Prague; The Perfect Final Chapter

I have been putting off writing this post because I am now on the other side of our adventure of a lifetime.  I’m now sitting in the suburbs of Milwaukee happily catching up with people that I haven’t seen in months and although it has only been a week since we returned; it already feels so far away.  Strangely, I haven’t wanted to reflect on the last week in Prague because I assumed I’d feel a huge sense of sadness that it was over.  I have wanted to only look forward into our bright, shining present and future back in the USA.

Since it has been over a week since we’ve been home, I forced myself to think about it.  I didn’t want the memories to fade too much to the point where I couldn’t even describe our last destination or our last week accomplishing our travel dreams.  Upon my forced recollections of Prague, I realized I didn’t feel as sad as expected because it was the perfect place to go out on.

Before we left on this trip, I wrote a post re-capping our last night living in Chicago; We forever-ever-ever will have Chicago.   I didn’t have the expected breakdown about leaving the city that I loved for so many reasons; we had time to transition, it felt right deep down to leave, and our friends planned such a great last day for us.  I felt as though I had closure and time to accept it.  After re-reading this, I saw that spending our final week in Prague ended up giving me the exact same outcome.  It simply felt like the right time to end our adventure (as you can tell, I base most of my decisions on feelings and not so much on rationality).  It is crazy how life can come around full circle.

Instead of trying to force in a multitude of other European cities (which we’d originally considered), we elected to spend an entire week wandering around and drinking our way through Prague.  Although you don’t really need a whole week to see all of the major sights Prague has to offer, it felt perfect for our transition because we had plenty of time to prepare mentally for the fact that we were going home and also not think about that when we wanted to have fun.  Prague is a beautiful, historical city but also has that pulse and vibe of a larger metropolitan city, so there was plenty for us to do to fill our time.

Something I really loved about Prague is how accessible it is.  It is a very walkable city and easy to travel around using the street cars or the metro.  We choose to stay in Prague 2 which is a local, residential area, but it was still very close to Prague 1 where all of the sights and tourist activities are.  Because of Prague’s accessibility, we didn’t have to spend a bunch of time figuring out how to get places or spend excessive amounts of time actually getting there.  This characteristic of Prague alleviated a lot of the travel stress that we’ve encountered in other places, and provided relaxed meandering about the city.

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Prague has an excellent mix of most things I’m looking for in a city when I travel besides accessibility; history, interesting streets and architecture to gaze at, new food to try, inexpensive and delicious beer or wine, nice views of the city, and things to discover that I didn’t originally know about the culture.

History is everywhere in Prague.  It’s impossible to miss it.  From World War II to the Cold War to the split of Czechoslovakia, there are plenty of sights and locations throughout the city where something important has happened.  Dan and I listened to Rick Steve’s walking tour of Prague and learned so much about different sights and spots in the city that we would have simply walked past had we not listened to it.  We also went on a Communism and Nuclear Bunker Tour which gave us the low down on the background and stories from the communist era in the Czech Republic.

View of Wenceslas Square.  Now this is a huge business and touristic center but was the location of many demonstrations against the Soviet Union including the Velvet Revolution. 

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This mortifying picture was taken inside the Nuclear Bunker which was created by the Soviets in the 1950’s. 

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In regards to architecture, it is even more impossible to miss than the history.  Prague and the Czech Republic was thankfully spared from bombing during World War II which has given Prague the opportunity to keep its old world charm.  Walking around, we could feel the age of the city, but in a good way.  The cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, squares, churches, castles, and even the famous Astronomical Clock, all add to Prague’s architectural beauty.

View of the Old Town Square.  

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Stunning Prague Castle. 

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St. Charles Bridge. 

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Being a vegetarian in Prague was no problem.  I couldn’t really sample much of the cultural, local cuisine, however all of the restaurants we visited had something for me to eat.  And I’m not talking settling for rice and beans like I had to in South America, but fresh salads, fried cheese plates, curries, soups, etc.  I was happily surprised because I honestly figured all of the food would be meat based (which most of the local stuff is).  Dan on the other hand, fully enjoyed the traditional goulash, sausage, and goose leg.

A few local dishes I was able to indulge in were pickled cheese and trdelnik.  The pickled cheese was the perfect accompaniment to a Czech beer.  It is a camembert cheese marinated in oil and stuffed with onion, garlic, and some other herbs and spices that you dip bread into.  The trdelnik (no, I never figured out how to pronounce this) is basically a homemade bread roll wrapped in sugar and is cooked over an open charcoal flame.  It can also be filled with Nutella or ice cream if you want and of course, we always opted for Nutella.

Pickled Cheese. 

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Trdelnik. 

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The beer in Prague is good and it is cheap.  What better combination is there than that?  Most of the beers are a simple lager or pilsner but I easily adapted to the no-frills taste of the Czech style beer.  There are plenty of out door restaurants, local bars, beer gardens, and even the Prague Beer Museum (which has 30 beers on tap) to enjoy some beers and with a view or to people watch.  We found the beers in the Prague 1 to be way more overpriced than in Prague 2 where we could have 7 beers between the two of us for only $10!

First taste of a Pivo (beer) in Prague. 

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One of our tastings at the Prague Beer Museum. 

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And last but not least, there is no shortage of beautiful views in Prague.  The city is split (somewhat like Budapest) by the Vltava river and is gorgeous at any time of day or night.  We easily found three different spots that overlooked the entire city that provided amazing views and weren’t even crowded.  (We did walk up to Petrin Hill but the line was way too long to go up the tower).

View from the Letna Beer Garden.  

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View from Havlíčkovy sady park which faces the eastern side of Prague.  There was hardly anyone here for the sunset. 

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Dan and I both unfortunately cannot remember the name of this park (and Google Maps doesn’t show it either).  But, it was perfect for a day of reading, eating sandwiches, and relaxing with a view of the city in the Vinohrady neighborhood.  

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I will admit that despite the greatness of Prague; our last day in Prague and of our trip was really weird.  Dan and I both couldn’t snap out the funk we were in.  We both felt numb.  There were so many feelings of excitement for going home but on the flip side, so many feelings of mourning the end of our adventure but this really didn’t hit us until the last day.  And this day really isn’t how I remember Prague or what it meant to me.

I originally felt this need to do something really big, to go out with a bang.  Stay in a fancy hotel or go out clubbing or eat a really expensive dinner to cap off our travels.  But, Dan and I both came to the realization that, our whole trip was a bang.  Our whole last week that we spent in Prague was already a bang.  Why try to force it just because its ending?

Now that I’m sitting here, mentally and physically miles away from our trip, I can see clearly that we achieved what we wanted in the final days of our trip.  We gave ourselves the perfect final chapter, in Prague.

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