After waiting two months, I figure anyone who reads this blog will have forgotten completely about my trip to the Czech Republic. My plan worked flawlessly, but it turns out the plan itself was horribly flawed. Alienate family and friends, potentially readers. Check. Force an untimely blog for no reason. Check. Think sanely. Nah.
I’ll give a quick rundown of the highlights in Prague in this post ans then obsessively focus on some of the weirder, less important things in the next. By way of reminder, our hostel was basically a 18th century opium den minus the charm. Not one of the highlights. Summer in Prague is pretty oppressive, the hostel had no A/C, and smoking of all sorts was allowed. Needless to say, it smelled fantastic.
Back to being concise-ish. Here are a handful of the highlights from the Czech Republic.
1.) Prague Castle
It’s amazing. You should go.
Liz and I visited on the hottest day Prague had seen in several years, which made the public transit ride to the largest ancient castle in the world pretty smelly. The Czech language surely is aggressive and I got my fair share of scowls, all of which was forgiven by the hairy, fat man grinding on my arm as I sat on the trolley. So affectionate. It’s more than a castle. It’s a complex, replete with gorgeous cathedral, luxurious palace, armored keep, a little town that looks like a Czech-Diagon Alley, and manicured gardens. All the tourist guides will list this as a must-do. You really should make it a priority. Don’t be one of those smug travelers, yearning to be different by avoiding the popular sites to see the “real” Prague. A lot of the real Prague is dirty and boring. Sure, you can look up and see beautiful spires across the city, but you’ll look down to realize you were robbed and stepped in dog poop. Go to Prague Castle, think you’re Eddard Stark, thank me profusely.
2.) Wallenstein Gardens
If you like topiary (and who doesn’t?) and free admission, this is well worth it. You can also see peacocks roaming the grounds. A word to the wise, peacocks are boring. They’re the “cock tease” of the animal kingdom. You know they have this amazing plumage, but all they’ll do is flaunt their ability to fly awkwardly a foot off the ground for 6 seconds. You can also witness the primary reason the Czech Republic has not adopted the euro. Most sources will site political instability and unstable economic footing. The real reason is the inability of Czechs to build a wall properly. Local tourism hails the Dripstone Wall as an architectural marvel, but it exemplifies the backwardness of Czech infrastructure.
“If you concentrate, you can see all sorts of little creatures in the wall. It’s like a Magic-Eye poster.”
“Vaclav, illusions don’t inspire economic confidence. Use a level next time, and some bricks.”
“Our peacocks are very nice.”
3.) Astronomical Clock via Charles Bridge
Walk across the Charles Bridge at pretty much any time and it’ll be packed with tourists. That said, it’s still worth it. The bridge itself is fine. It gets you across a river without getting your feet wet. There are no trolls living under it. The views from the bridge are the real lure. Head toward the city center and see hundreds of spires, a patchwork of anachronistic architecture that comes together wonderfully. Look back toward Prague Castle and see, er, Prague Castle. It’s amazing. You should go. Either side of the bridge looks over the Vltava river. Sunset is painfully pretty, and other times in the day only slightly less so. Keep reminding yourself of how iconic the Charles Bridge is as you head through the city center toward the Astronomical Clock. Are you excited for the proverbial icing on that bridge-y cake? Too bad. You’re diabetic and can’t have icing. Not diabetic? Still too bad. The Astronomical Clock is stupid. It looks like a cuckoo clock you’d get in a cereal box, but a lot bigger. This is one of the “must-dos” that you can avoid, unless you’re really into that state-fair vibe and like being disappointed.
4.) Bukowski’s Bar
You walk up to a little plaza near the Kafka museums and you see two unique looking statues across from one another. Interest piqued, you investigate. They statues are peeing into a pool. and are moving around in weird patterns. You ponder why they’re moving so randomly. Then you remember that it’s the most obvious thing in the world and you’re a big dumb idiot. Of course when you send a text message to the statues they will pee you’re message into the pool. As your synapses catch their breath, you realize your central nervous system needs to be depressed. You could read some Bukowski, but that’s just no fun. Or you could go to Bukowski’s Bar in Žižkov. You’ll see mainly expats. You’ll also see 50 eurocent beers during happy hour. You should go.
5.) Kutna Hora
This is the place to visit if you’ve ever wondered what a heavy metal video would look like in real life. To be precise, when you get off the train, 35 minutes from Prague, you won’t think you’re in a heavy metal video. You’ll think you’re in 1980’s Eastern Europe complete with babushkas, unattended children, and freewheeling chickens. When you finally enter the Sedlec Ossuary, put some Iron Maiden on the iPod to set the mood. When soil from Golgotha (where Jesus was crucified) was sprinkled at this church, all the religious nuts wanted to be buried here. Being tiny, there were literally generations of skeletons piling up. Inspiration struck and the church underwent some modest redecoration, with 40-70 thousand bones. Wall hangings – bones. Door knobs – bones. Pillars – bones. Bone-tooth comb – plastic. Chandelier – bones. As macabre as it sounds, it really isn’t. It is one of the most uniue things I’ve ever seen. If you have time to kill while in Prague, take a train to Kutna Hora to see this gem(?). The rest of the town actually has a lot to see as well.
Tune in next time when I obsess about weird(er) things.