Hello, teachers! Are you rested? Are you having fun? Have you forgotten all about schools or are you secretly missing it?
Regardless where you’re at I decided to tackle the Teacherhorizons blog with a holiday spirit at least during the two summer months which mark your precious time off work – more or less. Stay tuned as we have for you in the pipeline more serious topics such as “When things go wrong”, “Women’s safety abroad”, “Why do I need references?” and “Same sex couples moving and working abroad” to name a few.
While the sun is shining and in a similar spirit to our last blog I wanted to invite you to “Czech out” the capital of the Czech Republic if you still have some empty slots in your holiday schedule. A nice Prague city break may just well be what you’re looking for.
Prague must have been and still is on so many bucket lists so I can call myself lucky that it will be my home again from the end of July. It has also undergone a massive change since the fall of the Berlin wall and opening of European borders in the early 90’s. What was once a city of certain Kafka-esque mood and dilapidated peeling street corners has now become a sparkling metropolis with homogenous high street brands lulling you to get rid of your hard earned cash literally everywhere. Whether it’s good or bad is the question I ask myself all the time. I miss the old days when crossing the Charles Bridge was not a battle of survival between the umbrellas of tour leaders and rapidly clicking cameras, when walking in the centre of Prague you would meet only a few brave foreign souls and would not risk your life being run over by obnoxious Segways riders….
There’s no point being bitter about it though and we must go with the flow, or do we? Maybe going against the flow is a better option here. Like anywhere, to cover the “must sees” such as Charles Bridge, Mala Strana, Old Town Square and the Astronomical Clock, the Prague Castle and Zlata Ulicka to name a few, one has to put up with some levels of discomfort because other people have the same right to visit those places and in the end we are all tourists and Prague is THE place to be… I will not focus on these top spots as any guidebook will tell you what you need to know about them. Instead, let me tell you about my personal top things to do in Prague which should enhance your few days’ experience and provide for more varied memories.
Zlata Ulicka completely devoid of tourists. A truly rare sight.
Breathe the fresh air of Petrin
If greenery and nature is what you are looking for, then look no further. Petrin has all that and more. This leafy hilly space dominates the left bank of the Vltava river and it’s truly an oasis of greenery and peace bang in the middle of the city. The way to recognise it is by spotting the Eiffel tower-like structure atop the hill – a lookout tower offering spectacular 360 degree views of the city. Petrin can be navigated on foot (like most of Prague) or reached by a tram. There are outdoor pubs scattered around the place and the zigzag up and down hill paths offer an excellent exercise ground for those who love to walk, jog or cycle.
Stunning panorama views of Prague from Petrin Hill.
Discover the Old Prague
This place, ironically called the New World is perhaps one of the last few places which would suit the label “old Prague”. Quiet winding cobbled streets with not much traffic, hidden cafes and picturesque houses and not a tourist in sight – that’s what I like most about Novy Svet; how it reminds me of the Prague of old. Find it and bring your camera along to practise some black and white shots, it suits it very well here! Then have a coffee and relax before your return to the buzz of the city just a few streets away.
Archways and cobbled streets. The old Prague.
Quench your thirst on a hot day (or a cold one)
Not many activities in Prague would take place without consuming at least one (or three) icy glasses of the frothy golden liquid we call “pivo”. If you purposely find U Jelinku or just stumble upon it, make sure you call in and have a pint there. “Jedno pivo, prosim” and a smile should score you some brownie points with the master pourer himself and his mighty moustache. You will not be invited to sit down here, it’s a stand up kind of place. Locals call in on the way from work “for one” and it’s generally a good spot to study the local “culture”. Also, the fact that there’s no end to “pumping pints” here ensures that the Pilsner that flows here is one of the best and the freshest in the whole city. Trust me, I speak from experience.
Stroll the evening away along Vltava river
When the shadows grow longer and the sun starts to set, many flock to the banks of the Vltava river to enjoy an evening stroll occasionally interrupted by a beer stop. Several makeshift bars and pubs have popped up here in the recent years and it’s also possible to enjoy the sunset and evening breeze from the numerous boats mooring on the banks of the river. Here you’ll often find local and visiting youth dipping their feet in the water and sipping on BYO drinks while discussing and solving the problems of the world. In the middle of the day when human traffic consists more of runners, cyclists and mums with pushchairs, it’s a nice place to relax and read a book or just watch the river flow. Completely free and very much infused with the spirit of Prague.
A classic view of the Prague Castle from across the Vltava river.
Views, views, views!
The fact that Prague’s topography is hilly is overall great news for visitors, even though you do have to earn your views. Think steps and hills! Vysehrad, a historical fort dating back to the 10th century, offers much more than just stunning views. The impressive neo-gothic Basilica of St Peter and Paul dominates the site and attached to it is the famous Vysehrad Cemetery, a resting place of many prominent Czech personalities – from Bedrich Smetana and Antonin Dvorak to Alfons Mucha and Karel Capek. From the view point you can see the whole Prague panorama opening in front of you into the west, so this makes it another excellent sunset watching spot.
Beautifully decorated door of the Basilica of St Peter and Paul in Vysehrad.
Get deliciously lost
This is a good one. Get lost. Either completely on foot or taking advantage of the excellent public transport system of the city. I suggest you get yourself a ticket which will cover you on all means of transport for 24 hours from the moment you “punch it” and then go for your life! As long as you have the name and address of your hotel with you, you’ll be perfectly fine to randomly hop on and off and take a stroll in places which take your fancy. Prague has many faces and only few visitors venture out of the comfort zone of the historical centre – why not be different? The Tram #22 is perhaps the best one to take and enjoy many iconic sights along the way. The network of underground, trams and busses is very well connected and frequent so it’s always easy to find your way back.
Old Zizkov freight train depot
If you make it to Prague before the end of October 2016 then I urge you to pay a visit to the “Retro 70’s & 80’s” Exhibition in the Dancing House. Here I found my childhood condensed in an impressive collection of all things I remember from my young years. You’ll see the funky wardrobes our mothers would have, the camping assembly so much part of any family-time leisure, old motorcycles and cars, rubber swimming hats, chocolate and cheese wrappers and other “goods” available in the deep dark communist days, all of this scattered over three floors of the Dancing House. The Dancing House is an icon in itself with its flowing twisting lines and mirror-like windows. The entry fee will entitle you to the roof access from where you’ll get yet another bird’s eye perspective on Mother Prague while sipping on a delicious cup of coffee. If you miss this particular exhibition, the next one is about to be just as good.
Yet another view. This one from atop of the Dancing House.
Try your luck in Textile House
I feel no shame admitting that I am addicted to second hand shopping so discovering Textile House made my heart sing. There are at least 5 locations scattered throughout Prague and I frequent at least 3 of them almost weekly. It’s a kind of sport to me and what a better way to reset and refill your wardrobe upon relocation than scouting these well stocked shops?! The prices are reasonable, the assortment of goods wide and well displayed so it’s no wonder these shops are popular among locals and tourists alike.
Needless to say, this list is not exhaustive and you will most likely create your own by the time you come to leave the city of hundreds of towers and bridges. The main thing is to have fun of course!
Did you know that Teacherhorizons also place teachers in Prague? If this city sounds like a match to you, contact us to discuss your options of teaching there and discovering your own top activities!