April 17, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Travel, Travels in Europe

Confession: I didn’t do my homework on Prague. With travel plans swirling around in my head like a blender full of gazpacho (mmmm, gazpacho), I barely even remembered where I was when I landed at the airport to meet up with an old college friend. Training it into the city center, neither of us knew what to expect, apart from everyone’s enthusiastic proclamations that the once communist city was GORGEOUS.

Yeah, yeah, Prague was super gorgeous – candy-colored buildings, a stone bridge, hilly vistas. Pretty, very pretty. But even better? That place is cheap, like crazy cheap (and I hear it used to be a lot cheaper, too). So we did what any two smart girls would do – we gallivanted around town like two ladies of leisure with a fat wallet full of cash. Obviously.

To be more precise, here I present you with the list of our Prague escapades in case you too should find yourself in the Czech capital for three days and with 4,000 CZK to burn (it sounds like a lot of money, but it’s only about 160 euros!).

We ate
We learned quickly that a proper Czech meal costs next to nothing. Seriously, if we spent more than six euros each, we felt like we’d been robbed and taken for an over-priced ride. I sampled meat-stewy goulash, countless bowls of traditional potato soup, and cake, lots of cake. It seems as though they really like their baked goods because around every turn, a new glistening and frosted creation tempted us. Our favorite? The nation’s famous honey cake – a compilation of cake-y ingredients with an extra helping of honey mixed in, all crusted in crushed cookie.

We drank
There was an unpleasant chill in the Czech air, so sightseeing of course called for brief recharges between stops. Take the castle for example – we marched all over a Prague hilltop looking for the stony structure, but it turns out that the term “castle” should be very loosely translated. Instead of towers, spires and gargoyles, the “castle” consisted of a collection of buildings, such as the gothic Saint Vitus Cathedral, the rather underwhelming Vladislav Hall, and the unexpectedly charming miniature neighborhood on Golden Lane.

After all the invisible-castle hunting, though, we worked up a thirst for something warm. And this was generally what happened every two to three hours throughout the trip, so we ended up discovering countless coffee shops across town. Winning our “favorite cafe to lounge in while escaping the cold” award was Grand Cafe Orient with its cappuccinos, cubist decor, and, of course, honey cake.

We went to the ballet
We’d heard that a visit to the ballet or opera was a must, so we figured since we were rolling in cash, we may as well do something extravagant. We popped by the Národní divadlo (national theatre) and dropped a total of almost two euros each on tickets to that evening’s ballet (big spenders!). For that price, I expected the performance to more closely resemble my third grade dance recital than any proper professional performance. But, wrong again. The theatre seemed better fit for royalty than my worn-out sightseeing self. The auditorium glowed with gold tasseled curtains, velvet chairs, a chandelier the size of my apartment, and a live orchestra. Fan-cy. And the ballet was pretty darn impressive, too!

We traveled
Feeling the urge to escape our pied-à-terre (AKA the hotel), we decided to take a train to the UNESCO heritage sight Kutná Hora. Once rivaling Prague in terms of size and promise, the quiet town now attracts visitors with its Saint Barbara’s Church, and the rather morbid bone-filled Sedlec Ossuary.

Perhaps even better than our excursion to Kutná Hora, was accidentally taking the train in the wrong direction on the way back, ending us up in a random village called Čáslav. Still cold, we resorted to our go-to activity – warming up in a local bar/cafe. A coffee, cappuccino or even water wasn’t happening, though, as apart from being the only girls in sight, we were also the only English speakers. After several failed gestures for water, I settled on pointing at a picture of beer. Yes, I finally had some famous Czech beer, and considering my affection for beer (non-existent), my assessment was that it tasted like….beer.

Yep, Prague surprised us alright. Sure it was gorgeous, the people were lovely, the food was tasty, and the beer was, well, famous, or something. But making the experience that much better was the fact that we could bop around the city as we pleased without feeling like we were hemorrhaging cash. I’m glad that not doing my homework paid off – literally – this time around.

[travelist location=”Prague, Czech Republic” type=”img” url=”http://www.latortugaviajera.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/bike.jpg”]

12 Responses to “Prague’s pleasant surprise”

  1. EurotripTips Says:

    I can’t believe I never thought of going to the ballet! I did all the other things BUT. Definitely on my to-do next time I’m in town.

  2. Erin Says:

    Ah yes – the ballet was probably the unexpected highlight. If we’d had more days, we probably would have gone to more shows because, why not? So cheap!

  3. Rachel Says:

    When I went with my roommate, we talked about going to performance (I can´t remember if it was the ballet or a play), but something about the timing didn’t work. We had a great time there, but I’m surprised you found it so cheap. Maybe prices have gone down again? We walked away from Czech and Hungary feeling lied to about how cheap our stay would be (but still loving every minute of it, of course)

  4. miruna Says:

    Simply beautiful, both Prague and your article!

  5. Erin Says:

    Rachel – we found it absurdly cheap. Perhaps we were just going to the right places? Was Hungary cheap? I’m headed there next week!

    Thanks, Miruna!

  6. Steph Says:

    Nice post and awesome photos! Makes me want to go back to Prague–I was there in college and barely remember it, other than that I liked it. You’re making me jealous, girl!

  7. Erik R. Says:

    I had a similar experience in Budapest back in 1999. A full three course meal (goulash!) was about $4, and we went to the opera for $2 (the nose bleed seats were as little as $0.10).

    My traveling companion and I even looked up the most expensive restaurant in Hungary and ate there for about $50 each just to say we had.

  8. jan Says:

    Eating, Drinking and Tripping – good anywhere – Prague certainly is pretty!

  9. Erin Says:

    Prague was indeed absolutely stunning!

    Erik – thrilled to hear that Hungary will be equally as budget friendly. I might just have to splurge there, too ;).

  10. Sabrina Says:

    That sounds like such a fun trip! I tend to overplan, but the best trips are the ones that surprise me like this. As usual, the food sounds delicious 🙂

  11. Cassandra Says:

    Ha, I loved how you skipped over the castle to focus on the cafe culture.

    I must admit, your pictures and the discovery that Prague is so cheap makes a trip there very enticing! What airline did you fly, and did you go Madrid-Prague?

  12. Erin Says:

    I flew with Lufthansa with a few layovers (two on the way there and one on the way back). I used miles though….

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