A murmur of thunder in the distance, a flash of lightning and rain patters on my skin. The cobbled stones are slick under my sandals. Wanderlust spreads through me, and the streets are awash with possibilities.
“This is quite dramatic isn’t it? Four girls going out in to an unknown European city in the midst of a thunderstorm,” I say to my friend as we walk to the Old Square.
“Ellie, are you writing a John Green novel in your head?”
We carry on walking, desperate to find somewhere to eat after a long day of travelling. I can’t help making mental notes. Yellow lighting, which seems to make even the dullest of brickwork sing in the rain, children laughing despite the late hour, there is a fresh smell only rain can bring.
We stop at a restaurant in the middle of Old Square, too tired and too wet to look for the infamous “three-course meal for a quid” promised by our friend.
Completely at a loss at how the currency works, we attempt to navigate the menu. We each order a much needed beer, and a pasta dish. The portions are small, but I suppose nicely presented. We don’t eat the bread for fear of being charged for it. The bill comes and we are charged for the bread anyway. The waiter explains the charge is also for cutlery and napkins. Our student budgets are horrified and we plead our case. The waiter looks less than impressed but we escape the charge.
For those looking to go to Prague, according to Google £1 is the equivalent of roughly 34 Koruna. So to look for places to get a pint for a pound or so, stay clear of the touristy areas as they’re inclined to hike up their prices.
Prague pulls in the students and stag weekends because it’s such a cheap city (napkin charges at Old Square aside.) You can make the most of it simply by having a stroll, and taking in the sights. Old Square, King Charles Bridge, and Prague Castle are worth a visit. If you’re a Beatles fan – or enjoy a gander at graffiti – the John Lennon wall is lovely, and can be found near the King Charles Bridge.
Prague Castle does not look like your typical, medieval castle. While we were there we all kept asking ourselves “Is this the castle?” “Is this a palace?” “Is this the castle nearby?”
This is the castle
One morning I woke up early, and decided to just have a wander about while listening to music. It gave me a flavour of what travelling by myself would be like, and although it was a little bit scary at first, I soon began to savour the freedom – almost as much as the pastry I had bought from a delectable-looking bakery.
Later that day, I couldn’t help but compare it to the church which makes up part of Prague Castle. Herds of relentless tourists, constant, blinding camera flashes as everyone tries not to get in each other’s way, and echoes of tour guides’ voices bouncing along the walls. It all felt rather unsettling – even though I would not consider myself particularly religious.
This, I found, is a big drawback of Prague. The sheer number of tourists rubbed some of the magic away from the city. Of course, I’m a tourist myself and not a local, so have no real right to complain about this. But I felt while I was there, I did not get a feel of the city or its people. Other than those who wanted me to buy a “Bad Girls Go To Prague” t shirt at the market, or a scary-beyond-all-belief puppet, which genuinely made me fear for my life. I should have gotten a picture to show you, but I feared it would take my soul if I did.
Lets move on.
My friends and I were in Prague for three days (including the evening we got there, and the morning before we left) I believe we saw a fair chunk of the city. For those seeking a cheap trip to have a couple of nights out in which promise to be “epic” Prague is the perfect place. But for those seeking a more authentic city experience perhaps try elsewhere. Or, and I intend to do this, try avoid going during summer.
X marks the spot:
The Grand Café Orient
Ovocný trh 569/19, 110 00 Praha – Staré Město, Czech Republic
A unassuming red brick building hides a piece of the 1920s.
I step in and am immediately taken in by the atmosphere equivalent to a summer breeze. The waiters are friendly, and though they look dignified in their crisp, white shirts and black bowties, are easy to laugh with. One passes my friend a straw to work as an antenna to connect to the wifi. A pianist begins to play as our beautifully presented tea arrives. It feels like stepping back in time, despite the wifi connection. It was built as part of the Czech cubist movement, and designed by architect Josef Gočár, and re-opened after 80 years of closure. Cakes, and light lunches are available. As well as beer and cocktails. It is a gorgeous place to sit back, and watch the world go by.