On Tour: Prague

So you’ve read about my Angloville experience. Luckily, I took some time to sightsee around the departure cities. I talked to some volunteers who came all the way from America and they had regrets about not being able to do much sightseeing since they only decided to spend three weeks there just for volunteering.

Prague was a city I wanted to visit for some time, but I didn’t have the chance to visit until now. While I was on study abroad I went to a bunch of other places like Paris, Aix-en-Provence, Amsterdam, Bruges, Berlin, Edinburgh, Belfast, and the Canary Islands.

From what I’ve heard it’s a beautiful city with very cheap beer, and I can confirm both of those things are true. If you want to read more about my adventures there, keep on reading!

Bohemian Rhapsody

You know I had to mention Bohemian Rhapsody. But it’s for a reason, because Prague is in Bohemia, but also because getting there was long, like Bohemian Rhapsody. Well… no that’s not long enough. It really felt like an eternity to get there, so it was more like Thick as a Brick or Amarok. Now that wasn’t on purpose, but because of mistakes I made.

I didn’t have a lot of time between the Manchester trip and this trip and I made the mistake of procrastinating on booking the bus. That was a mistake. Ireland has awful public transport. If you think Europe is so amazing because everywhere there is good public transport, you’re wrong.

I live in Ireland’s third biggest city, Limerick, and it’s well enough connected to Dublin, except during certain hours and I needed to travel during those certain hours to get to the airport on time, unless I wanted to travel earlier and just sleep at the airport. The bus I needed from Limerick to get to the Dublin airport was completely booked out. That’s what I get for poor planning… So I was panicking and my husband asked around his office to see if we can get a lift to Dublin, which is two hours away driving. We found another way though – taking the bus from Galway to Dublin. It would take longer, but it was more doable to find someone to drive me there since it’s only 1 hour.

My husband’s coworker who drove me to Galway was really nice and said he likes driving so it was no problem. He’s talkative and we ended up talking. As much as I love music, I like talking to people I’m travelling with more for passing the time. Makes the trip more pleasant.

It was in the middle of the night and I’m at the Galway bus station trying to pass the time, writing about songs about space. I get on the bus, my phone doesn’t have a lot of power and of course the plugs on the bus don’t work, but my phone survives the trip and I get to the airport with plenty of time to charge my phone.

Whenever I book flights, there’s always a tight connection and this connection was really short, 45 minutes and because I’m entering the Schengen Area that means I need to go through immigration in Amsterdam, which takes time. Since Amsterdam is a major hub, there are a lot of people who have to do the same thing and there’s a lot of airport to run around. It wasn’t like when my husband and I went to Australia and had to change planes in Helsinki, a smaller, very efficient airport.

As soon as I landed in Amsterdam, my flight to Prague was boarding and I was anxious and running on no sleep. I was confused about where I had to go, but the staff were helpful. Going through immigration was pretty easy and they made sure everyone with a tight connection could go through ahead of everyone else. Great! But I still have to run and I didn’t have any time to rest. Although staying in Amsterdam doesn’t sound bad, I could smoke a few joints. I run with my heavy backpack and I made it and I wasn’t even the last one to board. Hooray! That’s the good news.

Now for the bad news. I checked a bag because I was gone for 3 weeks and I needed to make sure I had enough clothes and everything I’d need. I made it okay, but my bags didn’t. On a positive note, I don’t have to drag my bags through public transport and the city centre (which is really not nice to drag a big rolling suitcase around thanks to the cobblestones).

The hostel I stayed at had the perfect location, just off of Old Town Square. The problem is that there are no lifts because the buildings are so old. If you have a big bag, you’re screwed. If you’re disabled good luck finding a place to stay.

My bags arrived the following day, but not in enough time before the day trip to Swiss Bohemian/Saxon Switzerland National Parks, so I looked silly walking around there in a mini dress and tie dye coverup. I forgot to pack jeans. I never pack practical clothes, because I don’t really have any! Just crazy looking vintage clothes/vintage reproduction.

Sightseeing

Prague is a beautiful city. If you love photography, this is your dream city. Old historic buildings, beautiful riverfront. It’s incredible. I loved walking around Old Town Square, along the river, across the Charles Bridge, Malá Strana, and the Jewish Quarter.

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Some pictures from the river:

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Night time is a great time to walk around because it’s less crowded. A tip for the Charles Bridge: walk across it early in the morning or late at night if you want to avoid the crowds.

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The most famous classic rock related landmarks are the John Lennon Pub and the Lennon Wall.

Day Trip: Bohemian/Saxon Switzerland National Park

The name may confuse you. No, I didn’t go to Switzerland. However, I did end up going to Germany to the Saxon Switzerland National Park. The story behind the name of the two national parks is two Swiss painters, Adrian Zingg and Anton Graff were appointed to the Dresden Academy of Art and went not too far away to the forest and they said it reminded them of home, the Jura Mountains in Switzerland.

The national park is about 2.5 hours away from Prague, so be prepared for a lot of driving if you take a day trip there. If you’re on a tour, use the opportunity to take a nap.

