By Emma Loubser, Deputy Travel Editor
The Croft Magazine // Emma Loubser shares travel tales from her reading week escapade to Prague
Having been involved in organising a trip for History Society to go to Prague, a hundred different ways of how it might pan out had been swimming around my head for months. The trip, with tour provider Invasion, meant that our accommodation, flights, transport to and from the airport in Prague and a couple of nightlife events had been booked. However, day to day activities were ours to decide.
Along with a group of friends and other historians, we touched down in Prague on Monday afternoon of reading week. Staying in a centrally located hostel in the Old Town, about a forty minute drive from the airport, we quickly located a nearby rooftop bar – T-Anker. Boasting panoramic views of the city as the sunset, and then the glow of the streetlights, illuminated gothic cathedrals and cobbled walkways, the evening was accompanied by some very coiffable wine and good company.
A bar crawl was organised for later that night promising two hours of free booze, music and a club at the end. We followed a rep and walked through side streets of boutiques and outlets, which transformed into bright tourist traps advertising bargain massages as we walked into the city centre. The bar was off one such road, located underneath the bustling city in a series of caves decked out with foosball tables, chart hits and disco lighting. Although an unexpected setting, we found ourselves easily amused and saw in our first night in Prague with copious amounts of free sangria and in the early hours of the morning, a dance floor with loud Euro-house tunes.
Waking up the next morning desperately hungry, we discovered a restaurant which promised to satisfy our cravings and help us shake the hangover. Simply named Coffee & Waffles, this delightful spot boasted sweet and savoury waffles as well as other breakfast staples, including a selection of eggs – scrambled, fried and poached to your liking. For the foodie, dietary requirements or not, Prague should be a top destination on your list as it features many such boutique cafes and restaurants, and at prices which may just find you relocating. A friend on the trip decided that the food was, in fact, so reasonable that he could consume two courses every meal.
Deciding to indulge ourselves in cultural Prague, we walked over the iconic St Charles Bridge, equipping ourselves with some rather garish umbrellas from a Czech corner store to contend with the March drizzle. We walked to the John Lennon Wall, famous for the mural of John Lennon who was viewed by the Czech youth of the 1980s and early 1990s as a pacifist figure, and decorated with political expressions which the Communist secret police could never rid the wall of for long. Remnants of those political sentiments still peek out behind the graffiti that adorns much of the wall now.
A winding road led us to the Prague Castle where the city stretched for miles around the grand building, the Petrin Tower could be easily spotted, distinctive in its similarity to the Eiffel Tower, and where a Starbucks rooted in prime real estate could easily win awards for its views. Feeling peckish after the uphill ascent and a leisurely stroll around, we sought out the traditional Czech cinnamon-flavoured doughnut cones, trdelniks. A staple throughout the city, their fillings range from apple strudel to a Mr Whippy ice cream and melted chocolate combination. A delectable, if not a little messy, mid-afternoon treat.
Bars and drinking halls offering cheap pints – the cheapest we saw less than £2 – are dotted throughout the city, so make sure to locate a fresh Pilsner while you’re in Prague; a local favourite as it was first produced in the Czech city of Pilsen. However, for an unusual, novelty beer-tasting experience, Vytopna is your place. Your drinks get delivered to your table via an impressive network of toy train tracks that run all over the restaurant. Sipping away, we recounted tales of the trip so far. Remembering that one of the bar reps had told us about a Stormzy concert, we found that he was indeed due to play on our last night in a sports hall on the outskirts of Prague to an audience of just 3000, for around £25 a ticket. It was a no-brainer.
Excited for our final twenty-four hours in Prague, we located a pizza and pasta feast at Pizzeria Mikulka before heading to Karlovy Lazne; the infamous, five-storey club, and an inevitable part of any organised trip or bar crawl, unless oriented to an alternative music scene. A light pre-drink before and it was a fun night out with a big group of friends, although a bit quieter than it would be in peak holiday season. A useful tip for a night in Prague – track down an ATM before you go out to avoid extortionate withdrawal fees once inside.
The next day, the group split for breakfast – half of us to Den Noc, offering an eclectic array of pancake fillings by day, and a wine bar by night – and the other half to Mistral Café, providing a light and breezy setting with fresh breakfast dishes. Both very reasonable options, with a Den Noc breakfast adding up to around £5-7 for a generous stack of pancakes and a coffee or juice.
After regrouping, we wandered down the river canal in search of the Dancing House, nicknamed for its design which mimics the shape of famous dance partners Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Meandering back to the city along the riverfront, there are barges to enjoy a hot drink or an ice cold beer, depending on the season, and then a range of museums and galleries in the centre featuring local and international history and artists. If you have time, slightly further afield you will find the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art and the Prague National Museum. A range of free walking tours take place in the Old Jewish Quarter to engage tourists with its rich history, and for any literature lovers, Franz Kafka’s influences can be traced to his birthplace in Prague as well as other sites nestled in the city’s nooks.
Seeing a British icon and Glastonbury-headliner on his first ever trip to Prague provided a surreal end to our trip, leaving us on a holiday high, stomachs filled with 50-koruna (£1.70) pints of beer.
Featured image: Epigram / Emma Loubser
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