So, I’ve been back from Prague for a couple of days now, finished processing my photos from the Monday morning, and now I am catching up on posts (damn work for getting in the way). Now it’s time to give a short (I hope) summary of my views on the city, or more accurately Old Prague.
Let’s be honest. Prague is a beautiful city on the surface. Despite centuries of struggle and occupation under the Hapsburgs, the Germans, then the austerity of the Warsaw Pact, it has maintained it’s character and colour. Wander along and around every corner, every back street, there seems to be yet another triangle or square with a bar and/or shops, along with art work on the walls. Additionally there are many churches and theatres dotted around, as well as statues and monuments. It seems that during the darker days of communism the Old Town managed to retain it’s character, for wander further out and suddenly the buildings start to mix between the the 19th century Bohemian architecture of Praha 1 and the functional concrete constructions of the 1950s/60s.
The downside to Prague is as much caused by part of it’s upside. Tourism. Outside of season all may be fine, but in late March, early April, before the holiday season really starts, the streets are packed. Also most the shops, bars, and restaurants are all geared to feed the tourist trade. Tripadvisor will show many high scoring places, however look at the reviewers and you’ll note there is barely any by locals. There are places, but you need to be tipped off or be in the know and these do tend to be cheaper. Having said that, while more expensive, many of the other restaurants and bars are still reasonably priced compared to other countries. Most the shops, on the other hand, are complete rip off merchants and most souvenirs are imported from India and China. Avoid the ubiquitous mini-marts else you will be stung. There are supermarkets for bottle beer, soft drinks, and snacks around, such as Albert, but you need to know where to look.
The cheap price of alcohol, and also the availability of more illicit pleasures which are either over looked or legal, has meant that Prague has become stag do and party central of Europe. While most revellers are generally well behaved, expect loud singing and shouting in to the early hours of the morning.
The above I covered earlier when I wrote about the curse of Prague, and you will note I have not yet mentioned tour groups. There are many and they tend to be inconsiderate, block roads and pathways, but they can generally be dodged unless you are after watching some timed event, such as the chiming of the Astronomical Clock.
While it may be an over crowded city due to the high levels of tourism, I would happily recommend it for a long weekend or a week visit. I’m sure I will return at some point.
One additional side note – for those of you with mobility problems, especially wheel chairs. As with a lot of old cities, you may have problems getting around. A lot of the streets are narrow with little pavement. Additionally roads, especially in the traffic free parts, tend to be cobbled. Also I did note that quite a few pedestrian crossings did not have drop curbs. There is then the tram lines – though those are mainly on roads. I would, however, not let this put you off the city if using a stick is your only restriction. Alas like many old and ancient cities, the politically correct sentiment that everyone should have full access, can’t really apply here and so wheel chair users need to be aware and do their own research on how easily they can visit this attractive city.