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Czech This Out

As a new standard, you can find a map at the end of this post – I hope it helps you on your travels!

Later this year, one of my childhood friends is partaking in the age-old tradition of marriage and to celebrate, my friends and I planned a trip to Prague.

This is what we saw, ate and found.

Yes, this was a stag/hen do of sorts, and amongst the tides of rowdy, drunken tourists on similar trips, we remained (relatively) sober and saw what the capital of the Czech Republic had to offer in a short time.

 

Prosecco

Drinks at Stanstead. 10:30am.

 

After a few drinks at London Stanstead and a short aeroplane ride, we arrived in the city and found ourselves in a slightly damp airport – not what you want when you forgot to bring a coat. But I had checked the forecast and knew that soon it’d be sunny skies.

After finding suitable transportation into the city, we arrived at our AirBnB just as the Sun was coming out. This apartment had been selected by the group as something different and memorable; it was a medium sized apartment, with a large lounge area which also functioned as the bedroom – a common feature in ex-communist countries which I personally admire.
The layout was simple but had a unique mezzanine floor, accessible only via a wooden ladder. The location was perfect too, it was on Dlouhá street, a party street just off the Old Town Square.

 

Once we had unpacked, we went in search of some food.
The bride-to-be is a big fan of Hard Rock Cafes, so we took a beeline to the burgers and cocktails that they had to offer. These cocktails were to be the first of many over the weekend, and as usual, the Hard Rock Cafe delivered good, filling food at an acceptable price. The environment was equivalent to that which I’ve experienced in the London branch, the food was slightly better.

After a few laughs and jokes, we noticed that it was starting to get late, so we head back into the Old Town Square to take some photos and soak up the feel of the popular tourist area. As we went during April, the annual Easter market was in full swing with street food, souvenirs and – of course – beer. There was even a blacksmith working over an anvil there, he was hammering and moulding some pieces which were immediately put on sale beside him.

 

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The Blacksmith

 

Following our first Czech beer and several minutes of watching the metal forger at work, we went in search of a pub. The first one we came across was a great Irish place called Irish Times Bar. This cosy bar had live music and drinks at a good price, so we stayed here for a few hours. (We liked this pub so much we returned every night of the trip).

Several rounds later, we joined the queue for Karlovy Lázně the popular 5 story club with different types of music on each floor. After having partied in several cities across the Europe, this club really takes the biscuit. It had such an infectious atmosphere and such a selection of music on offer, I doubt anyone could have a bad night here.

When day two came around, the five of us were surprised to find that we felt fresh as a daisy. We got up early and pursued our plan for this day of experiencing Prague via organised walking tours.

Whilst planning the trip, I had come across Discover Prague which offered a free walking tour amongst several other paid tours around the city. We left our apartment in the early morning to join the free Old Town and Jewish Quarter tour.

Although, we made a small pit-stop at the Easter market for a hot dog.

 

Hotdog

Hot dogs for breakfast

 

Our Canadian-Czech guide was a young lady named Amanda and together we explored the streets of Prague 1 with open ears. She lead us around the Old Town and the Jewish Quarter, which were jam-packed of interesting architecture and history.

Amanda told us about how Prague regularly floods and had once been the seat of the Holy Roman Empire. Prague has also been sieged several times and for Czechs, the Second World War started in 1938 as Germany was allowed to invade north Czechoslovakia in 1938.

This two-hour tour had taught us so much about the country and its capital that we decided to join Amanda later on the Castle District tour. First, though we needed some food.

Upon Amanda’s recommendations, we headed to an amazing little restaurant called Krčma. This traditional Czech restaurant served the best food I tried all weekend. I tried the pork, cabbage and dumplings dish which was flavoursome and comforting. The food was cheap and authentic and interestingly, in this restaurant, cider was cheaper than cola. If you like cider, I’d suggest you try Kingswood – a special apple cider that is light and refreshing.

 

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Amazing Czech food

 

The castle tour was eye opening and a lovely way to spend the late afternoon of our second day. The tour started at 5pm and as there was only a handful of us – Amanda took us to a small monastic brewery. This late in the day, the district was free of other visitors – the calming atmosphere contrasted well against our first evening. We enjoyed walking amongst the unique architecture of the buildings and the small explanations of each style our tour guide gave to us.

The highlight of this tour St. Vitus Cathedral – a true masterpiece. Similar to the Sagrada Familia, it has taken decades to build and during its construction, different rulers and architects have added to the design. What I found particularly interesting was that on the most recent face, there were carvings of men in modern-day suits – not something you usually see on a stone cathedral.

 

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The tour finished in the early evening, just after the Sun had set so we made our way to Charles Bridge – a tourist hotspot but a historic spectacle in the darkness. Just before walking across this stone bridge, we each bought at trdelník – which you will see everywhere in Prague.

