Prague + A Part of WWII History That I Never Knew
Prague...I Love You!
I've never meant those words as much as I have this month. This city. This architecture. This history...I vibed so hard with this place. Is it touristy? Yes. Are the people periodically less than friendly? Yes. But damn, I just loved it. And there was so much to love! I legitimately can't wait to tell you about it!
The Best Public Transit EVER.
Legit...this was one of the things I loved the most about Prague. I grew up just outside of Seattle, and let's just say, for being a city, Seattle is majorly lacking in transportation. And I think that's part of what I never liked about cities is that Seattle felt so inaccessible to me growing up. If I wanted to get to downtown, I had to fight my way through Seattle traffic and pay exorbitant amounts of money to park. It's gotten better over the years, but the lack of accessibility of cities always turned me off.
Prague isn't like that. For all the places I've been, Prague has the best public transit I've ever experienced. They have subways, they have trams, they have buses...they have a monthly transit pass that you can buy and get unlimited public transport for the entire month. And not only is it easy AF to use...but it runs like clockwork and it really just made the city so accessible to me. In so many of the other cities we've been to this year, if I couldn't walk somewhere, I was dependent upon Uber or taxis to get me where I wanted to go. I didn't use a single Uber or taxi once I had my feet on the ground in Prague, except to get from the airport to my apartment. But other than that, I tooks trams and subways everywhere, could very easily get around by myself and just felt like everything about the city was at my fingertips. And I freaking LOVED that.
Old Town & Charles Bridge + obligatory trip to the john lennon wall Cuz...touristing.
One of the very first things that we did in Prague was to tourist by spending the day in Old Town and all it's surrounding sites and sounds. Unfortunately, there were a lot of things closed and under construction, but honestly, I don't think that took away from Old Town and it's charms. Nor did the mobs of people. Basically, I wasn't the only one touristing.
We checked out the Museum of Communism, which I highly suggest. It's one the more well done museums I've seen in recent years and it covers an aspect of post-WWII European history that I was completely unaware of - the Communism of the Czech Republic, post the horrors of WWII. Then, we explored some of the windy streets of old town before making our way to the Charles Bridge. The Charles Bridge in and of itself is beautiful and scenic, with views of the Prague Castle. Plus, it's incredibly old! Built in, I think the 1300s. We just don't have things that old in the states. Following the slow meander across the bridge, we headed over to the Lennon wall - a graffiti wall covered with odes to John Lennon. It used to be a much more visually appealing display of street art. But now, it's more of a mish-mash of graffiti tags. Still, it's worth a stop if only to check something off your tourist travel list.
20th Century Communism + World War II History.
I'll say it right now...I had no concept of Czech history. It made me wonder if I just wasn't paying attention in school ever. I mean, Jesus, did we learn this stuff at all? I don't know. But if we did, relearning it as an adult was amazing! Let's just say this, the Czechs are resilient AF. Their country was basically given to the Nazis during WWII by the French, British, etc. to try to stave off war with Hitler during the Munich agreement. Oh, ya, and they weren't even involved in the conversation. Literally. There government wasn't invited to the talks. This lead to an insane period in their history, including one of the craziest real-life assassination attempts I've ever heard of. Seriously. 3 parachutists killed Reinhard Heydrich, the highest ranking Nazi official to be assassinated during WWII.
In one of my favorite days in Prague, we went to an old theater to watch the movie Anthropoid. It's a relatively recent movie from 2016, starring Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan as the 2 parachutists that spearheaded the assassination attempt. We watched the movie, had a discussion about some of the more major players, and then we took a trip to actually see the church where the parachutists made their final stand against the Germans, complete with bullet holes in the side of the church. It's an incredible time in Czech history and a story they're very proud to tell. Being down in the crypt and inside the church where these very events took place, especially after watching the movie depicting these events, was perhaps one of the more powerful historical moments I have experienced this entire year. For for deets on the whole assassination attempt, the events leading up to in, and the incredible stand-off that followed, I HIGHLY suggest you check out this movie. It's surprisingly historically accurate.
Czech Switzerland & Narnia for the Day.
Oh my gosh - this DAY! This day was pure magic. Despite LOVING my time in the city, I always finding myself craving some time out in nature! And this trip to Bohemian Switzerland National Park was exactly what the doctor ordered. We went on about a 10km hike up to the largest natural bridge in the Czech Republic. The views leading up to the bridge were spectacular, but the bridge in and of itself and the views surrounding it were even more so.
