8 June 2003 - Extol Inn Hostel, Prague
Prague, the Paris of Eastern Europe

I'm so happy with Prague that I can't believe that I actually considered not coming here. It was all because it costed close to EUR50 to buy a ticket from Budapest, which was a lot more than I expected, considering that I had an EURail pass with me. In comparison, the cost from Prague to Vienna (with an EURail pass) is only around EUR15. I have to thank Errolyn for nudging me into the right direction, even though she's never been to Prague herself.

Why do I like Prague? Because it's nice. It's like your favourite jumper on a cool day. It envelopes you, you feel comfortable in it and the fact that it's old is part of the appeal.

It's a paradise for a walker like me. I'm not talking about the whole city, you understand, just the centre of it. It's actually very enjoyable to wander the streets, taking turnings at random. There is almost always something interesting down every alleyway, that pops up to surprise you. I've found three interesting bookshops, two wax museums and one museum of sex machines, just by walking around without a plan. Okay, so it's not exciting and gripping (I didn't go into the museum of sex machines), and things seem quite laid-back, but I like that in a city. Oxford is similar but on a much smaller scale (aside from Cornmarket on a busy day).

The architecture is just beautiful, if you're into that sort of thing. It's like every other block has angels carved into the side or saints or lions. It's not what you normally expect from a city centre.

It's small enough to walk around at a leisurely pace and even though it was really hot today, the streets are narrow enough that the buildings give you shade.

The city is split in two by a river, with the castle on the hillier side. The most famous crossing point is the Charles Bridge, which is a tourist attraction in itself. Statues dot the balustrade every few meters or so. The only thing that mars this is that there are so many tourists and vendors lining the bridge. I found it impossible to get a good shot from any angle without somebody's head in the way.

All around there are these sidewalk cafes that promise three-course meals for under EUR10. This is extremely good value for money compared to the rest of Europe, but it's still a little to rich for my blood.

The people here are nice. They're not extremely friendly, they don't go too much out of their way for you, but they are ready with a smile and are pretty much always helpful. There even was this lady who was walking around with her friend and two kids who wanted to help me carry my very heavy bag to the hotel down the road.

All in all, it's a very nice place. I could just about live here, except that just about the only parts of it I've seen is the town centre. For all I know the suburbs may be a mess, but if it's half as good as the main town itself, it'd still pretty charming.

posted on Thursday, July 03, 2003 - permalink
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