This special pastry is a hollow pastry chimney, about the size of your fist, which vendors fill with ice-cream or chocolate spread or even ham and cheese. It’s similar to Mexican churros but crunchy.

 

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Trdelník

 

Our third day was more chilled and saw us taking part in an escape room, which was thoroughly enjoyable and gave us an hour to break out of a room by solving puzzles and finding keys to padlocks.

We also visited a few museums.These weren’t your usual history, art or national museums, but the Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments and the Prague Sex Museum, both of which had a surprising amount of overlap with their articles!

If these types of museums intrigue you, I’d recommend visiting as they are something different to see. You can find the addresses of those we saw on the map below.

As it was our last full day, we went to watch the Astronomical Clock chime at precisely 2 o’clock – we had been told that the spectacle that tourists come to watch every day was underwhelming. Its performance, although not magnificent, was something different.

 

For the remaining part of the day, we bought some sweets at a pic’n’mix store called Captain Candy, had a secret cocktail at the Anonymous Bar and had a great meal at a one-of-a-kind bar/restaurant called Steampunk. Although we visited these three locations in sequence, they were each singular in their appearance and appeal.

 

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In summary, Prague offered a great weekend away, with much to offer than great beer or beautiful buildings. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a memorable trip!

Peace, BA.

 

My First Couchsurfing Experience

Thursday 26th May 21:16
“Hello, hola y hallo! My name is Benji and I’d like to sleep on your sofa please…”
The evening before the first of my final three exams at university, my friend Rob had shared with me a link to a blog titled “How Travelling Kills Ambition”.

In the year before, Rob had worked for 9 months at a global business and he quickly came to despise the office environment. Although Rob was the best in his academic year, repeatedly achieving 90+% in his exams, he had no interest in using his mathematical prowess in the same way again.

This blog, he said, summed up how he felt about life. Why working in an office will never be what he wanted. Why travelling would improve his life much more than a high income would.

I read this post and agreed with a lot of it. It describes the outlook of many people who are caught between society’s norms and living the life they want to. Let me know what you think.

 

The author of the blog was currently in Norway, and she had a recent post about why Norway was very accessible at the time of writing; the pound was strong against the krone, there were regular cheap flights from major EU airports and it was relatively low on most travellers’ to see lists.

This caught my eye. I already had two big trips planned for that summer (to Berlin with my Mum and to Poland and Hungary to teach TEFL) but my hunger for travel was high after revising for my final exams.
Within half an hour of receiving this post, I had found flights to Oslo (Rygge) for £54.38 and had a quick search of the hostels in the nordic city. They were all quite expensive.

 

Then the thought struck me. Couchsurfing, a.k.a.:

The Internet: Go sleep on a random person’s sofa
Me: Why not?

 

I downloaded the app, found a lovely couple who had similar interests, good reviews from those who had stayed with them and less than an hour after receiving the blog post, I had booked to go to Oslo 3 weeks later.
The next morning, when I sat my exam, I couldn’t stop thinking about the possibilities in this unusual country. What was I going to do? What was I going to see? How much would everything cost? What food would I try?
Upon arrival to the country, I had a rough idea as what my week was to be filled with; see the opera house, see the Scream, get my Viking on… but my journey became much more than this due to my Couchsurfing hosts.

 

I met them in a car park.

 

Okay, so I know you should never meet people you’ve “met” off the Internet in a car park, but this was Oslo, what were they going to do? Turn me into a gnome?

So I met Espen in this car park and I soon realised he didn’t want to harvest my organs for a quick buck. Espen was lovely. He was funny and sincere and thoughtful. Over the week, we spent quite a bit of time together and discussed many different topics – the Brexit vote was during my short stay in Oslo so that memory will remain with me for a while.

His partner Omar was great as well. A Venezuelan guy who had met Espen online, fell in love and when he emigrated to Norway, he finally met the man he’d later go on to marry.

They introduced me to some weird things.

  • Like how on birthdays, Norwegians have hot dogs in pancakes (which are delicious by the way).
  • How Norway is the biggest consumer of frozen pizza per capita.
  • And they also enjoy pic-a-mix like most other Scandinavian countries.
  • I also tried the brown cheese, which wasn’t so great.

 

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Norweigan brown cheese

 

Without them, I never would have visited Sognsvann, a beautiful lake at the end of the Metro where locals go to walk, cycle and swim. If you’re ever in Oslo, I’d definitely recommend going to this tranquil part of the forest, not that Oslo is a busy city like New York, but the calming effect of this area was amazing.

 


I also went to the Norsk Folkemuseum and the Viking Ship museum, which were great!

 
I’d definitely advise going to Oslo. I’d also advise seeing what Couchsurfing is like – you’ll get more back than you think!

 

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Oslofjord

 

Whilst writing this piece, I noticed that I was listening to Oslo by Anna of the North . Weird.

 

Peace, BA.