What's even cooler about this experience and being here? WE were in freaking Narnia folks! Seriously - this natural bridge was featured in the Chronicles of Narnia and the surrounding areas were places where they filmed some of the scenery for the Chronicles of Narnia movies. So, basically, we got to spend the day in Narnia, explore, hike and a have a nice adult beverage at the top. I digit it. ;-)
Check out the Chronicles of Narnia trailer here for a little snippet of the natural bridge in action! Isn't it cool?
Bike Tours through the city + Country.
On a whim, I signed up to participate in a bike tour put on by Remote Year. It seemed like the perfect fit - touring the beautiful city on bicycle, going to some new places in Prague, and getting a much needed and well-deserved beer at the end.
This ended up being one of my all-time favorite bike tours of the entire year - this was by far the best one. Not only was it great because we got to see a whole bunch of different neighborhoods in Prague, but we biked along the river both inside of and outside of the city. It wasn't just biking in Prague, we made it out to the country which is where we sat down and drank a well-deserved beer! It was about 15-16miles of biking and my but was definitely hurting, but it was so worth it!
If you're interested and in Prague, check out the guys at Richmond Cycles in Prague! I highly recommend it!
Little Hanoi + All the Vietnamese food.
Did you know that Prague has some legit Vietnamese food? Seriously - so good! I don't remember the explicit details, but basically, the Czech Republic was one of the few countries that willingly and openly invited Vietnamese immigrants into their country. The first wave settled and when they invited in a second wave, the family members of those people in the first wave were ushered in too. Basically, this huge Vietnamese population grew out of this period of immigration, so much so that though they're externally Vietnamese, they identify themselves as check. Some even call themselves "bananas" - yellow on the outside and white on the inside.
Interestingly, as they were trying to find their place and their niche within the country, they started by opening mini marts because they wanted something smaller and with longer hours than the standard supermarket. Eventually, though, they started opening Vietnamese restaurants, realizing that this was a unique style of food that they could offer to a community that had never quite experienced this type of food before. So they started opening restaurants and that grew into this explosion of Vietnamese food and culture in the Prague area.
We found our own little Vietnamese spot called Pho Vietnam, right by the TV tower in Prague - one of the ugliest buildings on the planet. Seriously, it has made numerous ugly building lists. We also attended this incredible marketplace called the Sapa market, and dubbed little Hanoi because of its concentration of Vietnamese culture. It was a wonderful day sampling Vietnamese food and damn was it good! Seriously if I could remember what one of the dishes was, I would tell you! WE ate our first dish and I ordered another to take home for dinner the next night. So good! But, my fave? Still Bun Bo Nam Bo. Delicious!
Prague Castle & Vrtba Gardens.
It was my last day in Prague and I knew that I had some sightseeing to cram in. Top of the list? Prague Castle.
At that point in our month, Prague Castle had eluded me. Every time I had planned to go see it, the plans had fallen through. So finally, I put on a good podcast, some good tunes, hopped on the subway and headed over to the castle for the day all by my lonesome! It was a wonderful last day in Prague.
Prague Castle is bustling with tourists seemingly anytime, so I didn't let the tourists bother me. I just snapped some great photos and toured the grounds to my hearts content, which, surprisingly was FREE. Seriously. I didn't pay a penny for the couple hours I walked around the grounds. The cost comes when you start going inside the buildings. I didn't really care to go see more museums or go inside chapels. The architecture on the outside and the immensity of the grounds and gardens was perfect for me. And I really think it's all you need, but if you so desire, there is SO much more to see.
My favorite place I went though? It was actually my last tourist stop of the entire month - Vrtba gardens. I had done a quick Google search previously for photogenic places in Prague and this garden was on every list. It was a baroque garden perhaps a ten minute walk from the castle. You have to wind through some alleys and investigate a little bit to find the entrance, but once you do, and you pay your 70 Czech crowns to get in (I was double charged, but it was worth it), you're greeted by this immaculate garden. The flowers are beautiful and ornately landscaped. But the more you climb, the more you see sculptures and get views of the orange-topped buildings of Prague in the background. It was magic and my favorite place in Prague. I loved it!