Where to begin when speaking about the city that has been my familiar haven for the past three months. A place that has given me the experience of living somewhere completely foreign, and the joy of watching it transform into a place of comfort that I can forever call home. When I first stepped out of the taxi into this place, I was overwhelmed and nervous, but the warm weather and many common stores gave me hope that I had not thrust myself into a communist third world country. Now that I have lived here, I can easily say how untrue that expectation was. Instead, I would describe Prague as a central european gem that offers western luxury along with the structure and beauty of medieval Europe.
Phew, okay that was a little wordy, but I will go on to describe the many reasons why I have grown to love and adore Prague. This place will be hard to leave for so so many reasons, such as the public transport, the beauty, the seasons, the prices, the atmosphere,the food and experiences. If you keep reading on, I also included a few of my least favorite parts of life in Prague, not enough content for a whole new blog post, but important to include.
Why I love Prague:
The Public Transportation: Did you guys know that I’ve never taken public transportation in America, besides maybe two train rides- even in Riverside where we get free public transportation with our student id? Yeah there is a reason for that- it sucks. In general (not talking New York City here), public transportation in America is unsafe, dirty, and doesn’t allow you to access all parts of a city easily. I cannot emphasize how different it is in Prague. As surprising as it is, Public Transportation in Prague is one of the things I will miss the most. The trams, metros and busses here are all reliable (to the schedule), safe, and clean! There are only 3 metro lines, and a day and night bus route schedule. It has been an easy adjustment, even from the freedom of a car, to just hop on a tram, mindlessly pass by traffic, and arrive at your desired destination. Even my tram ride to school, about 30 minutes, is normally quite enjoyable because I don’t have to focus on the road, but instead use it as an optimal time to read, listen to a podcast, or look out the window at Prague’s beauty. Public Transportation has also taught me a bit about time management as well, because if I am running late, I can’t just step on the gas in hopes of getting there quicker. I would definitely say that I am fond of the Prague public transportation and appreciate its easily navigable routes more than any city in Europe I’ve visited.
The Walking: Maybe something that surprises me the most about moving to Europe, was how easy it is to walk five plus miles a day. In America I would walk around one or two mile tops (not counting intentional jogs and runs), especially when I was home in San Andreas (mainly because there is no where to walk to). Prague, however has opened my eyes to the joy of walks, even if it is a place that I could get to by tram. There are good sidewalks, and nice parks with nice views located all around the city, as well as so many businesses and restaurants in walkable range. The best part about Europe, is it is not weird to walk. I often pass people young and old, walking dogs, rolling strollers, or just taking in nature, and a relaxed mindset that America lacks. Granted, this subject is limited to cities where there is stuff to get to, but personally, this will make me think twice about taking four cars to church, and instead just walk on Sunday if it is a nice day.
The Views: While on the subject of walking, I have to clarify why it is so easy to walk around the city- it is BEAUTIFUL. Ask any tourist who has visited Prague and they will likely tell you how easy it is to wander the city center in awe of the historical buildings, the architecture, and the authentic cobblestone streets. There are so many times while on my way to school, I will look out and catch a glimpse of the medieval powder tower, or cross the river and gaze in awe of the castle. It is in these plentiful moments when I am reminded how blessed I am to live in such a gorgeous city, and reminded not to take the views for granted. If there were even one building that reflected the beauty of Prague architecture in California, it would quickly become my favorite place. Perhaps a familiar example for some of you to understand how it feels to walk the streets of Prague, is the feeling of Main Street and New Orleans Square in Disneyland. Especially right around dusk,when the windows start to light up, the street performers begin playing the piano or a crowd drawing show, and the vendors announce their freshly made pastries and hot wine, the atmosphere becomes almost magical. Not only is the main square and city center a sight to behold, there are so many places around the city that provide views of nature and beautiful architecture from all historical and contemporary styles. There are countless churches, opera houses, theaters, museums, castles, parks and hills that are testament to the beauty of this city and I am lucky to spend three months experiencing it.
