Prague is a quirky little slice of heaven. I honestly don’t really know how better to describe it. If it’s not on your travel wish list, it should be. I’ve been a couple of times and it’s on my radar for my next European trip because I’ve barely scratched the surface of all there is to do and see! And as a lover of the quirky myself, the city is right up my alley.
I think part of Prague’s charm is that it retains an old world feel. On one of my trips to Europe I was told that a reason for this was that during World War II, Prague managed to escape a much more disastrous bombing than it received. A large scale bombing was happening in Dresden - but a group of American pilots, due to navigational error, dropped 152 tons of bombs on Prague by mistake. Despite this mistake (all deaths were civilian), the Old Town was unscathed.
And in a continent that was torn apart by war, escaping relatively untouched is a huge deal. I love Berlin, but to walk the streets - it feels like you’re in a city that was built in the 50’s. There is very little in the way of architecture prior to World War II because so much was destroyed. But Prague. Prague has a character to it that is missing from a number of European countries.
But having an old timey feel isn’t enough to make it to the top of my travel list, so why do I think you should consider Prague?
With nearly 300 museums, there’s a lot to see. And these aren’t your grandmother’s museums either. Medieval Torture Museum, Sex Machine’s Museum, The Museum of Alchemists and Magicians of Old Prague, The Museum of Communism...there are a variety of museums in the city that explore a myriad of topics. I loved the Museum of Communism personally, though it’s since moved locations and has likely changed since I visited in 2008. What I loved about it was that it was small and disorganized and just utterly charming though photos are now showing it to be bright and airy. You’ll find your traditional art and history museums too, but take a chance on something strange and beautiful.
BLACK LIGHT THEATRE
Prague is pretty famous for this art style and when a friend of mine talked me into going to a show I really didn’t know what to expect. We sat in the front row of the balcony and watched a portrayal of Alice in Wonderland exploring adolescence unfold in front of us. It was weird, and I still can’t tell you if I liked that particular show, but the medium was fascinating and it’s an ongoing joke and memory with the group of us that went to the show. I keep hoping someone will bring a black light theatre show to the Edmonton Fringe.
There are a number of sights in the city centered around political dissonance and they are fascinating. The John Lennon Wall, several statues and art installations and memorials serve to remind the country of it’s once communist ways. One memorial can be viewed in Wenceslas Square, dedicated to Jan Palach and Jan Zajic, two men who died by suicide via self-immolation to protest the political climate. Below is a letter Jan Zajic left behind for his family.
Mother, father, brother, little sister!
When you read this letter, I will already be dead or close to death. I know what a severe blow my act will be to you, but don't be angry at me. Unfortunately, we are not alone in this world. I am not doing this because I would be tired by life, on the contrary, because I cherish it too much. Hopefully my act will make life better. I know the price of life and I know it is the most precious thing. But I want a lot for you, for everyone, so I have to pay a lot. Do not lose your heart after my sacrifice, tell Jacek to study harder and Marta too. You must never accept injustice, be it in any form, my death will bind you. I am sorry that I will never see you or that, which I loved so much. Please forgive me that I fought with you so much. Do not let them make me a madman.
Say hi to the boys, the river and the forest.
Prague has some awesome beer options and they can be found in some of the most unique bars and pubs. One such venue is The Ice Bar, made entirely of ice. Or try absinthe at the Absintherie. Try the Steampunk Themed Cross Bar or visit the climbing wall at Lokal Bloc. Prague is also a rising star thanks to it’s Beer Spas - there are a number of benefits to the body the Beer Spas claim including relaxing sore muscles, clearing pores and improved blood circulation. It probably doesn’t hurt that you get to drink beer while you bath in it.
There is a strong Jewish Heritage in Prague. One should consider a visit to the Spanish Synagogue, adorned with Gold Plating. The Jewish Cemetery is also worth a visit. It is one of the largest Jewish Cemeteries in Europe and of great importance in Prague. As you walk through you’ll find yourself amongst a dense forest of tombstones - the cemetery was built as layers, meaning multiple people are buried per plot. It is both beautiful and sad.
There are a few unique gems hidden within Pragues city limits. Speculum Alchemiae is one of them. Only discovered in 2002 thanks to a flood, this hidden alchemy lair is accessed via secret tunnel. Another gem is the Gulliver Airship, a wooden blimp like structure above a museum where bibliophiles go to read and discuss books. The Idiom Installation at the Municipal Library has an amazing illusion - a tower of books that seems unending. Olšany Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Prague and has some beautiful locations within of lush greenery. See a show at the Theatre of the Estates where Mozart premiered Don Giovanni in 1787. And my favourite gem is a store hidden down an alley near the Rolex Store along Wenceslas Square. Here, you’ll find a treasure trove of traditional hand painted (or at least I hope they still are) eggs for sale.
Whether you’re in love with castles, bridges and cobblestone or post-modern sculptures of Frank Kafka’s head, Prague is a city that keeps you on your toes and promises a surprise around every corner. When people ask me what my favourite travel destination has been, Prague is right near the top of my list and I think if you were to visit, you too would agree that it’s something special.