Disclaimer: This article is my opinion. None of the companies mentioned below have sponsored this review.
Ahoj! No, I didn’t secretly runaway to become a pirate; I’m in Prague. That is actually how you say hello in Czech. Seemed funny to me at first too, but I got the hang of it, and sounded like a local in no time. As for the rest of the language – uh – that’s a different story. I tried to learn a couple of key phrases. I failed miserably! Like most other countries in Europe, if you stay close to the tourist areas, most people will speak English, if you aren’t obnoxious. This means don’t get mad if someone doesn’t speak English and can’t understand you. Remember, they don’t have to speak English. You are in their country.
For the most part, the Czech Republic looks as any nation recently released from communist rule would. The capital city of Prague, also known as the “Golden City of a Hundred Spires,” however, is a different story. Having been the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, twice, it does not fail to impress.
I arrived late in the evening, by bus. The area outside the main train station (Praha hlavni nadrazi) was rather deserted and a bit scary. Not exactly the first impression I was hoping for, but I had a feeling daylight would wash away my concerns.
I grabbed a cab, and headed off to the apartment I had rented for my stay. That apartment turned out to be the worst part of the trip, but it could have been worse, so I just brushed it off.
I spent my first day catching up on some work for this site, and exploring the neighborhood around my place. Even after some sleep and fresh air, I wasn’t sure I understood what all the hype was about. Having been rated by Trip Advisor, among numerous other sites, as the best kept secret in Europe, I expected to immediately understand what the fuss was about. But I just couldn’t see it. I felt awful! I was counting the days until I could catch my train to Budapest and leave Prague in my dust.
Then, from a not entirely corporeal place, I heard the words of my mother and father. “This too shall pass,” I heard my mother say, followed by my father’s favorite saying, “You’re in the Army.” I took a deep breath, grabbed my laptop, and decided to figure out why Prague is such a big deal.
Since I don’t speak Czech, and was staying so far out of the tourist areas, I decided I would jump in head first with a bike tour around the city. I booked an afternoon tour with EBike Prague for the next day. What a fun experience! The owners of the company are from the UK, and moved to the Czech Republic shortly after the end of communism. They were an absolute delight to speak with prior to the tour starting. My guides, Robert and Charlie, were informative and friendly. They took our small group around the city, showing us the top spots, and giving us a chance to leave the bikes and stretch our legs. Apparently, they frown on drinking and riding bikes, so no beer on the tour. That was especially sad when we stopped at Letna Beer Garden. Everyone around us was relaxing at a table drinking beer and enjoying the scenery. I wanted to do the same, but followed the rules and decided I would return another day.
In total, we traveled 16km (almost 10 miles), saw Prague Castle, the Czechs’ take on the Eiffel Tower, the Kafka Museum, and many other small stops around town. Traveling around on bike was a great way to see the city. At times, I even felt like a local, racing beside traffic and pushing those slow Segway tours off the bike path. By the end, I had a better understanding of what makes Prague a place to write home about.
Now that I had an idea of the grand beauty the city offered, I wanted to taste it. If you know anything about me, it should be that I love to eat good food. And since my first tour went so well, I booked another one. This time, though, I booked a foodie tour of Prague. It was last minute, but the Prague Foodies owner and guide was able to fit me in for the next day. I would not suggest you wait to book this tour because the spots fill up fast, and with good reason.
Vladimir is a fantastic guide! He loves his city, and has a deep passion for food. I got to see areas of the city I hadn’t seen during my bike tour, and this time there was beer. I’m not much of a drinker back home, but I was in the Czech Republic, the brew masters of some of the best beer—just behind Belgium, at least.
As I took the tram home that night, I watched the buildings drift by, feeling like I had missed too much. Would I ever return to this wonderfully yummy city, or would this be it for me? I sure hope not! One day I will return. And next time, I won’t return alone.
Have you ever been to Prague? What about the Czech Republic? What recommendations do you have for visiting either? What did I miss that should be on the itinerary for next time?
Don’t be shy, share your thoughts below!