Prague’s astronomical clock gets a makeover

The famous astronomical clock that is Prague’s most popular tourist attraction has lost some star players for the next two months. The four outside figures, including a skeletal Death, have been removed and are being repainted to protect them from the elements.

The clock was built in 1410 and is the oldest working astronomical clock in the world. Dials show the position Moon, position of the Sun on the zodiac, and other astronomical events. Every hour there’s a parade of painted figures representing the 12 Apostles. Four other figures, representing vanity, greed, death, and pleasure, stand outside. As the bells chime the hours and the Apostles do their walk, Death shakes an hourglass to remind you that everything is transitory.

It’s quite a show, as you can see from this video by the folks at In Your Pocket: Essential City Guides. They have a free downloadable guide to Prague and many other cities on their website.

The clock will continue to function as the four figures are repainted. Legend has it that if the clock stops, disaster will strike the city.

A (not-very) special Czech Christmas

A (not-very) special Czech ChristmasAs the last tiny fireballs shot into the tree, marking the end of this bizarrely belated Christmas celebration, my Czech friend’s father, Ladia, looked at me and giggled nervously.

Was he happy we didn’t burn down this bone-dry pine tree in their living room? Or was there something else I was missing. Did he know this was it–that I would be emancipating myself from this family and never be back to ease the misery of their lives? I set my deadened sparkler down on the formica coffee table and turned away from the dry Christmas tree, quickening my pace toward the front door where my jacket was hanging. I’m never coming back here, I thought. Never.

How did I get to the point where I walked out on a family that took me in for the last and final time? This was the end of my most bizarre Christmas I ever spent. The most bizarre Christmas I ever spent in late January, that is.

Lenka, a 22-year-old college student living in Prague, and a friend of a friend, had arranged a short-term apartment for me when I arrived in the Czech capital for a long stay.

Which is why I didn’t mind going to Lenka’s parents’ house in north Bohemia my first weekend in the Czech Republic. Besides that, Lenka insisted I go. Usti nad Labem, which, translated into English, means “Usti above the Elbe River,” only sounds romantic. During the three-hour ride north from Prague, we passed ruined castles perched on high cliffs and a myriad of small towns whose main feature was a bulbous Baroque-era spire. Then we arrived in Usti, where post-World-War II-era buildings–tall, concrete block apartment structures, the architectural equivalent of Soviet realism–dominate the city the way spires do in Prague. Unlike the Czech capital, Usti didn’t escape World War II without damage. A few modest Baroque and neo-Gothic churches and a small 19th-century opera house dot the city, wedged between drab, functionalist shopping centers with relief sculptures of proud, barrel-chested workers. The wide river and surrounding green hills could not save Usti from looking like the love child of Dubuque and some horrible Soviet’s vision of paradise.

But Lenka and her family were proud of their hometown. Her parents met us at the train station and immediately whisked us off on a driving tour in their clunky late-’70s orange Skoda. We gawked at the city’s chemical plant (where Lenka’s father, Ladia, worked) drove over the river several times, and stopped to admire the skyline of “commie condos.”

Once inside their boxy apartment, I was immediately guided into the living room, where, over tea, Ladia chronicled his English language studies for me–for hours. Somewhere between “right” and “uh-huh” as well as several variations on the I’m-still-listening-to-you head nod, I took the time to study the décor. Adhering to the glossy formica-meets-enclosed-glass-display-case school of design, this was a relic from the past era. Socialist furniture is, like its architecture and attitudes, impersonal and cold. Still, Czechs do their best to make their homes feel warm, often exhibiting fresh flowers as well as large collections of books, most of which are classics, from Homer to Dante to the obligatory Czech scribes: Kafka, Kundera, Hrabel, and Klima.

“It wasn’t practical to learn English,” Ladia said, blowing on a steaming cup of tea before taking a sip. “During the old regime, we couldn’t travel to English-speaking countries, so besides Russian–which we were forced to study–most Czechs learned German.” Ladia, who could have passed as a look-a-like for former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, was different. He studied English in secret, mulling over grammar books and dictionaries late into the night in the privacy of his living room. He paused and smiled. “But I knew. I knew that someday–“

Just then Lenka’s mom, Edita, who was assiduously making lunch, yelled something from the kitchen. Lunch was served.

