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Mind you, you're in Central EuropeFirst, I'll start by offering an explanation on the title. One thing that I found very funny when traveling to Prague is that when a Czech person found out that Cris and I come from Romania he or she immediately find a way to slip into the conversation that Czech Republic is in Central Europe so that we can get it out of our head that they have anything in common with us or the former Soviet Empire. Since Polish and Hungarian people also like to state their belongings to Central Europe and everyone south or south east of Romania prefer to call themselves "the Balkans" I guess that makes Romania the only country still in Eastern Europe. I always thought that the term "Eastern block" was referring more to a political reality of the 20th century than a geographical one, but I guess I was mistaken. I can't say that I blame them for their attitude. Life wasn't easy in a communist country. I know it because I grew up in one myself.
Cris tells me that I have a tendency to dwell on the negative things. I don't think that's true since I can't name a single place that I visited and disliked. So in order to be honest and to prove Cris wrong I'll start with the positive things. Here they come... Anyone who's been there will tell you, Prague is a very picturesque city. For starters we have the Old Town Square, a collection of beautiful Renaissance and Baroque buildings, skillfully adrestored, highly photogenic and highly photographed. The Old Town Hall bears the famous astronomical clock that makes crowds hang around and wait for the hourly procession of mechanical figures. Walking the small cobblestone streets toward Vltava we find Charles Bridge, another spot where tourists will end up again and again. Looking up over the Vltava river which opens out on either side, one can spot Prague's castle, low on its hill and the St. Vitus Cathedral, nothing short of breathtaking with its stained glass windows, beautiful chapels and ornate craftsmanship throughout. The cathedral's tower affords a impressive view of Prague, but one should be warned that there are nearly 300 winding stairs to climb. Also not to be missed is the Jewish Quarter with its ornate synagogues and the old and tragic looking cemetery. Prague also tries to capitalize a little from the presence of Franz Kafka. There's a Franz Kafka museum and a large statue of Franz Kafka in front of one of the synagogues in the Jewish quarter.
These are only a few examples, but the city is full of interesting architecture with well preserved examples of fine buildings from Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque Art Nouveau etc. style of architecture. Prague looks equally beautiful at night time which brings with it - of course - the renowned nightlife.
Now follows the negative things. Those who don't like a critic spirit can skip this part. I think I came to Prague ten years too late. An undeniably beautiful city, with an endless arrays of sights to see and things to do Prague is struggling with its own popularity. I've never seen so many tourists crammed together in my life. As someone who loves to travel myself, I try not to complain about other tourists but unfortunately Prague has become too famous and overrun by tourists. I don't want to compare it with Disneyland as I seen on many websites, a comparison that springs to mind because of the fairytale like Baroque architecture in pastel colors and the numerous towers and spires hovering over the skyline, but I have to say that sometimes it felt like an attraction park. There are places like Rome and Paris that have more tourists than Prague but on the other hand they are much bigger than Prague. Prague's tourist area is rather small which makes it seem even more crowded. And we visited in April hoping that it won't be so crowded. But I forgot about one thing, the Catholic Easter. And although I didn't check I think Alitalia had a promotion along the lines "The easter bunny flies you to Prague" The place was packed with Italians to the point that it felt like being in Italy and I only got to hear Czech spoken on the street the 2nd or 3rd day even though our hotel wasn't located in a tourist area. The Old Town is geared towards tourism more than any other place in Europe and filled with endless souvenir shops, tourists restaurants and Bohemian crystal stores. But again, trying to look on the positive side, the truth is that once you get used to moving around in a tourist funnel Prague shows its touch of magic.
The other thing that I didn't like in Prague was the food. I realize that it's a matter of taste but even though I don't mind hearty food, I just didn't find Czech food too tasty, be it sweet pork, sauerkraut, Czech goulash or dumplings. I tried the local food a few times but no matter how hard I wanted it was difficult to enjoy it. I like food in general and tasting the local offering wherever I go but this time I gave up after four or five days and moved back to eating steak. On the other hand Czech beer lives up to its hype. The beers are excellent and, as you move out of the main tourist areas, they're inexpensive and served in huge mugs. The best known brews are Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen, Budvar and Gambrinus. The many alleys and streets hide numerous cafes, restaurants and shops on and off the tourist path.
You'll find plenty of classical music concerts and recitals of variable quality held in churches for tourists.
If you're in town for a while you can use Prague as a base for visiting the surrounding towns and villages. Think about visiting Kutna Hora with its macabre Sedlec Ossuary, Karlstejn or Chesky Krumlov.
All in all Prague is pretty safe and clean, as well as sufficiently tourist friendly. There is a good supply of accommodation near the center within walking distance to many sights. Although not cheap, it's still a good value for the money. If you speak either English or German you can easily get by. Public transport is fast and efficient, cheap and relatively easy to navigate. You might not even need to use public transportation. Because of its small size the tourist part of the city is a pedestrian's dream, you can walk anywhere.
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