Ever since the Interrail gripped many of the new generation, Prague has been one of the most popular European cities to travel to. The medieval city plays host to many tourists from the scorching hot summers to the ice cold winters, as thousands turn out to see the red roofs of the Czech Republic. This city is almost identical to Budapest, one of my earliest travelling destinations, but if one thing separates it from its Central European counterpart, it is the vast quantity of beer. The word beer, or “pivo” in Czech, will appear routinely through this journal, much as it did during my short but sweet stay in the capital.
After observing the city through the small gap between my woolly hat and buff (yes, myself and five others visited during the winter), I realised how every monument is in close proximity. Most cities are expansive, with trams and metros your best bet for transport, but not Prague. In Prague, you walk.
It is easy to follow in the footsteps of everyone else in this well-preserved city, meandering through the narrow, cobbled streets. To start our trip, there was no better way than to view the city we were about to reside in. The St Vitus Cathedral in Prague’s castle can be found on the West side of the river and it offers a magnificent panoramic view of the red roofs that are the ceiling of the streets. If you can bare the 287 winding steps to the bird’s nest then time your trip with regards to sun down. We watched on as layers of haze turn to a pinky-hew and over Petřín hill the sun lays to rest for yet another day. As the sun went down, it was time for us to start thinking about doing the same, yet those 287 steps stood in the way of yet another pint of beer. After all that climbing, we certainly deserved it. A small, authentic bar at the bottom of the castle hill did us wonders. “6 Pilsners please.”
Like any young group of backpackers, we turned our attention to something bright and quirky the city had to offer on our second day: John Lennon’s wall. This vibrant canvas of street-art was born in the 80s as young Czech’s used the wall to scrutinise Prague’s communist regime, thus, the term ‘Lennonism’ became a thing. Since then, peace and love have been shared voraciously all across this colourful wall which has a new layer of spray-paint every day. Luckily for us, a stray can of silver paint was left unattained, an opportunity that needed to be grasped. One by one, we left our mark, which by now is a distant memory on a newly sprayed wall. But, if you visit one Lennon memorial, you must visit the other. Lennon’s bar rounded up the day. “6 Pilsners please.”
Charles Bridge and Old Town square covered in mild snow told the story of what Prague is really about. Hundreds gather over the icy bridge that gives the capital its identity whilst Prague castle and Petřín tower dominate the skyline. Old Town Square plays host to an array of hectic markets and cafes, a place to sit whilst you hear the clock tower strike midday. Busker’s play and people pass, but the main centre of attention is the warm Goulash stew in front of you. This wholehearted casserole served in a bowl of bread is the country’s finest food and partners perfectly alongside, yes you guessed it. “6 Pilsners please.” Obviously not all for me, I shared these moments with my five fellow travellers…
Prague’s silver lining for me was perhaps the unconventional activity we embarked on. With one day left of our trip, a moment of genius took over and we took creativity to the next level. Putting two and two together, the bin lid ventured out with us to the ice-coated Petřín hill, and alas, our snowy sojourn had begun. It’s always the spontaneous activities that do us the most good, realised as we trekked and slipped our way up this deserted hill. It appeared the locals kept themselves away from what would normally be considered as the capital’s woodland viewpoint. One by one, we jetted down a thin track made by our makeshift sledge, trees either side and ahead, the busy streets of Prague as small as we’d seen them. The occasional passer-by would yell “You guys are mad!” And how right they were. Frozen from head to toe after endless hours of Prague’s best activity we headed to a warm tavern high in the hills. “6 Pilsners please.”
As if the day’s activities hadn’t taken it out of us enough, each night was filled with an electric atmosphere at one of Prague’s famous bar crawls. Exploring every nook and cranny in vintage, cultured or indie surroundings, partnered alongside many of our famous orders: “6 Pilsners please” allowed us to see a new side of life to the city. From portraits of Heisenberg to being bitten by a stray dog whilst ordering a pint, these unique experiences topped off our dynamic days. Beer pong, flip cup, and drinking from your shoe, these late night expeditions are a must. This city really never sleeps.
My phone may have been pick-pocketed and the minus ten temperatures certainly bared us a struggle, but that’s what these trips are all about. From just four days, Prague showcased why it is one of Europe’s giants when it comes to travelling. You can just get so happily lost. Oh, and did I mention, the beer is extraordinary.