Later, we were all sitting around in the living room listening to Ladia again. The conversation seemed like it was happening in slow motion. With each word, the second hand on the clock ticked slower and my eyes grew heavier. Ladia was just trying to entertain us (as well as practice his English), but whether we were talking about the inner workings of the chemical plant, life under communism, or his fascination with birds indigenous to Central Europe, I felt like flinging myself from their twelfth-floor balcony.

Still, in retrospect, that first visit to Usti wasn’t so bad. At best, it was a crash course in Czech life and culture. At worst, it was a two-day lesson on birds and the old regime. The following week Lenka invited me to Usti again, and though I still felt indebted to her, I declined, saying I’d go the next weekend instead. She looked disappointed, but didn’t protest my decision.

When Lenka roped me into another Usti visit two weeks later, the experience was almost the same: Ladia cornered me in the living room while Edita spent most of her time in the kitchen preparing food. Before we departed for the train station on Sunday night, Edita proclaimed that she was my “Czech mother,” and this family was my “Czech family.” Everyone rejoiced.

“See you next weekend,” Edita yelled as we made our way to the elevator. Then she slammed the door before I could say anything.

On the way home that night, Lenka began to open up. “I don’t like my family,” she said, the carriage packed with twenty-somethings who, like Lenka, were obliged to come home every weekend. “In fact, we all don’t like each other. That’s why my brother never comes home–even though he’s supposed to.”

It was true. Martin had moved as far as he could away from his family–to Ostrava, a massive industrial town even uglier than Usti in the far eastern part of the country. The one weekend we were both in Usti, it was painfully obvious that he hated being home; he sulked around the apartment for two days acting like an alienated fifteen year old and did his best to ignore the latest foreigner that Lenka had dragged home.

As the train reached the suburbs of Prague, Lenka confessed, “When you come to Usti with me on the weekends everything is okay. The attention is on you, the guest, and not on how much we quietly loathe one another. The tension is gone.”

I felt sorry for Lenka, but I was beginning to loathe her family too. Besides, I didn’t want another family–I already had one 6,000 miles away.

I stopped going for a while, despite Lenka’s aggressive tactics of persuasion, which included stopping by my apartment a couple times a week. She was the only person who knew where I lived, so when I’d hear the buzzer, I’d hit the floor. She knew I was home, evidenced by the fact that she’d keep her finger pressed on the buzzer for long periods of time, terrorizing my ears. After a few minutes, she’d resort to intermittent buzzing like a school fire drill. Finally, she’d slowly wade backwards down the street, her eyes perpetually fixed on my third-floor apartment window.

One day, the buzzer going non-stop for three or four minutes, I finally gave in and went down to the door.

Lenka actually looked surprised that I’d come down. “If you can’t come to Usti this weekend, that’s fine,” she said. “But please come for Christmas in two weeks. Please.”

I was less startled by her pleading and more surprised by her choice to (un-ironically) combine a black, eye-brow-raising miniskirt with a Miami Vice-like hot pink blazer. I had already anticipated a Christmas invitation, and, rather than just telling her straight out that I never wanted to come there again, I had decided to go far away: I’d bought a train ticket to Florence for the week of Christmas. I bit my lower lip, took a deep breath through my nostrils and told her the news.

“What?!” Lenka barked out. “What are we going to do?” she asked rhetorically. She stood in front of me, her mouth ajar. “Well then, I hope you’re at least going to come this weekend,” she said, probably sounding exactly like her mom when Lenka made the rare announcement that she couldn’t make it home.

“I’m going stay here in Prague to hang out with some friends from work.”

“Friends from work?” Lenka said incredulously. “You don’t even like the people you work with.”

I didn’t respond, choosing instead to focus on a triumvirate of chain-smoking drunks who were standing in front of a pub. Lenka’s stare pierced me.

“Okay…,” she said, taking a few steps backward toward the street and pointing her index finger at me, “but my mom is going to be very upset.”

Despite communism’s disdain for all things Jesus-like, Czech Christmas traditions carry a heavy dose religious symbolism. The Communist Party’s failed attempt to replace the Czech’s traditional gift bringer, Jezicek, or Little Jesus, with the secular Grandfather Frost failed, even with the culture’s general apathy toward organized religion. Recent census polls indicate that a near majority of Czechs consider themselves atheists, or at least agnostic.

