Prague Czech RepublicPrague [Czech Republic]

Prague Czech Republic

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Czech Republic

Prague is a city void of happy mediums. On one side the beauty is intoxicating and constant, a jerky tram-ride down the hills of the classy Dejvice neighborhood into the heart of Mala Strana will simply make you stare in a frozen trance at the endless red rooftops and the twirling river Vlatva and her many bridges into a sky of countless spires and patina domes that inevitably make this place feel so mystifying and frozen in time. If you're able to tear your eyes from the view as the tram twists down into the city, you'll be pleased to see even the locals taking in the sights with wondrous eyes. But on the other hand, the beauty that was once a traveler's secret…is out. Tourism here is a huge enterprise demonstrated quite well with the treacherous task of crossing the Charles' Bridge alongside a thousand others (hold onto your bag).

But the true magic of Prague lies in its illogical labyrinth of winding cobblestone paths that will take you, if you choose to follow, to the city's hidden pubs, lounges, and restaurants bringing you further away from the dizzying frenzy of tourists meeting at the Jan Hus statue in Old Town Square. Take these paths as far as you can, not forgetting to take in the beauty of the pastel rainbow-colored buildings and connecting archways, through towers, past churches, any path you take will overwhelm the architecturally ignorant eye and the baroque and gothic experts alike. Once past the trendy restaurants claiming their skills at Mexican food (trust none, I mean how far is Mexico again?) and American burgers lies a plethora of pubs and eateries whose ambiance could never be matched by a big budget corporate chain whose marketing staff sat endless nights trying to remember every last detail to create the atmosphere that these places do effortlessly (the brick displaying itself coquettishly through the dark wood walls is from real wear and tear of time).

Beer certainly is cheaper than water and stronger than what you're used to. Don't offend, order the largest one available and get into the spirit of things. And although vegetarians may be restricted to fried cheese and food critiques might frown at the lack of seasoning of most dishes, the truly traditional Czech dishes are something to smile about. After all, what goes better with a beer than goulash and dumplings? A hearty meal like this and a beer rosying your cheeks is the first step of getting into the heart of this culture; and ignore the lack of customer service oriented staff, try your skills with a little Czech to get them smiling, "Jedno pivo prosim…diky mocs!" One beer please…thanks much. This should surely be followed by, jeste jedno prosim, one more please repeated as often as necessary. Wine lovers should just suck it up and get into the beer culture, try a Velvet, for the Moravians of the eastern side of the Czech Republic proudly produce a lot of wine, the fullest bodied red they can offer will still have you triple checking the label for alcohol content that seems not be present at all. And just when you get yourself set up with a perfect Czech meal and beer in a cute and rustic pub comes the time that you'll take note of the music, the one place where the ambiance fails, the eighties American hits pumped up into warped teeny-bopper electro speed never ceases to surprise as it seems the last place on earth where it belongs. If you hit a restaurant without this, consider yourself lucky.

As the night takes over the sky of spires and domes, ignited with beer, everyone in Prague should take advantage of the youthful nightlife that has boomed over the years as the secret was being let out. If you've avoided the tourists enough to meet up with them now, check out Nebe (Czech for heaven) a cellar of a main room offers a variety of beats and soft couches to relax on while the second room goes for a chic white lounge with rotating pink and blue lights that might lure you in until you realize that Milli Vanilli is playing…the entire CD. Keep an open mind and an open eye, celebrity sightings are very likely here.

But for the public transportation savvy, head to Mecca in Prague 7, and head there late unless you want to chill solo. Mecca is a Chicago-house fan's best bet, it boasts two large plush lounges and a good sized dance floor, and when a big DJ is spinning, dancing until dawn seems inevitable and how convenient as to avoid the night tram and board the morning's first metro as if you've only just begun your morning.

Of course, the history of Prague should be given a respectable amount of time, easily accomplished by checking out the diverse range of museums, statues, cemeteries, and landmarks. This capitol and its country have seen unimaginable hard times and yet somehow it has come out almost unscathed from past wars' damage in comparison to Berlin, Warsaw, and Budapest. Some say the city is haunted by the tortured souls of time, and you may feel it if you stroll the Charles Bridge in its most exquisite times of dusk or dawn (or if at any time during your stay, you go for the Absinth). The fog hovering over the saints' star-circled heads can thicken so fast it seems to encapsulate the observers along into it. People call Prague "magical" for this reason, sometimes words just don't exist for the polarizing emotions that this city's many haunted and "magical" places invoke. The inexplicable feelings will stay with you for some time and you should be glad.

  Courtney Lochner


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Prague (Eyewitness Travel Guides)
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