Prague, fairy tale capital

Prague, fairy tale capital
A Youth Backpacker in Europe
Chapter VII

City: Prague
Country: Czech Republic
Currency: Czech Koruny (€1=24.5kr)
Travel dates: 5-8 January 2008
Travel buddies: Egon, Rahma, Siddharth, Stella, Meghan

Caption: Prague Castle at night.

Walking on any street in Prague, Jiann Chyuan couldn’t help but wonder where have all the Czech gone?

The idea was to take a night train from Krakow to Prague so that we can have a wake up coffee breakfast in one of the world’s most beautiful city. However, it was all drained down to a nasty toilet experience in a somehow unthinkably ugly train station in this one of the world’s most beautiful city.

Okay, toilet was indeed there. But if you were having emergency call to subscribe to the toilet service in train station, after refraining yourself from using the disgusting toilet on the train for one whole night, make sure you have exactly the amount of change for toilet admission. I bet you just don’t wish to run into different partly opened (or partly closed) stores and to ask tens of people for small coins for toilet admission.

It was really bizarre and confusing to me that I was rejected to enter the toilet just because, not me, but the service counter didn’t have change to my paper note. I mean for toilet’s sake, allow me to settle more important business first, please. And most importantly, the most important counter in a train station (I mean the toilet counter), has no one that speaks English. I couldn’t help but wondered would visiting Prague become a beautiful disaster?

Caption: Tourists at Stare Město (left) and Charles Bridge.

Luckily, after a whole week of gloomy snowy weather in Poland, Prague showered us with the longed sunshine. It was surprising that being so closed to Krakow, Prague was relatively dry and had no trail of snow at the time of visit. But of course, it was cheerful news to me. And staying in probably the cheapest and closest hostel from nearly every tourist destinations in city centre did really help sweeping away to unforgettable toilet experience.

However, there was only one question: Where have all the Czech gone?

Walking to the insanely popular Stare Město (Town Square), the only thing you would really like to see is the insanely famous town hall. However, what you would probably end up, similarly to my experience, was the equally insane tourist population.

Caption: Clock at Old Town Hall (left), a beautifully decorated building in the posh street (centre) and at the end of the street near Old Town Hall.

Standing at the square, if you were lucky not to tumble around while being pushed, you would definitely notice there is no Czech language, but a bowl full of mixed foreign languages salad. I honestly reckoned that if the flags of different tour guides were laid down, it would probably sufficient to cover the whole circumference of the square.

The square itself is humongous, but the number of tourists made it impossible even to just walk without brushing to anyone else. And mind you, it was winter! I was really losing the ability to imagine the crowd in summer when I was gasping at the crowds from the top floor of the old town hall, which I was so afraid that it would collapse due to the overloading of tourists.

What is the point? Prague is a city built for tourists.

Caption: Market with fruits and souvenirs near to Old Town Hall.

No matter where you go, no matter what you do, you will find tens of people walking the same way, tens of people doing the same thing. And by looking at different souvenir shops that sell the same “Czech it out!” t-shirt, you definitely would wish that you could ‘czech’ some Czech out.

However, I must give a bit of credits to Prague because it was really beautiful, even in winter time, even when slushy snow paid an unexpected (and unwanted) visit since the second day. The best way to appreciate the charm of the city was definitely from a spot where you can overlook at least three bridges across the Vltava River.

However, again, the challenge of visiting Prague was not to visit every corner by walking, it was about where you can find a spot to take a decent photo without the tourists’ background. This was especially true at the Charles Bridge, at the Prague Castle, at the Stare Město, at the Old Town Hall, at the National Theatre, at the Church of Our Lady, etc. Okay, it was everywhere.

Caption: Downhill to Prague Castle (left) and Prague Castle from other side of Vltava River.

Well, if I have successfully killed your desire to visit Prague, then I should apologise, because there were occasions when I was indeed able to enjoy myself wandered around the city without bumping into too many tourists. And one of these examples, the one I recognise as the most enjoyable experience, was a walk along the Vltava River. It was a nice two kilometres walk where there were swans and birds waiting for you to feed. And the experience of counting the number of bridges was simply relaxing, as there was no need to fight for space on the bridges.

Although it may be crowded, you simply could not miss the souvenirs market near to the Old Town Hall. It was a place where tourists were most willingly to churn out the cash for absurdly highly priced souvenirs. Of course, this included the “Czech me out!” t-shirt.

Caption: Cakes in an ice-cream shop near to Old Town Square (left) and the must try bread.

Food in Prague was however to my surprise slightly expensively priced. Perhaps for the same reason, Prague is simply a tourist city and tourists need to eat. The restaurant that we went in at the downhill of Prague Castle was having quite little portion in serving. But it was compensated with extremely lively atmosphere. I guess part of the money on the bill went to this. I forgot the name of a kind of bread that is rolled over a steel bar and is touched with caramelised sugar before being baked. But it is a must try.

Looking at the title of the post, I indeed didn’t mention anything about how life in Prague could be a fairy tale, mainly due to the beauty of the city. Why? I bet you have known the answer right now. Prague, a beautiful place filled with culture-rich buildings, but unfortunately, fairy tale no more, tourists? Plentiful.