly price-wise, has a fab menu for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, and to be honest, I’m a bit sad it doesn’t exist here in Germany.
Food aside, Prague is blimmin’ great. I imagine it looks utterly beautiful all year round, but we got extra lucky with our weekend as the whole city was looking very Christmassy (if not quite as festive as Germany…)
On Saturday evening, it was the big official opening of the main Christmas market in the beautiful Old Town Square.
There was a concert featuring carols from various different choirs...
Here's a nice group shot of us all enjoying the music.
Lots of different stalls to peruse and yet more foods and drinks to try...
I myself purchased a cute pair of fluffy heart-shaped ear muffs and am a little bit in love with them.
But the main event of the evening was the lighting up of the big Christmas tree. There must have been thousands of people there, all squishing together trying to get the best view - it wasn't just a case of the lights turning on either, there was a whole light show on the tree, and it was really very beautiful.
So what else did we get up to? Well, one of the best things we did was a free walking tour of the city by Sandeman's New Europe tours - after doing one by the same company in Berlin earlier this year, I was hopeful the Prague one would be just as good, and we weren't disappointed.
Sure, it was a chilly walk round the city, but our entertaining guide, Lann, took us and the rest of our English-speaking group round the city teaching us all about Prague's history as we went. The whole thing took nearly three and a half hours, but thankfully there was a café stop in the middle to warm up!
Thanks to Lann, we actually understood a bit about, for example, what the famous astronomical clock is all about and how it actually works. Although I couldn't tell you the time from it. Sorry.
Naturally, we tried to cram in as many of Prague's main sights as possible over the course of the weekend. Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square, Charles Bridge and a climb up to the Castle were all packed in, about which I was extremely happy. As my friend Stef would say, it was extremely efficient touristing!
|Charlotte and I failed to make the castle guard laugh.|
|The view from the Castle|
I really liked the area around the castle, so it's worth crossing over the bridge and having a mooch around there, in my opinion.
It was simply lovely to explore another European city with my friends. I tell ya what, this lot are hilarious - a lot of laughter occurred over the weekend and I personally had a ball. Before we even set off, I knew it was going to be a cracker of a weekend because I was going with such a fun group. This year abroad malarkey really is great, ya know. Just in case I hadn't already mentioned that.
Prague, you were fab.
PS. We stayed at Plus Hostel Prague, which I reviewed here.