The Charles Bridge at dawn.
The Charles Bridge at sunset.
The Charles Bridge pre-tourists.
June 16, 2006
I need to start off by saying that I didn’t intend to come to Prague on this trip. What I did want to see in the Czech Republic
was Cesky Krumlov. It would have been more than okay with me if I had to bypass Prague in order to get there.
Why would I not want to come to Prague, you ask?
For starters, I came here over five years ago and had a great time. It was the first place that I actually ever ‘traveled’ to in
Europe. Yes, I had been to Europe before but that was on my mom’s dime. And let’s face it…it was a tad more than a ‘dime’.
Traveling to Europe was going to eliminate the 5-star hotels and the private drivers that we were privy to on our first visit.
Another contributing factor to my not being too anxious to come back was the time of year that it is: June. Or I should say
the ‘high season’ when every American college graduate would be wandering the streets.
Let me briefly recap my last experience...
I came here in March of 2001 with my sister and a friend. My sister pretty much led the way and knew all of the sights that
we were going to need to see. She was the one who researched what Prague had to offer. We went to the castle. We went to a
palace. We saw the astronomical clock. We got drinks at cafes. We ate at cute restaurants. Heck, we did it all…right? With my
sister’s guidebook in hand, we sure thought we had. Not that there’s anything wrong at all with traveling this way. It’s
probably the one way that you can be assured that you aren’t missing anything. But since I was already familiar with this
city, I didn’t need to spend my days that way this time. My priorities also need to be different since I’m traveling for a year
and I can’t be spending money on every castle/palace/tower in every city.
And now to why I didn't have the aching desire to visit Prague during this trip...
In the past few years I have heard nothing but tales about people coming back from Prague and feeling like there are just too
many tourists. Because of this, people hint at the fact that it has lost something that once made this city so special - the
quality that made it a hidden gem, of sorts. Now it seems as if every city in Central and Eastern Europe try to label
themselves as the ‘New Prague’ in a way of saying that it has not been ruined by tourism yet.
And now to why I would end up coming back to Prauge...
After reading up a bit on Cesky Krumlov, it seemed like the most accessible way to get there was via Prague. So it turned out
I would return to Prague again…
I need to state how happy I am that my plans turned out this way. The first time I came here I had a great time; this time I
have fallen in love with it.
To debunk any myths, I don’t really notice that many more people here now than were here five years ago. And keep in
mind that this is actually high season. You can have a street to yourself if you choose to venture just one block off of the main
streets. I had visions of walking across the Charles Bridge shoulder-to-shoulder with everybody else. Not the case. That’s not
to say that you aren’t going to see a lot of umbrellas raised high in the air as twenty people (complete with stickers on their
chest) follow. I’m just saying it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. I had also heard about how expensive it had gotten over
here. While I have no doubt that the prices have gone up, it is by no means as expensive as Western Europe. If you look a bit
off the beaten path, you can still find some great deals.
Now let me explain what has led to this newfound love for this city…
For starters, I got an apartment near the river in between the new and old sections of town. Very residential with great
restaurants and bars sprinkled into it. On the ground floor of my building is a great book shop with café and restaurant. On
each side of the book store is a different wine bar. I think it’s safe to say that this location was meant for me.
I also need to mention the importance of not walking around with a guidebook. I’ve seen ‘the sights’ here; this time I get to
see ‘Prague’. My strolls take me across different bridges, through various parks and down the unbeaten paths of many small
streets. Let’s also throw in the sunny weather where a long-sleeved shirt isn’t even necessary at night (I still recall the black
coat, scarf and hat that I was bundled into when I visited in March 2001). Just like I experienced in Istanbul, when the
weather is nice it allows you to look around at the details so much more.
In the main square, the Czechs have set up a huge television screen showing all of the World Cup games with beer vendors all
along the outskirts. It’s great to watch the animated fans of different countries cheer on their teams.
