Prague and the land of cheap beer

Idyllic views off the main road

Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. Despite the recent emergence of hordes of tourists still quite an interesting place with varied historical architecture. However, it is a rich and extensive nightlife that makes every visitor to get to know two sides of the city. In the daylight the city is beautiful and colorful. Under cover of darkness it becomes mystical and full of mysterious corners. A place to be for the marauding creatures at night. Let’s face a complete freedom in getting to know the city inside out. The point is to be flexible when deciding on the extent, intensity and depth of discovering the city.

We set off from Wrocław, Poland. Unfortunately a little bit too late as we highly underestimated the distance from the Czech-Polish border to Prague.

Courtyard of the castle in Hradcany

Along the way we have a nice weather all the time. At some point we turn into a narrow dirt lane to make a short stop. The choice becomes a random spot with a cow herd. Cows awake instantly and seem to be interested in our presence. That’s funny as some cows aligned in a row and looking straight into the lens expected me to take a picture of them.

Prague’s night snapshots

It’s already dark when we arrive to Prague. The only clue on what to do is a small piece of paper with a bunch of handwritten addresses where perhaps we could spend a night. We stop at the metro station just to take a look at the desired parts of a city map. I try to remember a strip containing a couple of major intersections. Later on we have to stop again to retrieve the next portion of map. In this way, after a long (but interesting!) quest we reach the desired place. Our host has only two free beds in a five-bed room. We persuade the manager that it is sufficient. Anyway he brings us extra cot and lowers the price. This is called a warm welcome .

Our host gives us some tips on how to reach the city center. We also get the information on a public transport by night . So we head towards the center. At the beginning of we visit a couple of popular places. We meet several inhabitants of the capital as well as a bunch of tourists seeking interesting things to do in the nighttime. I am surprised that at the relatively early time of the June night, the city is somewhat empty. Not died, but I do not see any crowds. Which is good, though.

Refreshing beer in the official Pilsener Urquell pub

We manage to find a handful of nice premises where for 20-25 CZK you can drink a thick foamed perfectly chilled golden-colored beer. We walk through the hidden aisles of the Prague city center. Our walk ends up at the Charles Bridge, where we see a massive nightclub. It’s located directly on the river and has the wooden bridge as the entrance. It is already late and the party comes down to an end, so we decide to hop in there the following day. Watching the dimmed city lights reflecting on a glossy surfaces and admiring historic architecture sets me into the right mood for sightseeing. Next hope to see all the streets and buildings in a broad daylight.

Cheap beer is only one of beauties of the city

It was not easy, but we somehow managed to stand up in the morning for breakfast. We meet our roommates from New Zealand, France and Canada. After breakfast we head towards the nearest public transport. Metro in Prague is one of fast kind. This implies the existence of large gravity load when starting and stopping at the station. If you come for the first time without holding the bar you would easily fall down. Intersecting lanes are placed underground at different depths which is collision-free solution for every single lane. That’s why sometimes we descend just a several meters below the ground to enter the train. Then it’s likely that a few stations later in order to emerge on surface we have to take a pretty long escalator round and run up the stairs. Today’s walk starts at the center. We come to the official Pilsener pub located on Jilska Street.

Viewpoint on the Hradcany

The walls are decorated with various historical information and brochures about the beer. There are round copper tubes at the ceiling, a rather knotty installation full of different valves and knobs. That’s the typical brewery equipment which creates an ideal atmosphere to taste the Pilsner Urquell straight from a barrel. The beer is served in large, massive mugs. There is a scorching summer heat outside and it feels good to have at least a bit of a shelter inside the air conditioned restaurant. Vapor condenses to slowly drip along the heavy mug. Every successive sip of the golden beverage tastes better. As soon as we get the bill to realize how cheap the beer was then without a moment’s hesitation we place an order for another round of beers.

Historic Prague

Prague is a charming city. The best way to experience it is just to walk. Just walk around the city center and stick to one principle – do not have any concept. Virtually every step you will come across something interesting. I really like stylishly arranged historic streets. These are surrounded by fancifully decorated houses, each having a different pattern in another tone, all very colorful. The red roof is the characteristic and common element.

Looking from the extensive Hradcany castle we see a very aesthetic composition of scattered homes. Spread loosely and irregular, all of them having only the red roof in common.

Granite obelisk commemorating
victims of World War I

Stylish churches increase the variety of the urban landscape. Entering a bit above red-roofs area we come to the cathedral which has an astronomical clock on one of the sides. In the midst there is a very stylish interior with a long bright bricks and windows covered with stained glass. The daylight reaching the interior of the cathedral is just enough, not in excess. We go further, towards the guardian of the castle how has a huge stone face. Beside the cathedral is an obelisk designed by Josip Plečnik to commemorate the victims of World War I.

We descend the hill and follow the signs to the Charles Bridge. It is a place consisting of (a) the tourists (b) street traders and artists trying to sell the group (a) as many for as much as possible. Kind of a closed, self-contained system. Let’s investigate why the Charles Bridge meets the largest crowds of people. The bridge gained its fame due to impressive lengths (over 516 meters),  with its origins in the late fourteenth century makes it the oldest and one of the longest stone bridges in the world. We pass along the Golden Street and visit some other places on the way. Prague is also a modern city. The are designated areas for shopping centers and office buildings. City sees the increasing number of start-up buildings. We get the Chinese food and return to our host. As we approach the metro station we encounter a happy hour in a local pub just nearby. It is impossible to refuse to come in for one.

Metro in Prague

Night is coming which means time for the event at the Charles Bridge. Before reaching the place we visit a couple of small local pubs where day serve tequila and a very good own-production beer. The evening goes pretty crazy. At the end we got in a right tram, however, heading in the wrong direction. Unfortunately we realize a bit too late that something is not right. I’ll never forget the reaction of the Czech guy and at least a half of the passengers in a tram laughing, when about five o’clock in the morning we asked if we stop “here”, pointing on the map. It turned out that we got to the other end of town. That’s one of plenty possible scenarios if you go out in Prague. The following day, already on the way back, we stop by for mandatory shopping. You cannot leave Czech without a bottle of Beherovka and a few beers. Sometimes only three days is enough to get a lot of positive impressions.

In one sentence:

These days Prague experiences more and more tourists every year. It doesn’t mean the city should be struck off your itinerary. To that end Prague has much to offer so there’s enough to go round.

June 2003