Christianity came to Bohemia when Wenceslas, the duke of Bohemia (and the “good king” of Christmas carol fame), officially converted to Christianity in 929. Since then, Bohemians’ relationship to Christianity has been, at best, rocky. When the charismatic Czech religious reformer, Jan Hus, convinced the Bohemian populace that the church needed reform in the early 1400s, the pope had Hus burned at the stake and then sent crusading armies into Bohemia to squash the movement. A century later in Germany, Martin Luther, picking up where Hus left off, succeeded in splintering Europe apart on religious lines, culminating on the outskirts of Prague in the Battle of White Mountain in 1620, which pitted Reformation Europe (including the Bohemians) against Catholic Austria. The Austrian Hapsburgs won and proceeded to supplant Counter Reformation zeal onto the Czech lands with enough fervency to make a Stalinist shiver.

But for reasons that I don’t understand, Jezicek and a handful of religious customs persist, all of which I was happy to miss that first year in Prague.

When I got back from Italy after Christmas, I quickly learned I was not off the hook so easily. A letter from Lenka was waiting. “We’ve postponed Christmas,” the letter read. “My mom insists on giving you, her new child, a proper Czech Christmas. Please call me or Mom as soon as possible so you can come to Usti.” I imagined Lenka’s family sitting by the undecorated Christmas tree rotating glances between the clock and the phone. It was already December 28. I avoided calling Lenka to arrange a belated Christmas celebration.

Another letter arrived a few days into the new year. “We’re still waiting for you,” it read. “We’re not celebrating Christmas until you come. P.S. The tree is getting dry.”

A week later, there was yet another letter pinned to the bulletin board just inside the front door to my apartment building. It only contained once sentence:


I couldn’t take it any longer. I called and apologized, offering a typical American excuse that I’d been “busy with work.” Lenka’s voice was cold, like a shunned ex-girlfriend, but she still seemed relieved when I finally made plans to come celebrate Christmas, even though I was just coming for the day.

Before I knocked on Lenka’s parents’ door, I stopped for a minute to gather my thoughts in the corridor. This is it, I told myself. This is the last time I’m going to do this. Then I raised my fist to knock. It was January 24.

“Merry Christmas!” Ladia, Edita, and Lenka yelled as I walked through the front door. “Oh, thank god you’re here,” Edita said. The apartment was sparklingly clean, decked out with decorations of angels and apostles. Christmas carols spun on the record player. The table was set for a full-course meal, which was the traditional carp and potato salad.

Two weeks before the holiday, large plastic tubs crammed with live carp appear on street corners in Prague and other Czech cities. There are two options for buyers: have it killed, cleaned, and gutted right there on the sidewalk or take the carp home alive in a large water-filled plastic bag. For the latter, standard procedure dictates that the fish live in the bathtub until Christmas Day. Holiday revelers starve the fish, which gives it a cleaner taste.

As Edita plopped a large chunk of carp on my plate next to a bulbous dollop of potato salad–another Czech holiday staple–I couldn’t help but wonder if the fish had been frozen or if it had been living in the bathtub for the past three weeks. Ladia and Edita didn’t smell funny, but then again, the aroma of baked things wafting from the kitchen was eclipsing my sense of smell. I spent the time uncomfortably fielding questions from them about my time in Italy over Christmas. Between questions, we’d fall into a silence, broken only by the clanging of silverware.

After dinner I was shepherded into the living room and placed in front of the skeleton-like Christmas tree. After a series of traditional rituals that involved ringing a bell, the supposed arrival and departure of Jezicek, and a few stories about how we were supposed to see a golden pig, Ladia handed out sparklers. “This is typical Czech tradition,” he said, looking slightly sheepish. As I stood next to Lenka and her mom in front of the brittle tree, Ladia lit our incense-sized fire sticks and the family began to sing a Czech Christmas carol. I took a step back when I noticed small fireballs launching into the tree’s arid, impotent branches. No one else seemed alarmed.

In fact, they were blissful. From my position a step behind them, I watched Lenka and her parents stare at the tip of their sparklers, singing a song in a language I didn’t know. They looked lost, completely taken away from their loathing reality. I felt satisfied that, one last time, one last Christmas, I could be the distraction that keeps this family from completely hating each other. Merry Christmas.

