Archive for the 'Prague' Category

May 27 2008

Tales We Never Told: One night in Prague

Published by under Prague,Virginia

We met new people virtually every day of our trip. It’s the best part about traveling, actually. We had some amazing experiences with amazing people.

Meeting so many new people from around the world, you become adept at quickly identifying who you’ll get along with, and who you want to avoid. On the other hand, long-term travel forces you to broaden your outlook when it comes to friendship. Sure, you may never be friends with a person in “real” life, back home, but when they’re the only fellow English speaker in your vicinity, you bond immediately. And people often surprise you. It’s just another reason traveling opens your mind in unexpected ways.

At our hostel in Prague, we met a guy named Toby, whom I’ve always wanted to write about. I loved Toby. It became clear right away, when he plopped down in the seat across from me at the downstairs bar with an awkward, “hello, mates,” that Toby was our kind of people.

A 19-year-old, floppy-haired Australian on his gap year between school and “Uni,” he was the antithesis of all those annoying elitists you so often encounter in travel circles. Everyone would be sitting downstairs in the hostel pub discussing the various sights and experiences of Prague we’d witnessed that day. Then Toby would pipe up with his daily adventures: he’d slept all morning and surfed YouTube all afternoon. That was it. When fellow hostelers would stare at him quizzically, or disdainfully, he seemed not to notice. He’d just say, “yeah, I saw this wicked video…”

He did this every day. And he didn’t apologize or make excuses. We’d come home from our explorations to find Toby in bed, in front of a computer screen, or scrounging up some food from the common kitchen. In his pajamas. And we pretty much hung out with him every night.

On the evening of our last full day in Prague, we came bustling through the front door of our hostel, frost-bitten, laden with Christmas presents, and running late. “You check game times, I’ll get the boys!” I shouted back to Ben, as I ran up the stairs.

We’d made sketchy plans the previous evening to attend a hockey game with Toby and his travel buddy, Owen. I’ve never attended a hockey game, ever, but the fervor surrounding hockey in the Czech Republic matches the fervor surrounding “football” in the rest of Europe, so I though it was a good place to experience the sport. In fact, one of the hostel receptionists got into a surprisingly heated debate with her friend over which sport was the “national” sport of the Czech Republic.

“TOOOOOOBBBYYYYYY,” I yelled, banging my fists against his door. I’d been standing there for five minutes, pounding the heavy wooden door, my screams echoing through the halls of the hostel. “TOBY! OWEN! I know you’re in there! GET UP!”

Finally I hear a groggy moan: “Who’s there? Bugger off, mate, wouldja?”

“Toby, it’s Brittany, would you open the door?! We’re going to a hockey game, remember? You’re coming!” I heard Owen slowly climb out of bed, shuffle over to the door and turn the lock to let me in. Toby rolled over in bed and put a pillow over his face.

“But I just got in bed!” he whined.

“Toby! It’s six o’clock at night! You’ve been in bed all day!”

“Nuh uh!” I hear his muffled voice arguing from underneath the pillow. “I went out to the bakery and then got on Facebook some, too. I only just got in bed for a nap.”

“‘Just got in bed’ when?” I asked.

“I don’t know. ‘Bout three, I suppose.”

It took much yelling and pillow-throwing from Owen and me to get Toby out of bed. He finally stumbled out, promising to meet us downstairs. He showed up with a parka thrown on top of his pajamas.

As usual, we hadn’t planned well. Turned out that the hockey tournament venue was about an hour train ride outside of Prague. The effort to get there, coupled with the additional expense, our inevitable tardiness, and sub-zero temperatures outside, quickly deflated our excitement. I may have been convinced to go if someone in our group was particularly enthusiastic about it, but we didn’t really keep Toby around as a motivator.

“Want to get some food then?” Toby suggested. Since I’m always game for food, we agreed.

We stepped outside of the hostel, bundled up so tightly that only our eyes and noses poked out from beneath our wool hats. Only then did we realize that we didn’t have a destination in mind. We stood there for a moment, shivering, discussing our options.

“I guess there’s that pizza place next store,” Owen suggested.

“Yeah, but I think that’s closed for the holidays,” I replied.

“I think a lot of restaurants are closed tonight,” Ben said.

“You know, I’m not even hungry,” Toby said, after a bit of self-reflection.

“I’m not really, either, actually,” I agreed. “I guess… let’s just go to the grocery store to get some food for later or something?”

And so, in an anticlimactic turn of events, we ended up walking to the small, local supermarket to pick up some dinner for later. There, Toby was able to once again prove why we liked him so much. He bought a honey pomelo. Because while we shopped for sausage or potatoes or other authentic fare, Toby, in Northern Europe in the middle of winter, shopped for tropical fruit.

Later, when we got back to the hostel, we sat around the large, oak table in the warm kitchen, sharing Toby’s pomelo.

