Short trip to Prague, Czech Republic for my sister's birthday.
It was a very short trip, but each time I visit Prague there's always new cherished memories. I didn't take as many pictures as I hoped, but I think I wanted to enjoy more time with my family and boyfriend instead of jogging to catch up with the group. That's the trouble with being a photographer sometimes; decide to either soak in everything or stop every moment to take a picture of it. You'd be surprised how much you can miss when you break off.
THE START OFF It was a very easy drive from Germany, though it wasn't entirely easy to get everyone out of bed. We all managed to hustle out the door and early morning attitudes were present. We spent the few hours exchanging stories, playing "Yellow-Car" and yelling to turn the music up louder. If you're not familiar with the game "Yellow-Car" it's a pitiful way to get really competitive over a short period of time. It entails tapping the roof of the car before other passengers, every time you see a yellow vehicle. Emotions run high when you end up punching harder than you expected from the escalating excitement or exclaiming how you saw it first, but the tap wasn't audible.
BREAKING THROUGH It gets congested quickly once you hit the city. Europe can be just as bad as New York City, except instead of taxi drivers they are pissed off Europeans driving mopeds and Smart cars. As we got tangled in traffic everyone played their role in the car: Mom grabs the "Oh Shit" handle, Dad hushes everyone so he can focus, Courtney is glued to her iPod playing games, and I have my face shoved to the window as Dave squeezes my leg to sit down. I love my family.
HOTELS VS APARTMENTS: Don't waste time overspending on hotels in the area. Do a bit of research and check out the apartments they have to rent for a night, weekend, or lengthy visit. They're cozy, include kitchens and washers and did I mention that they are cheaper too? We worked with the US Embassy in the area and they make sure we're fixed to stay in the area. This was the largest apartment room we have stayed in. We battled to all squeeze on the elevator, but the fear of it detaching from the line convinced a few out of the bunch to take the stairs. When we entered the room we all sprinted to the beds, arguing over who would get which room. They were all equal in size besides the bathroom being outside of one of them. In reality, we're not much in the rooms until we have to shower and sleep.
TOURISM WARNING This city, is well, absolutely magical. From the brightly colored buildings to the cobblestoned roads, there isn't much to complain about... oh except for the amount of tourists. I do enjoy visiting Prague, but the high level of tourism is something to take into consideration when you're entertaining the trip over. Obviously, coming in around Christmas is going to be a bit packed and now that "selfie sticks" have been sweeping communities, phones are swooping in the air. I can't count the amount of times I ran into someone because they decided to stop mid-step to take a group selfie. I'm sure we're in a few of those shots, especially since we would count down when to jump into them.
Our first day in Prague we bundled up and strolled around the city. I remember hanging over the bridge and pointing at the buildings across the river that looked like multi-colored lego blocks from afar. Birds would squawk and caw as they flew in circles around each other and the small pieces of bread we would toss up at them. We pushed our way through crowds of people one night to see the clock tower chime and the trumpet player pipe its anthem. We missed it by a few minutes. I have seen it plenty of times and was fortunate enough to stand right next to the trumpet player, but my boyfriend hadn't seen it so I was sad I couldn't share that experience. As small of a moment it is with the clock, hundreds of people gather to see it clang and dong. Small figurines pop out from the top and gears turn wildly behind the performance.
Multiple little wooden pop-up shops are packed together in the city center. In Germany it's known as Kris Kringle Markets, but I'm not sure what the Czechs call these holiday festivals. Little wooden nativity scenes, hand painted ornaments, and knick knacks are piled within these huts. My favorite shops are the ones that sell gluhwein, which is a spiced, heated wine. These are sold in small coffee cups and are dangerous if you don't pay attention. It doesn't help that they taste like a warm cup of Welch's fruit juice and only cost about 2 Euro! On chilly days, these are the best to warm up to. They have hot coco too if you're not keen for a buzz.
If you don't have a cup of gluwein in your hand, at least have your hands tear into a Czech donut. I don't know how to explain them outside from looking like stretched out cinnamon rolls. It's hard to miss and easy to become mesmerized by the bakers spinning the dough. The rotations are endless and their sugary coating shine like the lights strung across the lampposts and Christmas trees. I'm not sure what the locals think, but I know as a tourist I go bonkers for them. They're spot on when they're fresh. The outside is golden with a slight crisp on the outer layer and then finished with a light fluffiness in the inside. I'll take five please.
Street performers and buskers are just as prevalent here as they are in Italy or NYC. You'll always find someone painted in gold pretending to be a statue, someone with a squeaker toy in their mouth, and music performers. I remember a few years back dancing with my mother and sister on the bridge as banjos and accordions sung together in harmony.
Walking is one of the best ways around this city. You have the choice to ride carriages and "old time" vehicles, but keep in mind the amount of people that wrap up in the blankets they offer and the amount of money you're spending to go down the street. All the iconic spots to visit are very easy distances. You can cover a lot of the city by meandering around the streets and sometimes run into shops you may have passed within a taxi.
Churches pepper the area and I'm always in awe of the intricacy of the architecture, stained glass murals, and upholstery. It's hard to imagine that so many people get to wake up to this every morning and it's "just another day." Reaching the top of the hill to visit the St Vitus Cathedral gives you a wonderful view of Czech. Rows of colorful buildings kiss the bottom of the sky.
On our way back we saw a small shop that caught our eye: A B S I N T H E S H O P
I don't have any photographs of the store because it was a bit off to me, but it was an interesting sit down. Dave told me that Ernest Hemingway referenced drinking absinthe in Europe. The literary background on the drink made me curious, but the shop wasn't very inviting. Honestly, we kept walking back and forth with whether or not we wanted to commit. After putting so much pressure on walking in with me, I quickly regretted my decision. The shop didn't have space for comfortable seating, there was an odd drunk couple dancing in the back, and the whole place was consumed in the color green. I declined a drink for myself, but Dave went ahead and grabbed one for us to share. I cringed as the taste of bitter licorice burned my tongue and throat. We didn't stay long to say the least, but we cleaned our palette with a donut and watched the city turn quiet as the sun began to set.
I didn't bring my camera to dinner, but I do have the name and highly suggest going! Hosting U Sádlu is a nifty underground restaurant that serves traditional Czech food. I never hesitate to order dumplings which is usually served with a small cut of pork and drowned in the most delicious gravy. Talk about comfort food! Usually we share a silver platter that serves an array of vegetables and meats, but I didn't want to really share this time around. Bread is served on the table with a small ceramic dish of lard. One of the few times I don't feel guilty slathering fat all over my food. They speak very little English, but they're extremely friendly there and they do have an English menu and lots of numbers on the side to refer back to. We've made a tradition of going to this place every year for my sister's birthday and it's always been a great time dining. (Klimentská 1203/2, 110 00 Praha 1-Nové Město, Czech Republic)
Our weekend in Prague went by very quickly, but the memories will last forever. This trip in general was very important to me because I was introducing my boyfriend to my family. To cross the ocean to see them and then to travel together as well was a very endearing week. I was happy to share a country that I have often visited. We weren't always together and would occasionally branch off to have our own mini explorations. To be honest, there's so much more to write, but sometimes I enjoy just reliving those memories with those I created them with. I'm always happy to share what I learn and see during my travels, but sometimes those more intimate moments of discussion are best kept in our hearts.