Holy Water and Wafers in the Czech Republic’s Karlovy Vary

Holy Water and Wafers in the Czech Republic's Karlovy VaryI had walked for an hour in the northern Bohemian spa town Karlovy Vary looking for a place to eat. I have a general rule when I’m in these tourist-crammed towns: no hotel restaurants and no obvious tourist trap eateries, of which this town formerly known as Carlsbad has plenty. I walked along the babbling Tepla River reciting the words to the Joni Mitchell’s heartbreaking “River,” a song I haven’t been able to get out of my head lately. I strolled until the prettied-up 19th-century buildings faded into grim 20th-century Communist-era apartment blocks and the over-priced restaurants morphed into pubs where the night’s main entertainment was two dogs wildly humping each other in the corner as bar patrons gleefully rooted them on (well, at least at one of the places I popped my head into).

As darkness began to envelope the town, I turned back toward the center and walked until I found a pub with a sign for Platan, an excellent south Bohemian beer, a rare sight here among the signs for Pilsner Urquell and Budweiser (the Czech variety). I stopped in to the five-table pub. There were no amorous hounds inside; just quiet-talking couples taking up all the tables but one. I sat down, ordered a beer and a klobasa and dove into a book, figuring I’d settle in for another melancholy evening of sipping better-than-average beer and reading about Burma. Within a few minutes, though, three middle-aged women joined me at the table. They didn’t speak English, so they began asking me questions in Czech. Where was I from? How did I speak Czech? Do I have children?

They laughed at my bad jokes and feigned interest in what I had to say about my life. Finally, I was able to ask something: “What brings you to Karlovy Vary?” All three of the ladies put their hands to their chest and said, in unison, “We’re sick.”

My heart sunk, but I should have known better. It’s the reason why most people come to Karlovy Vary. After all, for centuries everyone from the rich and royal to the ordinary have been gravitating here to “take the waters,” which flow liberally from fountains throughout the colonnaded center of town. The mineral waters are said to have curative properties and today people the world over limp around Karlovy Vary, drinking from the natural springs in between spa treatment appointments.

I was glad the women didn’t ask me why I was here. They probably just assumed I was there for the same reasons they were. But my survival didn’t depend on being in Karlovy Vary. Not that I had the ability to explain in Czech my own struggles, the dark quicksand with which my mind has been sinking; I can barely explain it in English except to paint a picture of being at the bottom of a dark pit with no way out except to ponder the worst scenarios. I had no idea what I was expecting to find in this famous spa town. I knew I’d encounter sick people and pickled-looking Russians and sick pickled-looking Russians (Russians, in fact, own 65 percent of the town and nearly all of the city center), but I came here not just for work but I wondered if this town, which for hundreds of years has been a metaphor of last hopes and survival, would somehow help me too.

Travel, I had rationalized on the two-hour bus ride north from Prague a couple days earlier, comes from the word “travail,” suggesting, inherently, struggle and pain and challenge. And with that, we hope, comes renewal. And wisdom. Either that or death, metaphorically or physically.

As I strolled through the town the morning after my encounter with the three women in the pub, on my way to catch the bus back to Prague, I pulled out the porcelain cup I’d bought on the promenade my first afternoon in town and, like the rest of the visitors, began sampling one last time the various springs. And then, when I saw someone in the distance selling fresh spa wafers, I got an idea. In addition to being where people go to hopefully not die, Karlovy Vary is the wafer capital of Central Europe.

Maybe because they’re light and not too unhealthy, wafers became an in-between-therapy-session snack for the rich and sickly. I’d always heard that you could buy these thin cracker-like circular treats (with chocolate or vanilla smeared in between) on the streets of Karlovy Vary.

There were boxes of wafers piled up to the heavens (at the low, low price of $1.40 each) with flavors that went way behind the traditional chocolate or vanilla: sour cherry, Algerian coffee, gingerbread, tiramisu, white chocolate and orange peel, and even chili pepper.

A young woman was smearing chocolate between freshly baked wafer crackers. I bought one and continued down the promenade, breaking off pieces and stopping at each spring to refill my cup. At the last spring, inside an arched high-ceilinged room with a sculpture of a water nymph placed above the spouting water (the most cathedral like of all the springs), an old frail woman watched as I filled up my cup one last time before I would flee this town perhaps forever. I sipped from the piping hot, fresh-from-the-earth water. The old woman looked down at her empty plastic cup. Signs warned against using plastic cups and bottles. The heat of the water will melt the plastic and could be dangerous for one’s health. I walked over to the old woman and handed her my sipping cup.

“Here,” I said. “Would you like my cup? I’m leaving town.”

