Enter the Prague, Cross Off Another City

Prague always seemed to be a lovely city to visit. While my mind wasn’t full of the grandeur that so many other Americans attributed to this capital of the Czech Republic, it seemed like a nice place to go. Telling friends in Barcelona we were heading there for a couple of days before heading on to Budapest got a lot of the same responses such as, “Oh, well, enjoy I guess.” or “Have fun with the Americans!”
I was wondering what they were getting at. I’ve been to Venice in August and I’ve seen the glut of tourists in Barcelona in the high months as well. How bad could it be? Surely they were exaggerating. As it turns out, once setting out for a full day or two of exploration, they weren’t exaggerating all that much. While places like Barcelona are shielded from a great deal of the assiest of tourists because they all go to the beach, there is no beach in Prague, so every last speck of tourist booty is parked right in the center. So, if you go anywhere in the center, you are greeted by Marge from Oklahoma calling back home while on the old Charles’s Bridge (about 650 years old) to ya know, check on the kids and stuff. Yes, I actually witnessed this, take a listen below.
The examples of crap, mostly American tourists are quite endless and there is little reason to go in to them other than to say, stay out of Prague during the warm months. It appears to me that Prague tourism has done the exact same thing that Croatia tourism has done, in that they built too fast with little regard to much else than profit which has created a town center that is just jam packed with every crap tourist knickknack one could ever want, but little else.
It’s quite sad to see, because if you swipe this away, Prague is quite a nice city. It has an absolutely fantastic Metro and tram system that takes you anywhere you could want to go for very little money. The food, while heavy and Central European is very good and priced such that it makes buying your own food to cook pointless. The beer is very affordable as well, costing about 1€ for a half liter and it’s damned good beer too. The buildings are impressive, unique, and beautiful, and the layout of the town is cozy and meandering allowing one to enjoy all the twisting streets while wending through the slow tourists in countless groups of course. And then there is Nakládaný Hermelín which is without a doubt the “bee’s knees” (whatever the hell that phrase means, but you mostly likely get the point.) Additionally, if you know how to read a map well, you can go see sites and stroll through the parks just outside the immediate center which most tourists never go to. Spots such as Vyšehrad are a great day out in Prague.
Overall, I would say that Prague is a worthwhile visit if one comes outside of summer (although I hear the crowds are still strong even then and there is a stable base of 20,000 American expats hanging out, attempting to write, who live in the city) and haven’t been to a Habsburg-era city before. If you’ve been to Vienna, the capital of all things Hapbsburg, I think it’s still worth a visit since I like Prague a great deal more than Vienna due to Vienna being far too oppressive and palatial. But, for someone like me who has been to Zagreb, Ljubljana, Maribor, Varaždin, Belgrade, Sarajevo, Vienna, Graz, Brno, and Budapest, it’s a tad, well… “normal”. Yeah, I know, I need to slow down a bit someday.
Obviously, I have a great many more things to follow on Prague, after staying here for five days with #1 Fan. But the one thing that I’ve realized here and it seems to be another universal truth of life is that whatever Habsburg-era city you see first is ultimately the one you’ll love for the rest of your life. For me, this means loving Zagreb despite the fact that few do actually love it, including the great majority of the people who live there. For others this means Prague and so be it. It’s a perfect place to start a love affair. Just choose wisely when choosing your first Habsburg entry point.
Enter the Prague, Cross Off Another City