And then Terrance walks in. One of Toby and Owen’s roommates was a Canadian guy whose name I can’t remember as I intentionally tried to erase the knowledge of his existence from my brain. So, for now, I’ll call him Terrance.

It was clear early on that Terrance was NOT our kind of people. He was a one-upper: no matter where you’d been, he’d been there too and done it better. He went out of his way to establish that he was so much cooler than you: he knew all the best beers, the best drinking games, the best local bars. Most annoyingly, he kept coming up with lame excuses to mention his sex life. Now, to people with a maturity level beyond that of a twelve-year-old boy, it’s painfully clear that anyone who talks excessively about their sexual experience to strangers has never actually had any sexual experience at all. That didn’t stop Terrance from inventing games that allowed him to divulge disgusting details no one wanted to hear. “Yeah, there was this girl in college,” he’d say to the uninterested crowd. “And one time we [insert graphic sexual act he’s never experienced but learned about from the porn he buys off the internet]. It was HOT.”

The first night he’d hung out downstairs with us, he’d excused himself early to go “do some work.” When people didn’t seem to be making a big enough deal out of him leaving, he paused at the bottom of the stairs. “Yeah, I can work from abroad… you know, anywhere I want… [still no reaction from the crowd]… my company gives me all this fancy equipment…I’m a web designer… yeah, I know html code… important stuff…” he trailed off as he realized no one was listening, and stormed upstairs. It was a good thing, too, because if Ben hadn’t been there, trying to calm me down, I was about to go off on Terrance in a big way.

Terrance had walked into the kitchen as we were trying to formulate our plans for the evening. We’d thus far avoided the numerous massive nightclubs in Prague, but the general consensus was that the Aussies wanted to celebrate our last night in the city at a popular nearby club. So once again, we donned our many layers, and set off: me, Ben, Owen, Toby, Terrance and a couple other people we picked up on our way out the door.

I’m not a loud, techno-music-loving nightclub kind of person. And Ben’s even less so. As in, it takes some serious peer pressure to convince him to step foot in one. Still, Kross Klub immediately impressed me. The entire club was outfitted in a hardcore industrial motif: whirring car engines hung from the ceiling and rotating gears lined the walls. As opposed to one gigantic space, the club was a maze of small rooms, each with its own bar and music. We wound through narrow staircases, suddenly popping through a door to find ourselves on a dance floor with a DJ spinning trance music and a huge screen on the wall flashing the words TAKE LSD. Other rooms were quieter, just a string of tables and a black-lit bar.

In one such room, we chose a small booth in a corner and squeezed in. Shortly after we sat down, a shifty-eyed Czech man slid up beside our table. “You want to smoke some drugs?” the man whispered in a heavy Czech accent.

We looked at each other, nervously. Sure, we all agreed. ‘Cause you only live once, right? So we made a hasty exchange. The next thing I remember is waking up, freezing and half naked, in the dirt on the side of a road – my feet frostbitten, all my belongings gone, alone, with no idea where I was and how I’d gotten there. And this, my friends, is why you DON’T DO DRUGS.

Just kidding. In case our parents are now worried that they’ve raised children who make Bad Decisions, I’ll tell the truth. We sat in the club, talking for a while. When I couldn’t convince any of the boys to dance with me, I pouted. We eventually left, walked back to our hostel, tiptoed into our room so as not to wake our roommates, and fell asleep in our bunk beds. So there you have it. A boring ending. FINE.

The next morning, we woke early, stocked up on medovnik from the local bakery, and ran to catch the bus that would deliver us, 24 hours later, to Barcelona.

There is a bittersweet part to meeting new, awesome people everyday: you have to leave them. It’s something I never quite got used to—saying goodbye to people that meant something to me with the full knowledge that I’ll never see them again in my life. So even though it breaks my heart that I can’t just call Toby and meet him for lunch on a whim, it’s heartening to know that people like him are out there in the world. Especially since returning home, where I’m bombarded on a daily basis by the media giving me new reasons to believe that people are evil and life is scary, the people we met on our trip help me remember that people are good and life is fun.

So, here’s to everyone we met during our eight months abroad. You rock. Thanks for making our trip, and my life, better.

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Jan 10 2008

Vlog: 24 hours on a bus

Published by under Prague

We attempted to film a video diary of the nightmarish 24-hour bus ride from Prague to Barcelona. Upon watching it now I realize it is neither funny nor interesting. There are two reasons for this.

  1. We did not have the camera on hand for the funniest moments — like when I woke Ben up to find that he had drooled all over himself.
  2. We did not have the camera out for our most desperate moments. You know, the moments when you scream FOR THE LOVE OF GOD I JUST WANT TO SLEEP and violently slam your seat back as far as it will go, even though you’ve been trying to be respectful of the very old, large German man behind you but you SWEAR if he wheezes, pulls your hair, or shoves your chair ONE MORE TIME you will rip the fold-down tray off the back of your seat and WHACK HIM UPSIDE THE HEAD. It was probably best I didn’t have the camera during such moments lest I fling it out of envy at those lucky folks that were inexplicably able to sleep. Instead, I cried silent tears into my jar of Nutella.

