Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Praha 7

Here are some practical points should you be heading to Prague. 
  • There is no direct transport from the airport to downtown.  Your options are to take a bus to the metro station and then metro to the core.  This is the cheapest option, 32 Kc.  A taxi to the center of Prague will run you 800 Kc.  If you choose the taxi route, make sure to to get an "official" one or negotiate a price or ensure the meter is used.  Overcharging tourists can be an issue.
  • Make an effort to speak some Czech.  I had no problems with "customer service" at all (you may come across this topic on travel forums).  Even when I couldn't explain or gesture what I was looking for (bug spray -- don't ask...), and almost resorting to drawing it out, the one gentleman and I just looked at each other, laughed, shrugged and parted on polite terms.  The ticket ladies at the art gallery and the opera house patiently let me finish in my broken Czech straight faced without laughing to which I give them the highest credit. 
  • The phonetic pronunciation of Czech words from travel books didn't always work.  Go online and find examples of proper pronunciation to learn from.  It took me a few days to realize I was pronouncing stuff completely wrong so it was no wonder I got blank looks.  Once I corrected myself, I got replies.  Didn't always know what they were saying but they were smiling so I took it to be a good sign. 
  • If you are going to attend a show, it goes without saying to be on time.  They are strict with starting and getting everyone back in their seats after intermission.  Also a great idea to dress appropriately.  I'm sorry to report that the people I saw in jeans were tourists. 
  • Counting the number one starts with your thumb.
  • Assuming you are not susceptible to any weirdo food additive reactions like I was, you'll be able to hit the ground running.  But you won't need to run as Prague is so very compact and walkable.  Maps make the city look so sprawling but every single day I would be stunned at how quickly I reached a destination.  For example:  My apartment was in Prague 2/3 and  I easily walked to Prague 7 for Mucha. 
  • Tram schedules are not intuitive so it is a really good thing you can cover the entire city on foot.
  • Cobblestones, when covered in light snow, especially the powdery stuff, gets quite slippery.  One night after an opera, the lot of us kinda skated down the ramp. 
  • Salt isn't used to melt snow in Prague.  They use a sand mixture that greatly resembles disintegrating dog poop which is commonly found in residential areas.  Consider yourself warned.
  • If you are staying outside of Prague 1, be prepared for not a whole lot of traffic (vehicular or human) at night (only in the winter?).  Building numbers are placed a lot higher than I was accustomed to, street signs weren't consistently found at regular intervals so know your neighbourhood.  And there were no outside lights to apartment buildings where I was so know how your key works.
  • We have 911 for emergencies.  Prague has 158.  Also good idea to know where your home country's consulate office is, just in case.  When you are travelling solo, you do need to make sure you know how to get help should something happen.  Just basic street smarts.
  • There is all day police presence at Wencelas Square because of the high incidence of pickpocketing.  There were a couple times where I noticed some long stares/hard looks but other than that, I had no issues.  The police station is supposed to be near there but I never bumped into it.  The area is considered their red light district at night and I've heard that it is common for female prostitutes to be "extra friendly".
  • There was very little noise in my apartment building.  People were very respectful of one another's privacy.  Most of the people I encountered in my residential area and building did not speak English.  And apparently neither do the police.
  • Because of where I stayed, I had to walk down to and through Wenceslas Square every day.  To do so required going through a small underground tunnel.  One of a few in Prague.  It was brightly lit but does not have a mirror to let you know if someone is standing around the bend.  During the day and early evening, there were stalls selling pizza, meat, pastries open in the tunnel.  I ate my first slice of pizza after a year of abstaining and it was delicious!  Flavourful cheese and double thick salami...It was worth the 2 days of stuffy nose and itchy eyes afterwards.

  • They are into hot wine (Svarak) and grog (rum) in Prague!  There is nothing better on a damp cold day than to be standing under an outdoor umbrella nursing a hot wine and eating a Trdelnik.  They make it over coals!  (bottom center stall with the roll thing on top is one example)  You will also find large shoulders of pork being roasted outdoors as well.  Hot ham and potatoes/cabbage is a popular meal.  Should you find yourself in Prague during Christmas, the Old Town Square is filled with Christmas market action.  I'd love to see the giant tubs of carp (considered a delicacy) swimming around.  Apparently if you are invited to someone's home near Christmas, you might to see the family's carp in their bath tub.

I'll end with this little tale.  During my week there, it was common to get some snow overnight.  Three mornings I was awakened by the joyous cries of this group of children.  My apartment faced an inner courtyard where there must have been a school or daycare.  Their activity of choice?  Shovelling!  They were not only hilarious, but would make short work of my snow covered driveway.  It was a happy way to be woken up.

No comments:

Post a Comment