The seasons: Although it was much easier to appreciate Prague’s beauty when the temperature was fair and summery, I am happy to have enjoyed all weather ranges while being here! I arrived in August and went through a few weeks of sweating immensely (They have very very few facilities with AC over here), then it cooled off a bit for about a month of perfect weather. After this it started to turn crisp and windy, allowing me to experience my first ‘real’ fall in a while (at least since I have gone to CBU). The trees turned all beautiful colors and I was hit with a ‘Holy moley I need a warmer jacket’ moment. None the less, fall has always been my favorite season, and this was an amazing place to watch it set in. Now as I am writing this blog (on a 12 hour bus ride to Switzerland), I can definitely say that winter has officially made its appearance. Last Friday I woke up to a light snow on the ground, and since then the temperature has been reliably freezing. As much as I gasp for breath walking around nowadays, this current cold weather will not be forgotten when I am back in California complaining about the cold. The good news is, with every new season comes a new market with vendors and food and smells of the season. The harvest markets were warming and cozy, and as the many swags and lights pop up around the city, so does my excitement for Christmas markets and the holiday season grow.
The Prices, Cleanliness and Safety: Yes you read that right, not only is Prague a cheap city to live in and visit as an America, but it is also both clean and safe! This triple threat is a huge reason for why I am so passionate when it comes to the city of Prague. I have lived here for 3 months, and am still grateful for the low prices, whether it be for $2 über rides, $3 margaritas $20 groceries or full sit down meals around $5, it will be a hard adjustment heading back to America where your dollar takes you much less far. Granted, clothing is no cheaper (so many American and Western European brands), and if one were to actually live and work in the Czech Republic they would not feel as if prices were advantageous, but as an American for a short period of time, I am enjoying the prices exchange greatly. When I write that Prague is a clean and safe city, I am not lying. As a Californian, my most familiar city experiences have been in San Fransisco and Los Angeles, cities that make me both uncomfortable and craving a shower after walking around a few hours. Prague is quite the opposite; they have a fantastic public cleaning service that can often be spotted sweeping the leaves (yes sweeping, my Dad commented that he had not heard the sound of leaf blowers while visiting, and later as if in response I saw workers manually sweeping leaves into piles), emptying trashcans, vacuuming litter between the cobblestones or making city improvements. The difference these actions make are very visible when walking around the city, obvious in the lack of litter, and nice facilities. The only points of interest that would convince someone that Prague is not perfectly spick and span is the (unfortunate) prevalence of graffiti, and the occasional dog poop on the ground left by a lazy owner. Regarding safety, I am very grateful to report that after three months in this city, I have never felt in danger. The streets are well lit, beggars do not look menacing or approach you, if you walk after dark, there will surely be many others (locals and tourists) out, and night trams are not sketchy. All of these examples are meant to convey how I can feel so comfortable in a foreign city, even though I don’t speak the language or have cell service. Pickpocketing is (sadly) an issue here, but as the tourist season crowds have lessened, I am correspondingly much less anxious concerning my valuables (though I am still on guard for those of you reading who may worry (Mom & Grandma)).
The Food: Okay so I accidentally wrote so much about this category that I decided to make a separate blog post about it. If 1500 words isn’t enough to convince you of why Prague is a major culinary paradise, then I don’t know what will, besides visiting and seeing for yourself. Check it out here Prague Food!
The Experiences: The last reason which I will share with you concerning the amazing city of Prague is the many things to do, places to go, and sights to see. This busy city offers museums, restaurants, operas, parks, running trails, bars, nightclubs, and shops. While I haven’t begun to scratch the surface of activities here, I am consistently in awe of the length of my mental bucket list. I constantly pass posters advertising concerts and festivals or stumbling upon an article describing a cool library or restaurant located in the city. Needless to say, the options are endless and you will not be bored on a visit.
Things that I Dislike About Prague:
The Language: It is probably quite clear that communication is a huge part of life, especially when moving to an unknown city, in a foreign country, on a different continent. This being said, Czech is hard. I gave it my best effort during the required two week intensive language course, but I honestly gave up trying to learn it, knowing that it will never benefit me in life, and especially as the semester draws to a close. Although some phrases will remain in my heart forever, “Příští stanice hlavní nádraží”, “dobry den” and “kolic stoii” my struggles with simple Czech conversations are something that I will not miss when back in America. Luckily a lot of people speak english, but even so, it is no fun to feel less than for a lack of conversational skills.
The Graffiti: Although it does not spell out a particularly dangerous area, as graffiti does in America, I still feel that it is the eye sore of this beautiful city. There is so many historical buildings with unsightly markings, that how much I would enjoy it more if it were pristine.
This is all that comes to mind when sharing my least favorite parts about Prague, thankfully, because I don’t feel a desire to write negativity, only honestly. However, a related topic is “Things that I Miss about America while Abroad”, which you can read about here.