I can only apologise for the terrible title, but, as you may have guessed, this post is all about Czech culture and the beautiful city of Prague.
Above is the iconic Charles Bridge, from back in January 2014, just one stunning part of an architecturally magnificent city. If you have been thinking about getting away for a weekend, Prague is the perfect spot, with plenty to see and do. It’s the ideal winter getaway!
After a lot of searching for a good deal, we ended up staying at the Design Hotel Neruda, on the Castle side of the Charles Bridge. This meant we had a 15-20 minute walk each morning to the town centre, but it was such a lovely walk it never really bothered us. On the plus side, the day we decided to visit the Castle, we were a mere 5 minutes away.
The hotel itself was quite small and chic, with a tiny little reception which opens up onto the main restaurant, where a basic breakfast of fruits, cereals, breads and some hot food is served. Our room was a pretty decent size, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the brown and yellow colour palette, when outside the room, the colours were crisp whites and the space was very open. Despite my feelings towards the décor, the room was presented to a high standard, the bathroom small but clean. We got a really cheap deal at the Design Hotel Neruda and, considering most of our time was spent exploring the sites, it was the perfect hotel for us and I would happily use it again.
As it turns out, the Czech cuisine is incredibly varied and interesting, and it goes without saying that the beer is high quality and low priced! Perhaps my favourite part of this Eastern European cuisine was a snack food called “Staroceske Trdlo” or, more simply, just “Trdlo” pronounced “turd-low” (but accompanied by a good accent!)
These are a mix between bread and pastry dough, which get twisted around cylinders, and coated in a mixture of vanilla, cinnamon, and nuts. They are cooked over a big wood fire, as though on a spit, and they are incredibly delicious. The pastry is sweet, crisp and frustratingly moreish. Sam and I had a few of these sat on a bench in the main square with a cup of mulled wine, taking in the sights and trying to block out the cold.
The thing that really excited Sam when we arrived in Prague was of course Czech beer. Served in large, sturdy glass tankards with a proper European head, the beer is great quality and, in most places, cheaper than water! Your average pint will cost somewhere between £1 and £3. Sometimes a little more in the touristy places and sometimes a little less if you go further away from the main square.
The important thing in Prague is not to get duped by locals looking to rip the tourists off, and it happened to us a fair bit on the first day. Some places will add service charges and more to your bill without telling you, or put bread on the table and charge you for every bit you eat. Just be careful, have a good look over your receipt, or steer clear of places in the main square. On our first evening, while looking for somewhere to eat dinner, we noticed a little place at the bottom of the Charles Bridge, sitting right on the water. It looked quiet, but picturesque, and, not knowing the city very well yet, decided to take our chances.
The restaurant was called “Kamenny Most” which translates as “Stone Bridge.” Sam and I had a lovely dinner here and it was a great first meal in Prague. We didn’t bother with starters, and went straight for the main course. I decided to be a little bit more adventurous and went for Confit Goose with potato & bacon dumplings and cabbage, having never tried goose before. I’m glad I went for it because it was full of flavour and there was a lot more meat to get stuck into than the similar duck confit. When we asked for our bill, we also received a little macaroon treat from the chef and no hidden fees. I can’t recommend this place enough, and in the summer, it would be very picturesque.
On our second evening, we did something some folk might consider a bit tacky, and went to a “Medieval Tavern” for dinner. This was basically a restaurant designed and decorated to look like a medieval tavern, with a set menu and a nightly show for about £29.75. This set menu consisted of freshly baked bread on the table, a starter of potato pancake and garlic pearl barley, a main course of ‘Pork Knee’, traditional goulash, dessert, and two drinks as well as the medieval entertainment.
The tavern had a brilliant atmosphere to it and was filled with tourists from all over; we had Greeks to one side of us and Russians to the other. The show itself was silly but lots of fun – a lot of folk music from a live band, pirates running amuck, belly dancers, and fortune tellers. The main course though, the Czech Pork Knee, was the real star of the show…
Served as one big hunk of meat still on the bone, this is proper rustic food, fitting in with the theme of the tavern and a Czech speciality. The meat itself had been slow-cooked in black beer, was full of flavour and fell right off the bone. It’s one of my top dishes of 2014!
Beyond the food, the sights in Prague are truly mesmerising. From the huge, majestic Prague Castle with its many chambers and dungeons, to the moving, beautiful, and tragic Old Jewish Cemetary, even just wandering through the cobbled streets, there is so much to see and do, it’s an ideal city break and cheap to get to.