And now it’s time to live up to the “travelogue” part of my blog description, and give you a rundown of all the non-museum stuff I discovered in Prague. I’ll get to the first picture in this post in a second, but the second one is just of some church down the street from my communist-looking hotel. I totally dug the castley turret bits.
We of course had to see the famous astronomical clock, so we got that out of the way the first night we were there. Though I wasn’t fond of the fifty million other tourists crammed into the square, and I had a death grip on my purse the whole time in case someone tried to grab it, I AM a big fan of that little skeleton perched on the edge of the clock who rings a bell on the hour. I could have done without the religious figures spinning around the top in favour of more Mr. Skeleton, but meh, when in Prague. I also fell for Fish Man, just a couple streets away from the astronomical clock. I assume he’s some kind of fish-related saint, but I prefer to invent a back-story wherein he is a grizzled old fisherman who watches over the street with his fishy bounty. And the Charles Bridge is hell; personally, I would have happily skipped it in the first place…now that I’ve experienced it, there will certainly not be a next time.
If you’re walking the streets in any kind of touristed area in Prague, you will come across the trdelnik (I like to pronounce it turtleneck, but I imagine it’s more like tr-DEL-nik). It is identical to the Hungarian kurtoskalacs, or the Anglicised “chimney cakes” you sometimes see at Christmas markets in the UK (also the West Side Market in Cleveland used to have a stand selling them, so I imagine they’re available in places in the US with a sizeable Eastern European population, as it’s apparently a common pastry in many Slavic countries). It’s essentially a yeasted dough cooked on a spit, and coated with cinnamon and sugar whilst it bakes, so it develops a lightly carmelised sugary crust. Basically, it’s like a really crispy cinnamon roll, so it’s obviously delicious. Rumour has it that it’s not actually a traditional Czech pastry, and is in fact limited to Prague, but the smell will lure you in at some point, national dish or not. Since I don’t eat meat, my options in Czech restaurants were pretty much limited to fried cheese or…fried cheese, which was fine the first night, but got a little tiresome, especially at the one place I ordered it where it didn’t even come with chips. You at least need the chips to break it up, especially if you hate tartar sauce as much as I do, because that’s what’s always served on the side. Horrible, horrible tartar sauce. Therefore, trdelniks were one of my main forms of sustenance, and I was grateful for them. The best are rumoured to come from a crepe shop near the castle (with a little trdelnik man out front, you can see him pictured above), but I didn’t think they were anything special. I mean, it’s a hot cinnamon pastry, it’s going to be good no matter what, and they were 60 CZK at literally every place I saw them, so just get one wherever, you can’t go wrong (unless you don’t get one at all, that would be sad).
Woman cannot live on trdelnik and fried cheese alone (though I can ride it out for a surprisingly long time, intestines be damned), so I also found a small chain of gelato shops (they have at least two locations) called Angelato. It certainly wasn’t the most amazing gelato I’ve ever had, and their lemonade was appalling, but the pistachio gelato was tasty and cheap (a scoop is under a quid), so we grabbed a cone from there every night. There is also soft serve available in a variety of flavours for about 50p a cone, which was a joy to someone who is so damn sick of unflavoured Mr. Whippy.
I can also recommend that strudel from Susta Strudl I mentioned in the Vitkov Monument post. Just don’t try to visit it on a weekend; they’re not open then. The national soda of the Czech Republic is kofola, which tastes like watered down Coke, kind of gummi coke bottle-esque. I also found a candy bar that was almost my last name (the “Sojove” bar; my surname is Sajovie), but I cannot recommend that anyone eat it under any circumstances. I found out (after taking a revolting bite) that it is a “rum-flavoured soya log,” and is every bit as terrible as the name implies. Fortunately, beer can be had for about 50p a mug, so it’s easy enough to wash the taste of any regrettable foreign sweets out of your mouth. (Food is general is pretty cheap; we managed to get a full meal (if you consider my fried cheese to be a full meal, with chips I’ll give it a pass) including beer for about a tenner.)
