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Praha 🇨🇿

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At this point, I feel somewhat confident navigating the airport, but I still wouldn't classify it as pleasant.

Our flight to Prague in the Czech Republic was pleasant enough once we got past security. A short layover in Zurich brought our travel time to around 3 hours.

Unlike many of the countries we'd visited thus far, I did a little more research for this trip. Being so far east, I was worried that the language barrier would be higher compared to other stops on our trip, so I wanted to be prepared. This turned out to only be partially true. Most of the locals we met spoke passable english which was helpful buying tickets to museums or ordering food, but unlike many European cities thus far, all of the signs were in Czech only. While I'm sure there is some connection between Czech and the romance and germanic languages I'm familiar with, I couldn't really see it!

Exiting the airport, we took a bus into the city. This is one thing that I think is kind of unique to American cities, and Dallas especially. It's awfully convenient having an airport in the middle of the city if you can get over the noise! At the end of the bus line we transferred into the subway and rode it for a half dozen stops, under the river and into the "Old Town". Our hotel was about a 15 minute walk after that. We later learned that a tram route passed right in front of our hotel which would have been a little more convenient, but it would also mean waiting 10-20 minutes for the tram to arrive headed in the right direction.

Our hotel was actually a hostel. There were a few posters and plaques scattered around proclaiming the awards won by this particular establishment; proof of its quality as determined by some body of business minded bureaucrats looking to make some extra cash. Regardless of accolades, it was nice. A half dozen people lounged around in the communal space on the ground floor. A sitting area was positioned up a couple of stairs and sported another half dozen concrete topped tables with large cushioned love seats were arranged almost like an intimate café. I would spend a good chunk of time here working over the next four days.

Our room was private, located on the "4th" floor and overlooking the bustling street. For what we paid, it was pretty great! There was plenty of room to move around, the bathroom was spacious, and there were enough convenient outlets to charge all of our electronic paraphernalia and small desk to sit at.

I'm a little disappointed we didn't get out and explore more, but I was still getting used to going back to work and spent more time than was probably necessary monitoring Slack, but we did make it out for dinner and a movie around the corner. We saw the new Dr. Strange (2022) film in a sort of art-house venue with maybe 100 seats. I think there were maybe a dozen people in the theater, including the guy who was so tired, he had to be woken up by the staff after the final post-credits scene had played and the lights turned on to maximum brightness!

Day Two

The next day was pretty slow. I don't remember doing much, which maybe means I should write these sooner!

We spent the morning lounging about and then went to do some exploring. I needed to be back for a meeting but had a few hours to burn, so we first went down the street for some brunch. I ordered the savory pancakes and Alanna got a bagel with scrambled eggs and a very cocktail like iced tea. The pancakes were amazing, a tall stack of different vegetable spreads between the hearty pastry discs. The coffee was also excellent and not just variations on espresso, which is the usual go-to coffee situation in this part of the world when eating out.

After breakfast, we went exploring some. There was a large park nearby so we headed in that direction first. The north side of the park was flanked by what appeared to be a vineyard, but I'm not entirely certain.

After walking down into the park, around for an hour, and then back up, we stopped at another cafe for a drink. I ordered an espresso tonic, which in hindsight, was not a good idea but I was curious! Alanna got a slice of quiche and swears it was the best quiche she's ever eaten. I suppose we'll be investigating quiche recipes from Czechia when we get home!

After refreshments we went back to the hotel and I had to work. Alanna went out later and picked up a couple of pizzas for dinner. They were the traditional Italian style with a very thin and spotty crust and simple ingredients. Personally, I think they could have used some sort of dipping sauce to help brighten things up, but beggars can't be choosers. 🙂

Day Three Exploration

Now things get a little more interesting! Having been mostly holed up for two days, I was itching to get out. We set off around 10am towards the western half of the city. We took a tram across the river, crossing the famous Charles Bridge. Our first stop was actually a small park/museum I had found as part of my research into the city. The pictures were beautiful and I couldn't resist seeing the sweeping views for myself.

