Garcia Calavera

Prague dream vacation

Prague, a city that I always wanted to see and experience. I was always looking at the pictures of others and it seemed to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. After seeing it, I can say with all my heart that it is. The city offers beautiful landscapes, architecture, great old pedestrian squares, world class beer and bars where you can still smoke inside, and all this for prices almost identical to those in Romania.

From Romania there is no low cost direct flight to Prague, but the ticket on Czech Airlines is not too expensive, around 150 EUR per person bought a month in advance. Our 3-star hotel taken with TUI agency cost us only 121 EUR for 7 nights and not only it was very decent it also had breakfast included in the price.

From Václav Havel Airport to Prague city center take the AE (Airport Express) bus, the trip takes about 40 minutes and the ticket is bought directly from the airport counter and costs 60 Czech crowns (CZK) or about 2.3 EUR per person. I would advise to bring with you some Czech currency  in order to buy the tickets, otherwise you have to deal with the currency exchange offices in the airport that offer rip off exchange rates. You will get of at the “Hlavní nádraží” central railway station, which is a huge underground hub where you can access the buses, the subway, the S trains and especially the trams. I underline the trams because these are the main and easiest way of transportation in the city. The Czech capital is covered everywhere by tramlines, and they come every three minutes. The trams have dedicated stations and dedicated lanes, and around half of them are of the latest generation of Skoda trains. Tram tickets are found at any cigarette or food kiosk and are divided according to the length of time. A 30-minute ticket costs 24 CZK (1 EUR), and one 24-hour ticket costs 110 CZK (4.3 EUR) and can be used from the moment of validation on any line and any time you want until the expiration date.

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After we checked in,  we headed to the central square of the old town that is absolutely gorgeous. Even though it was a a Monday and the temperature outside was zero degrees Celsius, the square was full of tourists coming from all over the world. The most crowded place is in front of the Astronomical Clock , which is built in the Tower of the Old Town Hall. The clock changes it’s appearance and configuration at fixed intervals. I definitely recommend a visit to the Town Hall tower to enjoy the superb view of old town. Here you will also find  “Our People” Cathedral with it’s impressive twin black towers. The cathedral is used today only as a concert hall. The old city is full of beautiful buildings, narrow streets with cubic stone that intersect in the squares. It’s pointless to say that car access is severely restricted in the city center and that’s a very good thing. In general, the personal car has the last priority in the city, most of the streets have generous sidewalks, dedicated tramways and platforms, and there is usually left just one lane for car traffic, I wish my city authorities would take an example from them. From the central square we walked through the streets to the coast of the river Vlatva towards Charles Bridge. This is the the oldest surviving bridge in the city, a stone pedestal bridge, decorated with many statues, built by Carol himself, King of the Holy Roman Empire in the 14th century. The bridge is one of many that connects the commercial part of the city to the hilly bank opposite on which Prague Castle is located. The castle is used today by the President of the Republic. The bridge has two towers, we visited the one from the Old Town, which besides the beautiful view from the top also has a small museum with various objects recovered from the riverbed. From the foot of the tower, under the bridge you can board a tour boat from the “Venice Prague” company and enjoy a 45-minute tour of the river and the canals. The tour cost 290 CZK (11.5 EUR) per person and includes audio guide (in our case a very funny boat driver named Pavel), a drink of choice, a snack and free entrance to the bridge museum.

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After all this walking around, we looked for a traditional Czech restaurant and found one quite fast . The traditional Czech cuisine is similar to that of it’s neighbors , the Germans and Hungarians. We tried the pork chops, smoked pork ham with sweet cabbage and potatoes, spicy beef sprouts, a variety of very succulent sausages, all served obligatory with mustard garnish and horseradish scraped on top and of course all them go very nice with great Czech beer. One meal for two persons cost about 30 EUR , including drinks, which I think is very good. Also the city’s most popular snack is a sausage served with a piece of bread and mustard found at any kiosk in every pedestrian square. Take care, it can be quite spicy.

At the end of the evening , we shifted to a bar where smoking inside was allowed (Legislation in Czech Republic still allows this in some bars) to taste some Czech beers. They are absolutely fabulous ,  the first one I tasted was Velkopopovický Kozel, a black beer that I fell in love with. Beer, depending on the pub and brand, usually costs between 30 and 70 CZK (1.2 to 2.8 EUR). For beer lovers I absolutely recommend Prague Beer Museum, which is actually a bar that has a very thick menu of selection of beers with any possible aroma and color.

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Prague center
Prague night

In the following days we visited the imposing castle Prague, where, considering that at 16:30 it was already dark, it took us a whole day to see everything. It is worth seeing the Artisans’ Street, which features re-created workshops for various craftsmen, but also numerous armored and medieval exhibits, the royal jewelery wing, St. Vitus Cathedral (most imposing on the horizon skyline). The full access ticket costs 350 CZK (13.8 EUR) per person plus 50 CZK (2 EUR) if you want to take photos, but you can buy a personalized ticket with restricted access only for the objectives that interest you in the castle. After finishing the castle tour you I recommend to stay on the same bank of the river and go to the Letenske Park, a tall park that offers the best views of the city and it’s bridges. We got there just at dusk when the lights of the city switched on and it was a dream view.

To avoid getting bored only in the city,  we took a day trip to the Karlstejn Castle, located 30 km from the city. The small town is easily reached by suburban “S” trains that come every 30 minutes into the central station. As I said earlier, the train station is a huge underground complex and the tickets are bought from the lowest level of the complex. From the Karlstejn station you can walk on to the town, and follow the nice scenic road. Karlstejn Castle is only visited with a guide and the ticket costs 270 CZK (10.6 EUR) per person. The castle is beautiful, but the atmosphere in town during the off peak season seems rather dead.

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Another day was dedicated to the National Technical Museum, which takes you at least 3-4 hours to visit properly . The massive 4-storey structure has exhibit pavilions from all fields of science, I especially liked the mobile telecommunications pavilion, the photo pavilion, and the evolution of the electric domestic appliances over time. But the central room is the main attraction, this is a common open space where on each floor you saw the evolution of the bike, motorcycle, airplane, cars, but also trains and ships. A beautifully crafted museum that highlights the achievements of the Czechs people and manages to keep you interested for a long time. The ticket price is 190 CZK (7.5 EUR).

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It is also worth a visit to Prague TV tower, which at 93 meters high offers unique views and a nice ambient with suspended capsules in which you can relax and admire the view.

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Our stay in Prague lasted 5 days, and we had plenty to do in each one. I wish I could hang around there for a couple of months or even years, the city is full of European and American expats, attracted by the relatively low living costs and the high quality of life.  We are talking about a country where prices are similar to my home country of Romania, but the country’s average salary is double than that of Romania. The difference of income is yours to enjoy in this beautiful city.

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