This trip was a string of "firsts," including my first time flying British Airways. A few minutes into our flight, I was surprised to receive a complimentary breakfast sandwich even though the flight was only about 1.5 hours long. The service was friendly and efficient and the pilot must have apologized for the brief delay leaving Heathrow about 30 times. How very British.
Another first: my first final approach into Prague’s Ruzyně Airport, which was absolutely gorgeous. It was all red-roofed houses mixed with farmland and some of the greenest grass I've ever seen. Right next to the runway are bails of hay waiting to be collected by what I can only assume is an #avgeek farmer who must get a kick out of plane spotting while he works.
There is a lot of history in Prague, sure, but there's also all that beer and food and also beer, so I focused on that. Did I mention the beer? One of my favorite places was Lokal which, in addition to being an inn, is, you guessed it, a local pub-style establishment serving traditional Czech food.
Pro tip: If you go to Lokal to drink, you better like Pilsner because that's the only beer they offer. That's right. A restaurant with ONE beer. No ridiculous drink menus, no fancy glasses to match the beer you're drinking, just one delicious beer that's good enough for you and everyone else.
Something else I immediately noticed about Prague, something definitely appreciated by a first-time visitor, is the opportunity to eat on every corner. My days passed like this: eat, drink, walk, repeat. Luckily, when you walk in Prague you’re bound to walk across something beautiful and old, like the Charles Bridge, so I got my touristing out of the way as well.
A little history: the first stone of this bridge was laid in 1357 by King Charles IV himself. What a helpful king! The bridge acted as the first true connection between Prague’s Castle and Old Town, which is a medieval settlement featuring the confusingly named Old New Synagogue.
Speaking of the Prague Castle, it’s big. Like, really big. Being the largest ancient castle in the world isn’t an easy feat. It looks mean in the most beautiful waythink more Batman than King George. I took the ever-easy-to-catch tram all the way up to the base of the castle, at which point people start to walk like zombies, craning necks skyward to see it in its entirety. The mostly dark exterior and thin, borderline creepy windows make this one of the most beautiful manmade structures I've ever seen. It's so massive that it feels more like a Disney facade than an actual castle.
In-between bouts of food-induced gluttony, I did find the time to do some shopping and purchased a lovely pair of shoes from an inconspicuous store off the beaten path. I mention this because, when we arrived, a thin modelesque man was standing outside lighting a cigarette. He turned out to be the sales associate and, when we moved towards the door to enter the shop, he embarrassingly threw down his freshly lit cigarette and opened the door for us while profusely apologizing for not being inside already. I gladly took him up on his offer of a Jameson while I shopped.
I mention this man, a seemingly generic character, because he actually greatly represents the sort of people I met in Prague. Friendly and courteous, but also not afraid to do their own thing at their own comfortable pace.
I like this place, Prague. I could come back here, I thought.
Tomorrow: The Newbie Traveler continues on to Berlin!
[Photos: Andy Miles]