Prague is a city of hills, and you will find yourself doing a lot of walking up and down them; it’s unavoidable. However, one of them does have a funicular attached that you can ride with a normal public transport pass. Unfortunately, this means that everyone rides it, and it gets unpleasantly full. I had the misfortune of being seated in front of a baby that let out an ear-piercing screech every three seconds, so I was pretty much deaf by the time I reached the top. If you are less deafened and cranky than me, there is some stuff to see up there, but it’ll cost ya. There’s some kind of Eiffel Tower-esque thing, a couple churches, some gardens, and an “enchanted grotto.”
There are also prune plum trees, and shhhh, I might have snatched one off the tree. My grandparents used to have prune plum trees (my grandma put them in pierogi sometimes) and they are my absolute favourite plums, so I was super excited to see them. It was a little under ripe, but I didn’t get the runs or anything, so it’s all good (I’m probably talking about my bowels too much in this post, sorry).
Let’s see, other touristy shit includes the Lennon Wall, and some stupid love lock bridges. I hope my readers wouldn’t think of contributing to a love lock bridge anyway, but seriously, please don’t do it. It not only looks dumb, but it ruins the bridges. Also, there was a delightful man-statue sticking out over the river behind that bridge, and you could barely see it because of all the stupid locks, which pissed me off even more. I just don’t understand it. I also don’t really get the John Lennon Wall thing, because there’s only a couple tiny pictures of him anyway, and then the rest is just random awful looking graffiti. Ugh, and Segways, can I just say how much I hate those Segway tours? Some man tried to talk us into going on one, and literally chased us up the hill on his Segway as we race-walked to try to get away from him. It would have been comical if it wasn’t so bloody irritating.
But calm down now Jessica, there’s a King Wenceslas riding an upside down horse statue inside some random shopping mall, and it’s pretty excellent, disturbing bestiality-connotations aside. Speaking of animals, Prague has a crapload of spiders. You will notice spiderwebs on the railings of all the bridges (which will make you not want to touch anything), and on all the bushes and traffic lights. They are big gross spiders as well, so it’s something to be aware of if you visit in the summer and have some arachnophobia going on.
And at last we come to what was genuinely one of my favourite parts of Prague. Right behind my hotel (I could see it from the window on the end of my floor), there was a sort of semi-abandoned amusement park. It’s called Luna Park, and is probably about a mile and a half north of the city centre (dunno what the district I was staying in was called, but I’ll put it on the Maps page, so you can find it that way). I love reading about the old World’s Fairs, and I love old amusement parks and industrial looking Victorian architecture, so this place was a winner.
The absolutely gorgeous main building, which may now be empty (part of it burnt down in a fire in 2008, and they’re repairing it), is called the Industrial Palace, and was built in 1891 as an exposition centre. I love it to bits, and I could definitely picture some Great Exposition style show taking place there.
There’s a few restaurants to the side of it, and behind it is a small amusement park, though the rides didn’t look terribly safe, and literally no one was riding them. There were a few people working back there, but we were the only people visiting. It felt slightly eerie, although apparently there’s a major fair held here in the spring, so that must be enough to keep it going.
You’ll also find a big pyramid, where they apparently stage shows, and a Victorian dancing fountain attraction. We didn’t pay to see it, but it was running when we peeped through the fence, and I have to say that it would probably be better at night when it’s lit up, as it was really nothing special during the day. The dancing fountain at Tower City Center is more entertaining, and you can watch that one for free (I spent many happy hours as a child gazing at it).
Finally, one of the buildings to the side of the Industrial Palace has some awesome busts adorning it. If you’re staying in the centre of Prague, I don’t know that I’d make a special trip up for it (unless you like old Victorian shit as much as I do), but there are trams that stop right in front, so it’d be easy enough to do I suppose.
Well, that concludes my Prague adventure. Considering we were only in the city for two and a half days, I think we crammed a lot in, and once I found some attractions away from all the tourists, I quite enjoyed myself, so I’d definitely go back some day. When my stomach is ready to handle more fried cheese.