Her trembling hand extended toward me. She wrapped her miniscule fingers around the cup, overlapping on to my hand. She didn’t pull away and for about five long seconds we stood there in the empty vaulted room, the sound of splashing water echoing through the space, joined together by this cup–this, as some might say, life-restoring vessel–staring at each other.

Finally, we let go and she took the cup. I then handed her the rest of my host-like wafer. She thanked me profusely in Czech. I smiled and walked out of the sheltered space, my eyes welling up with tears for some reason. On the way back to Prague, I kept thinking about the people I’d encountered there: the three women at the bar, the old woman I’d given my cup to. The history-making events they’d probably been through. And now they come here to this spa town, one last gasp, one last hope, one last wish, in their own personal struggles for survival. They’d traveled here, like me, with hope.

After two days, I felt no real change. No epiphanies. No great insights. No clarity. No rope thrown down to me from the top of the pit. It was silly for me to think otherwise. Yes, the travail of travel sometimes changes people, but not always on the spot. Not always as quickly as we’d like. I might only hope I someday to have the courage of the people I met in Karlovy Vary.

I turned my iPod on and listened to the song I’d been humming the last few days and quietly sang along, “I wish I had a river, I could skate away on…”

The Most Dangerous Beverage in Prague

The Most Dangerous Beverage in PragueThere’s a specter haunting Central Europe. A very quaffable, sweet-tasting specter, that is. And no, it’s not absinthe. This bibulously inspired drink is only around for a few weeks in September. Which means there’s much debauchery happening right now in the center of Europe. If, like me, you’re in the Czech capital this week, you’ll understand when I say that it’s the most dangerous beverage in Prague.

Meet Burcak [pronounced Bur-chahk], a Central European phenomenon where vintners take a batch of the young wine just after the grapes have been crushed, add sugar, and let it ferment a bit. The result is something that’s no longer grape juice yet not exactly wine. And it tastes dangerously close to an addictive juice concoction, which nearly ensures a hangover in the morning. As far as I can tell, it’s only available in the Czech Republic and Austria (in the latter it’s called sturm)

The word “burcak” is just starting to pop up in Prague right now, scrawled across chalkboards that hang outside wine bars. So if you’re in or heading to Central Europe, don’t miss the small window with which burcak is available. Burcak purists, however, will tell you it’s best drunk in southern Moravia, the main wine region of the Czech Republic, particularly in the town of Znojmo.

The last time I took a trip to the region, it was as if some alien intoxicant had overtaken an entire town. When my Czech friend Libor and I pulled into Mikulov, a small castle-topped town on the Czech-Austrian border, there were guys weaving down the tiny cobbled lanes, women vomiting into rubbish bins on the main square, and couples passionately disrobing each other behind trees. What was going on?

It wasn’t that there was something in the water to make the villagers both ill and amorous. It was the first day of the weekend-long annual burcak festival and the town was already collectively inebriated.

But besides its dangerously good taste, here’s how burcak is even more cause for alarm: There is a curse of burcak. While it only contains about five percent alcohol, it continues to ferment while inside your body. Despite the thoughts going through your head right now that some kind of yeast-reeking alien beast is going to explode through your stomach, it means that the alcohol level of the beverage you’ve been consuming the last three or four hours has grown to that of a normal, matured wine (about thirteen percent) while still in your body. Hence, the reason why this entire town of Mikulov was drunk on the day I arrived.

While I’m in Prague this week, I decided to seek out some burcak for myself. At one wine bar, situated next to The Globe, a pretentious and condescending (though I’m referring to the staff) English language bookstore and café, the burcak was overly sweet with a coarse texture. I still finished the half-liter jug, but was looking forward to finding something better. I found it at U Sudu, a cavernous wine bar that has always had a good reputation for good burcak. It didn’t disappoint. The “young wine” was smooth with a more subtle hint of sweetness. U Sudu, by the way, is only for serious drinkers, evidenced by its 9am opening time on most days.

I stumbled away from U Sudu, on my way to meet a friend for dinner. He had been, it turns out, drinking burcak as well. Which was good because he had no way of detecting just how intoxicated I may have been becoming from the still-fermenting burcak we’d already drunk.

Prague in pictures

Today’s featured summer travel destination has undergone a massive transformation in recent decades. Once regarded as an isolated capital on the red side of the Iron Curtain, it is now the sixth most visited European city behind London, Paris, Rome, Madrid and Berlin. Having escaped the destructive aerial bombing campaigns of World War II, it is also one of the most immaculately preserved European cities.