Tucked off to the side and down an alley, a nondescript door pointed to the way to the Vrtba Garden. It was constructed in the 18th century and modeled after Italian gardens the architect had visited previously. Intricate hedges and geometric patterns were visible everywhere, yet everything lead your eye to the corner of the garden that rose sharply in terraces. From the top, we had a clear view out east over the Old Town and even beyond the city itself.

After exiting, we decided the next place to visit would be the Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral. Unfortunately for us, we didn't take the "main" entrance and instead climbed up the long and stretched stairs that most people exit from. Another thing that made Prague different from our other city visits, is the frequency of public transportation. Each tram or bus was spread out by about ten minutes. That ten minutes was just long enough to be a wash compared to walking so I'd often prefer walking just because. In this case, it meant walking up these stairs and in hindsight I would have rather waited. Oh well.

The castle itself was honestly pretty uninteresting. The parts open to the public were a large dining hall and some inner chambers surrounding it. These were mostly used for meetings between dignitaries and politicians. There was a cool bit of furniture, a massive metal box used to house important books and scrolls and keep them safe in case of a fire.

The real spotlight for the trip was the Cathedral. The massive building dominated the inner walls of the castle grounds. Tall spires jutted from every inch of rooftop, creating a sense of multiple rooflines, both where the actual roof is, and where the pointed towers protrude. The solid stone gothic architecture was a sight to behold! I haven't seen any other famous cathedrals, but if you're at all interested in them, I would put Prague at the top of your list.

Inside, we were shuffled around the perimeter of the building. Every 20 feet or so, an new alcove was formed facing in to the center of the massive structure. These alcoves were all decorated with massive stained glass windows, statues, sculptures, graves, or alters. Many of them commemorated the priests and monarchs and served as a historical reference for the building. It was amazing to see the decorations get more complex and grandiose as we ventured around the building. At one point, they had run out of room, so another alter piece was constructed in the walkway!

As I've gotten older, I've come to more appreciate the mysticism and tradition inherit in these structures. Sometimes I wonder about what sorts of things we as humanity are making today that will leave the same sense of awe and wonder for future generations. The memorials and statues from the second world war are probably the closest, but I'm not sure what would qualify from the past twenty years or so. Maybe time is a determining factor? I hope I can look back in another twenty years and see more concrete examples and memorials to the advancement of human civilization, art, and technology.

Day Three - The Wind Down

After walking and climbing stairs most of the morning and afternoon, we were pooped. I had plans for lunch that were unfortunately cancelled by a large private party, but we made do. A cafe around the corner sported a wide assortment of desserts in the window, which we stopped and enjoyed after a late lunch. From there, I went back to the hotel and began my work for the evening while Alanna continued to explore for another couple of hours.

That evening, we went out for dinner at a local pub. I had been eying the traditional Czech pork ribs on signs across the city and was eager to sink my teeth in. The restaurant was short staffed but eventually our food arrived and we chowed down in between my various zoom calls.

After dinner we walked back towards our hotel but stopped in a small coffee shop for some dessert. I got a slice of lemon cake and Alanna ate chocolate cake. Now fully satisfied and content, Alanna ventured off into the dim evening while I stayed behind to work some more, sunk down into the comfortable high backed chairs around a fireplace with fake candles. The ambiance did make for a compelling zoom background! 🙂

Around 9pm I made my own journey back to the hostel, stopping to snap a photo of a mosaic wall to share with my team on Slack. We had a chuckle making zoomed in edits and tagging ourselves as one of the faces in the mosaic. As I rounded the final corner, I dipped into a corner store for a bottle of water and then continued inside and up to my room to go to sleep.

Final Thoughts

Of all the cities we've visited thus far, I think Prague is at the top of my list to return to. The city itself is beautiful, drawing a fine line between modern public amenities and preserving their heritage. The people were all friendly and eager to offer advice or chat for a minute. I also didn't get to see all of the places on my list if I needed any more excuses. As a bonus, prices for most goods were a lot cheaper than comparable businesses in more western states. That certainly will make it easier to stomach the cost of flights knowing I won't pay $20 for a ham and cheese sandwich!

I'll miss Prague, and I hope I can visit again soon. ❤️