Wednesday, January 23, 2013

In Prague Again

After a quick trip to Vienna, Eric and I headed back to Prague.  We visited for five days in September and had been looking forward to going back ever since.

A view of the Charles Bridge when we visited in September
There's something about Prague.  It's not the cheapest city, the food is not Europe's best, and it can be damn cold to walk on those gorgeous streets.  The tourist area around Old Town Square is extremely busy and every other shop is trying to sell you Czech crystal or a souvenir beer stein.  Especially on the weekends, the Charles Bridge is so crowded with tour groups that you practically have to elbow old ladies to make your way across.  (There is also no way to avoid walking through someone's photo.  Sorry for being that blur on the left, other tourists!)  

Even with the crowds and the cold, Prague has an unusual effect me.  As I wrote before, the city makes you feel like you're walking through a fairy tale, with turrets and gingerbread house-style architecture everywhere.  Its history is unavoidable, as nearly every building you walk by and every cobblestone you step over has some marking of the past.  It feels old, from a somewhat mythical age when life seemed more grand (at least for some part of the population), but at the same time the Soviet influence is apparent in many parts of the city.  Maybe its ability to balance its whole history — religious persecutions and wars and political turnovers — while still functioning in the modern era is what draws me to Prague.

Old Town Square
Prague is also one of the cities that feels like a future possibility to me.  I walked around it, thinking, "Yeah, I could live here.  I could do this all the time."  It's up there with Istanbul, Paris, Chiang Mai, Oxford, the Greek islands, and Berlin. 

For this visit to Prague, Eric and I sort of pretended we lived in Prague.  We'd already seen the main tourist attractions last time, so this time we just hung out and worked.  We stayed at a hostel near the Charles Bridge, ate sandwiches or trdelník from the same bakery every day, and planted ourselves in coffee shops to write and search for jobs back in the United States.  We set up a routine, which is one of my favorite parts of long-term travel.  It can be disorienting and jarring to change locations, languages, and currencies from day to day or week to week, and finding a semi-regular schedule in a new place makes it much easier to feel comfortable.

Not far from our hostel - I love the stone streets and those beautiful buildings
Eric and I arrived in Prague by train this time, so I had a chance to admire the smooth subway and tram system.  Seriously, it was easy to figure out even though I can't pretend to speak Czech.  Way to be, Prague.  

The old train station - the new one is built underneath
I didn't take many photos this time except of the food we ate.  No surprise there, right?  

A sausage plate and a cheese plate at this brewery
Beet and goat cheese salad - I have a new love of beets because of this
We had originally planned to spend three weeks in Prague, but with our surprise trip back to the US in motion, we moved on to Berlin after five nights.  I'm already hoping we can go back again soon.

What cities would you return to multiple times?
Where else might you want to live?

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