We’re talking of course about Prague (Praha), the capital of the Czech Republic.

The former preserve of shoestringing backpackers in search of cheap lodging and copious amounts of beer, Prague has undergone a miraculous transformation from an industrial center to a full-fledged service economy. The city is now home to most major global travel brands, in addition to the first ever Michelin-starred restaurant in post-Communist Europe (Allegro).

For architecture fans, Prague is akin to a living museum. The medieval city center, home to one of the largest castles in the world, is nothing less than picture perfect at every angle. On that note, take a quick look at some of the gallery images below, and then keep reading to learn more about one of our favorite cities in Europe.

%Gallery-123977%Local legends dictate that Prague was founded in the 8th century, though it was the 14th century golden age that graced the city with its finest constructions. Under the reign of Charles IV (1316-1378), Prague was rebuilt and expanded as the capital city of the Holy Roman Empire. New Town, the Charles Bridge and the gothic Saint Vitus Cathedral all date from this gilded era.

We fully acknowledge the importance of a well-crafted itinerary. But there is also joy in wandering aimlessly while soaking up the surrounding ambiance. And that is indeed what you should do here. With nary a modern building in sight, central Prague’s cobblestone streets wind past whimsical Baroque facades awash in muted pastels. Add to the mix soaring arches, sweeping bridges, café-lined plazas and gaggles of street musicians to help set the tempo.

You do however still owe it to yourself to check off the major tourist drawcards. The classic route takes you from New Town across the Charles Bridge to Old Town en route to Prague Castle. Along the way, stop for a cappuccino in the Old Town Square, and linger long enough to view the astronomical clock in action. First activated in 1410, the world’s oldest running clock springs to life every hour. Figurines of the Apostles present themselves to crowds below while a skeleton representing Death solemnly strikes the time.

For a bit of culture, we’re big fans of the Mucha Museum, which celebrates the life and work of Art Nouveau painter Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939). Even if you don’t know his name off the top of your head, much of Mucha’s earlier work is widely recognizable. While living in Paris, Mucha produced distinctive advertisements, postcards and theater playbills depicting beautiful young women in classical robes surrounded by flowers. His later works were more nationalistic in sentiment, and focused on the history and culture of the Czech people.

In the post-Soviet era, consumption is the main driver of the Czech economy. For the casual tourist, this means row upon row of kitschy souvenir shop selling everything from imitation Red Army paraphernalia to carved crystal knick-knacks. If you’re looking for a bit more quality in your purchases, seek out the city’s renowned ceramic wares, or peruse antique shops for rare books and out-of-print stamps. Prague is also regarded as a high-end shopping destination, which means that global luxury brands are everywhere.

If you have a bit of youthful blood coursing through your veins, be sure to explore Prague after the sun goes down. Early evening is best spent building up your energy reserves with a hearty meal and a few calorie-rich pints. But the real fun begins in the twilight hours. The city still plays host to a few industrial techno clubs that occupy converted factories in the outskirts. Of course, as with the rest of Prague, the nightlife scene is all grown up. Closer to the city center, you’ll find upscale beer gardens, chic cocktail bars, live music venues and even hookah lounges.

How to get there Direct flights on Delta and Czech Airlines connect New York City to Prague. Prague is also connected by direct flights to most major European capitals. As such, a quick stop in Prague is fairly easy to combine with longer trips to the continent. Overland trips to Prague by euro rail and inter-city buses are also feasible.

Where to stay Summer vacation on the continent attracts hordes of travelers to Prague. In order to secure accommodation, book well in advance of your travel date, particularly if you plan to visit on a weekend or any time during August. Room choice is varied, but we’re partial to the city’s excellent selection of artsy boutique hotels and apartment-style residences. Note that prices have skyrocketed since the adoption of the euro, but on the whole Prague remains cheaper than many other European capitals.

What to eat Long gone are the days of nameless sausages and boiled cabbage washed down with ten cent pints of lager. Prague is undergoing a foodie revolution, and ravenously consuming the international cuisine it was denied for so long. With that said, Traditional Czech delicacies do remain, such as potato dumplings, fried cheeses, beef goulash and roast pork with sauerkraut. Czech beer is as good as ever, even though you should expect to fork over a few euros a pint. Pilsner Urquell and Budvar (the original Budweiser) are typically on the menu alongside local microbrews.

Need more inspiration? Check out the gallery of pictures below.

[All photos and gallery images are the author’s own original work.]