I was really disappointed with my experiences in Prague (with the exception of the Prague Ballet, which was, if you’ll excuse my French, abso-fucking-lutely amazing). I have only admitted travel defeat once before on this blog, and I hate to do it again. I love traveling, and I’ve fallen in love with nearly every place I’ve been lucky enough to visit, but Prague left me cold. I wish I could have visited the city 10 or 15 years ago, before the budget airlines brought in the tacky stag and hen-dos from Britain, followed by the “let’s go to Prague because it’s cheaper than the rest of Europe” American tourists.
The Prague we visited was not only crowded with (more annoying than usual) tourists, it was designed to cater to them in a way that makes the city feel bland, and, quite frankly, a little seedy. We were so over it by the third day that we slept in late, then hung out in our hotel room eating donuts and watching old episodes of Parks and Recreation for a few hours before we managed to talk each other into giving the city just one more try. That was a first in our 2 years of traveling around Europe.
I promise you, it wasn’t for lack of effort. We searched high and low for the least touristy local haunts, and we wandered for hours in the bitter cold trying desperately to find the Prague we had imagined. In the end, it wasn’t all bad. We did find a few things we liked.
The Prague Toy Museum
We initially decided to go to the museum because it was indoors (January in Prague is unbearably cold), and because we suspected it was a sight that would be overlooked by the hordes of tourists around Prague Castle. I loved all the old Barbies in their old-fashioned, yet incredibly stylish outfits. The whole museum took less than half and hour, and for an entry fee of roughly $3 a person, the price was right.
Czech Beer Halls
We stopped in at a traditional beer hall for a few nightcaps one evening and discovered a taste of traditional (and very fun) Czech culture. Live music, singing, smoking, and lots of beer blend together in a jovial atmosphere. Waiters circle the restaurant carrying giant trays of beer (they only serve one kind), and a fresh pint appears in front of you as soon as you empty your glass. The ‘tab’ is nothing more than a receipt with tally marks on it. Just be careful, because those beers will keep appearing until you make it very clear that you don’t want another…
The Lennon Wall
The Lennon Wall is a piece of Czech history that was well worth a wander in the cold. The wall has been covered in John Lennon inspired graffiti and political messages since the 1980′s (which drove the communist regime absolutely nuts). Authorities have never managed to keep the wall clean for more than a few hours, as the artists always come back to redecorate.
I loved the graffiti in Prague. There was just something about it that made me forget the touristy vibe of the city and appreciate that there’s always more below the surface, even if we weren’t able to find it on this trip.