Backpacking trip: Czech Republic

After the emotional roll coaster that was our visit to Poland, we headed to Prague via overnight train from Krakow. When we were shown our cabin on the overnighter, we just laughed. It was (kindly) very, very vintage. And we had the top two boards of wood bunks in a cabin that (barely) fit six. We had to shimmy up there and once up, there was no coming down til morning. However small Marisa and I are, we could not even sit up straight. Popped some NyQuil and passed out immediately.

After the worst sleep of our lives, we arrived in Prague at 8am. Refreshed (not), we strapped on our somehow increasingly heavy packs and walked 30 minutes to our apartment. With check in not til 3 (sigh), we dropped our packs and ventured out still grimy from our hot, uncomfortable ride in.

Prague’s beauty

It’s no wonder Prague is such a international tourist destination. With it’s beautiful skyline, enchanting castle and cobbled streets, it has it all. Easily one of the most romantic cities I’ve seen. However, this comes at a cost. A very tourist heavy summer. While I’m used to tourists from my life in Amsterdam (half the city at any moment is one), this was outrageous. It seemed that every single person we saw was a tourist. I know the city can’t help it, but it truly takes away from its authenticity and charm. I don’t want to see a McDonald’s or Starbucks on every corner. I don’t want to be elbowed by a barking tour guide trying to drag 30 people across the Charles Bridge.

On the Charles Bridge

But maybe that’s just me.

We toured the lovely Prague Castle complex, poked our heads in several gorgeous cathedrals, got ourselves lost, got ourselves un-lost, and just had fun doing what you do in Prague – strolling. For our first dinner, we tried going to a place recommended by Lonely Planet, only to find that it’s no longer there. Figures. Ended up at a pub and had some local dishes that were surprisingly good. The beer helped too. Then we hurried back to the square to watch Ukraine vs. France. Sadly, Ukraine lost, but they still made us proud!

Lots of Ukraine fans in Prague’s historic square

Rose gardens

The next morning, we had a later start (needed the sleep!) and took a boat tour of the Vltava River. Then headed up the funicular to a nice hilltop park with great views of the city for a picnic lunch. After all the walking we had done already, we needed the break. Also, we then needed a fish pedicure (they are all the rage, you guys!). Despite being all the rage, it wasn’t as rewarding as I was hoping. It just tickled. And, as we were in the front window, we are now in countless photo albums of tourists who thought it was interesting, gross, cool, funny, whatever and took our picture. We made sure we smiled.

Dinner that night was al fresco at a little bistro on a quiet side street near the square. Couldn’t believe everything we had for €25 a piece! An appetizer, several glasses of wine, two entrees (I had rabbit, mmm) and homemade potato chips. One of the biggest perks about eastern Europe is how inexpensive everything is. You can’t beat the €1 beers or €1.50 (surprisingly good) wine! After dinner, we rolled over to the square again to watch Czech vs. Poland. These games really turned out to be great evening entertainment.

Inside the caves at Pilsner Urquell

For our last day in Czech, we decided to venture out of Prague to Pilsen, home of the famous Pilsner Urquell beer. Did you know that it was the world’s first original lager? Well I do now, because it was drilled into my head on the 90 minute brewery tour. We even met some dudes from America (a few from Chicago no less!) and had beers and pickled cheese with our new friends after the tour. Pilsen itself is a very cute teeny tiny town, great for a day escape from bustling Prague. Only an hour away by train through pretty countryside.

When we got back to Prague, we just had a quick dinner near the train station to fill up for our next overnight train ride.

Installment #3 on Austria and (oops) Slovakia next…