After my little side trip to the ossuary, I headed out to Josefov – home of designer shops, cafes and restaurants, and Prague’s
Jewish Quarter. Once again, smaller not-too-crowded streets. I went to a great cafe for a drink and the Herald Tribune on
the main street in this area (it was actually the same place that we had come to five years ago). When arriving at the Spanish
Synagogue, I saw that there was a concert that was going to start in just twenty minutes. Concerts of this type take place
throughout the city at many churches as well. I knew I wanted to see one while I was here so I bought a ticket and sat in the
rather-ornate synagogue. We were treated to an hour of sounds from some of the musical genius’ of the Czech Republic.
While people in America are praised for their financial talents, people in Central Europe get praise for their artistic talents.
The main difference is that artistic talents can be shared with others (it kind of made me feel pathetic knowing that the range
of my talents consists of making meringue cookies and pretty darn good chocolate brownies). I just love watching the passion
that these people have for the arts and these concerts showcase that.
After the concert I went out to the bridge to watch the sunset. After being unaware of the effects that the impending summer
solstice would have, I stood there for almost two hours waiting for the sun to disappear into the horizon. I would like to say I
waited because I'm patient. But that was not the case. It was more like when you go to a restaurant and they tell you that
there will be a twenty minute wait. You wait. Your name isn't called. More time passes. Now it's been thirty minutes and you
ask when a table might be ready. They say fifteen minutes. After that time, your name still called. Now you've put in a good
forty-five minutes. You want to leave on principle. But you can't for two reasons: 1) you would have just wasted all of that
time for nothing and 2) you know that the second you leave, that's when your name is going to be called. So this was my
experience with the sun. It teased me by showing signs of going down into hiding for the night. I have to admit that due to
hunger pangs, I threw in the towel at close to 10:00pm. I did put in a good effort.
And now it’s time for me to report on the fact that I might be going insane. We’re seriously talking clinically cuckoo.
Before going to bed, I set my watch for 5:15am so I could watch the sunrise from the bridge. I told myself a while ago that if I
were to ever come back to Prague, I would do this - partly for the difference of colors in the sky but mostly for the absence of
other people. Once again, I am clueless when it comes to things like a summer solstice. I got awakened at 4:15am from some
light seeping into my bedroom. My plans ended up getting bumped up by an hour as I headed out at 4:30am. Geez, writing it
makes it look so much worse. It really didn’t feel that weird at the time. I also want to note that there were about ten other
cuckoo people that had the same idea as me. Everybody else I saw simply had yet to conclude their nights at the bars and
clubs. I have to say that it was worth every minute of sleep that I lost. Of course, I’m of a different breed. I really don’t need
much sleep. I’m a morning person. Seeing sunrises in different places in the world is my forte. When traveling with others,
they usually just listen to my account of it after they wake up.
The rest of my day was spent in Southern Bohemia.
Today I had two different options as to how I could spend my day.
Option 1: Spend it doing whatever I want in Prague. I would take an overnight train to Vienna.
Option 2: Leave Prague in the morning and spend my day on a train (this would also require an extra night of a place to
This was a no-brainer for me. I woke up at 10am (very late for me) and went down to the café at the bookstore on the
ground level of the apartment I was staying in and journaled for a couple hours. Then I stored my bags in a locker at the train
station and set off to enjoy my last twelve hours in Prague.
My day was really a series of going to cafes and enjoying different views of the city.
Because the last time I was here, I was equipped with the combination of a) an Advantix camera (which produced great
pictures if grainy images are your thing) and b) a 35mm point-and-shoot (where the pictures turned out oh-so-great due to
the person behind the lens – me). I’d like to think my skills (albeit very amateur skills) have improved and I was excited to
get out and take lots of pictures since this city is so darn photogenic. I saw the Charles Bridge from many different angles. I
walked up to the castle to get some panoramic views of the city. I photographed the old part of the city from just about every
angle. This is part of what makes traveling so interesting. Everybody does it so differently and has different ideas of what
they want to achieve. While this type of day would have been utterly painful for some people, it was purely enjoyable for me.
My time in Prague has officially concluded. So sad. So very, very sad.