Saturday, May 25, 2013

Prague, Czech Republic

By Richard Barkand

If you take away the political borders, you might realize that Prague is located nearly in the center of Europe. It is part of the reason why many multinational companies have established offices in the Czech Republic’s capital city. It also helps to explain why so many travelers criss-crossing the continent make a point of adding Prague to their agenda.
But there is much more to the city than just a convenient stopping point. You know you are in an interesting place when you discover that the “New Town” district was first established in the year 1348.

Two of the most famous landmarks in the city are the Charles Bridge (construction began in 1357) and Prague Castle. But you do not have to limit yourself to only those two places. The neighborhoods on either end of Charles Bridge are full of narrow, crooked streets lined with restaurants, pubs, and craft shops. The weather is generally very pleasant from April to October, so you probably won’t mind losing track of time or your sense of direction.
Another must-see is the astronomical clock in Old Town Square. At the start of every hour, the clock performs a short, whimsical show. The square itself is full of beautiful buildings in different styles of architecture.

The public transportation system is modern, reliable, and inexpensive. An unlimited 24 hour pass costs 110 CZK (around $5.50 USD). Most locals buy a pass annually which costs around $240 USD.
One thing that the city has not been known for is its cuisine. The traditional meat-centric dishes are readily available in nearly every neighborhood pub. One interesting and slightly unusual dish is called Svickova. It consists of marinated beef in a cream sauce with knedliky (dumplings) and, oddly, cranberries and whipped cream.

If you want something lighter, that’s ok. In the last five years, there has been a mushrooming of vegetarian restaurants and specialty shops offering fresh alternatives.
Speaking of mushrooms, for those who venture outside the city, mushroom picking is a favorite hobby of many Czechs. Go for a walk on one of the many well-marked hiking trails and you will certainly find people carrying baskets full of the various types of mushrooms growing in the forest. In fact, on summer weekends the city can feel a little empty. Many families have a chata (cottage) where they go to get a break from urban life.

Prague is also famous for its beer. And they do take their beer seriously here. The larger breweries employ inspectors who make visits to pubs and restaurants to check that their product is stored, poured, and served properly. Many microbreweries have sprung up recently to add more variety to the local beer culture.
After all, there is no better way to end a day of walking around the city’s stone and brick streets.

1 comment:

  1. amazing text and very close to my heart, because I am Polish
    it struck a string in my soul when you mentioned mushrooming ,
    I used to go with my folks just to do that and it was a reason for celebration, when we found whole colony of certain kind of mushrooms.
    Later we bragged for weeks about our luck to friends and family and enjoyed taste of marinated mushrooms for rest of the year.
    I guess Czech and Polish traditions are very similar, after all we are neighbors