I went with the highly-rated Bohemiadventures. The reason I picked this tour company is because the tour groups are small and lunch and drinks are included (and there’s a vegan option). There are a few options for this day trip, but I think it could be explained better on the website. There’s the easy hiking tour, the moderate hiking tour, and the easy hiking tour with time spent in thermal baths. On the easy tour, you’ll see fewer things and spend time in the town of Hřensko, where you can look at gift shops. If you can walk a bit longer, the moderate hiking tour is absolutely worth it because the national park is so beautiful and looks like a fairy tale. You might recognise these sites if you’ve seen Narnia.

The first part of the hiking tour, you see Pravčická Gate, this beautiful natural sandstone arch in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. Next to it, you’ll see this picturesque restaurant. Looks like it’s straight out of a movie. If you look above your head while hiking you might see food and stuff travelling there on this cableway

After that, you go for lunch. The vegan option was couscous and vegetables. For drinks you have a choice of lemonade, beer, or wine. The food was decent, but I didn’t feel like the lunch was the most fulfilling. The meat options were a lot larger portions, but they felt really heavy and after a big meal, the last thing I want to do is hike. The restaurant has this really cool steampunk clock that moves around and makes noises every hour on the hour.

The next part of the hiking trip is a hike to a riverboat cruise on the Kamenice River. On the way there, there are so many great things to take pictures of. On the boat ride through the gorge, you’ll hear stories and legends. One of my favourite parts of it was seeing the water come down from the top of the gorge when the tour guide pulled this long rope that let the water flow. That was a surprise!

The last part of the tour, we cross the border into Germany to visit Saxon Switzerland. Crossing the border is seamless thanks to the Schengen Agreement. Still, bring your passport just in case. We got to see the Bastei Bridge and these interesting rock formations.

Music Museum

Prague has a lot of museums, sadly these aren’t free, but they are cheap enough. Walking around, I stumbled across this museum by chance while walking around. I needed a bathroom really badly and they had a free one (a rarity when travelling around continental Europe) and I saw that they had a 60s/70s/80s rock exhibit that featured Czech and international music of the time period.

Here is a timeline and some cool information:

In one section, they had a selection of classic rock albums that you could listen to and hold plastic re-creations of the vinyl sleeve and they had a section where you could flip through albums as if you were in a record store.

They also had exhibits where you could see instruments from throughout history. My favourite instruments they had on display were a Minimoog and a theremin. I also got to try playing the theremin. Felt like I was Jimmy Page in The Song Remains the Same.

They also had a nice area where you could sit and read some old music magazines. Here are some articles about David Bowie and Led Zeppelin. I don’t speak Czech, but if you do and want to translate it for me, feel free to leave a comment! 🙂

Vegan Eats

Ahh yes! My favourite part of travel. You might be surprised it’s not looking at records or vintage clothing. I love food and I was doing research for my trip to Prague and the selection of vegan restaurants is amazing! I had no problems finding vegan restaurants and I found the food was affordable, probably about half the price that I would have paid in Ireland for something similar. Keep in mind that typically tap water costs money, so remember to bring your own water bottle… Or just have a beer.

If you’re on a budget and you want to do a Eurotrip, go east of the Iron Curtain and things get way cheaper and it’s less crowded. I’ve never been to the former Soviet countries, but that’s where it gets even cheaper – especially if you’re in the non-EU countries. One of my favourite YouTubers, Bald and Bankrupt, frequently travels around there and I love watching him interact with the locals in Russian.

Forkys

This was where I had my first meal in Prague. Restaurant is 100% vegan. The first time I visited, I ordered the poke bowl that came with cucumber, carrot, seaweed, and tofu. The second time, I wanted something more filling, so I ordered a burger and it came with a mix of regular chips and sweet potato chips.

Loving Hut

Went here a few times. Plenty of locations around the city and serves a mix of local and pan-Asian cuisines. You pay for food by weight. Keep in mind that some foods here (like the spring rolls) have a premium charge that’s charged in addition to the weight. There are some desserts available, but I didn’t try any of them. Great for when you have a big appetite.

Vegan’s Prague

Really nice vegan restaurant with a terrace with beautiful views. I love the relaxing atmosphere. This was a splurge. The terrace gets crowded so get there early if you want to eat outside. I lucked out in a way the day I got there because it was raining off and on. By the time I finished my food, it stopped raining and I managed to get a nice view of Masarykova vyhlídka.

Had to get dessert!

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What a view!

Maitrea

Absolutely beautiful restaurant. I had to walk around and take pictures of it. Very popular and a relatively expensive place. The first time I walked in I was told there was a long wait.

Is a vegetarian place, but has a lot of vegan options. I went here with a person who was staying in the same hostel room as me. She happened to be a vegan too and wanted to go get a bite to eat. I wasn’t that hungry and I decided to order a couple appetisers because I wasn’t in the mood for an entree. So I ordered kimchi and some vegan pate on bread.

Creme de la Creme

Ice cream shop with lots of vegan options, not just sorbets. The vegan options are so good that even non-vegans love it. Of course I get my favourite flavours: caramel and dark chocolate.

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