It’s funny, though, because almost immediately after disembarking, you forget those moments of agony and convince yourself it wasn’t that bad and you’d do it again. Note to my future self, who is considering taking a 24-hour bus ride: remember that time your leg was so cramped that you could no longer feel it, and in order to mobilize it you had to wrap your hands around your thigh, lift your leg up and place it in the aisle? That wasn’t fun.

I’ll go ahead and post the vlog anyway. Perhaps my mom will like it. Or the guy that searches for “dirty keebler elves” and somehow ends up on our blog.

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Jan 07 2008

Prague Free Guided Tour? Czech!

Published by under Prague

IMG_3175It’s a rare event for us to be seen taking a guided tour, because we’re both cheap, and convinced that we already know everything there is to know. But of these two character flaws, cheap always wins out, which explains how we came to join the ranks of camera-toting tourists in Prague’s FREE guided city tour on the morning after Christmas. (or “Boxing Day” for you Canadians/Australians/other non-American purchasers of English language calendars.) We motivated ourselves to roll out of bed at a decent hour in order to take the four hour walking tour, all in the name of a bargain.

Monica, our Czech tour guide, first led our gigantic group of misers through the part of the city known as the Old Town, but I was too preoccupied with 1.) the numbness in my frozen toes, and 2.) calculating our money saved by taking a FREE tour, to really retain any of the facts I was supposed to be absorbing here.

But Monica captured my focus when we entered the old Jewish Quarter, as she conveyed the history of Prague’s Jews during World War II. Much like back on Crete, the Jewish population here was almost entirely decimated by Nazi-led deportation to death and concentration camps. It can be difficult for those of our generation to remember just how recent this history really is, but the point is painfully driven home by the Pinkas Synagogue in this part of town, which displays pictures drawn by Jewish children in the nearby concentration camp, Terezin. Terezin itself can be visited as a day trip from Prague, which is an excursion we did not take, but one that came with an emotional recommendation from a fellow hosteler.

Continuing through the Jewish Quarter, we also heard from Monica about a Jewish legend that likely goes back through the centuries: the tale of Prague’s Golem. For those not indoctrinated into the nerdy fantasy realms that occupied the majority of my childhood twenties, a Golem is a lumbering giant made of stone. Prague’s Golem was mystically created by a character named Rabbi Loewe, who ordered the Golem to protect Prague’s resident Jews. Sadly, the Golem proved too powerful for its own good, and Rabbi Loewe was ultimately forced to destroy his creation. There are those who believe, however, that the Golem eluded destruction at the hands of the Rabbi, and is still hiding somewhere in the Jewish Quarter today. I didn’t find the Golem, but I did find the official Golem Coffee MugTM in a tourist shop, and promptly purchased the very necessary souvenir.

Street Jazz on the Charles BridgeMonica’s tour took us over the famous Charles Bridge, where we found street jazz musicians entertaining the crowds, exactly as all Prague guidebooks promise. I liked the hep cats, the street artists, and the foggy river views. I did not like the epic nation of seagulls that engulfs the bridge, rabidly dive-bombing those who dare cross, all in the name of their quest for tasty saltine crackers.

Our tour wrapped up at the Prague Castle, which provides a satisfying view over the entire city. The main attraction at the castle is actually the church that it surrounds, and since we’ve been desensitized to ancient churches after four months in Europe, we hastily appreciated it, and then beat our own path toward some more culturally rich destinations. I couldn’t make out exactly what the Czech people were calling our next few stops, but it sounded something like “toureest trahps.” Presenting…

Prague's 1/3 Size Replica of the Eiffel Tower!The 1/3 Size Replica of the Eiffel Tower!
I don’t know why a 1/3 Size Replica of the Eiffel Tower! was deemed necessary in Prague, but I can tell you that it comes exactly as billed. I’ve yet to see the actual Eiffel Tower, but if the experience of climbing to the top of Prague’s swaying replica is only 1/3 as terrifying as the real thing, then I may need to enjoy the Paris original from the safety of Earth.

Tiny usThe Labyrinth of Mirrors
Right next to the 1/3 Size Replica of the Eiffel Tower! is the so-called Labyrinth of Mirrors, which does not exactly live up to its billing. It’s more like a Hallway With a Few Turns, But No Choice of Path of Mirrors. Some interesting photo ops (see inset), but not really worth the trip even if it were free. And it isn’t free.

The Largest Equestrian Statue in the World
Prague’s aggressive tourism industry wasn’t finished with us quite yet. Multiple city brochures reference the “Largest Equestrian Statue in the World” as one of Prague’s can’t-miss attractions. It’s even indicated on our city map by a picture of a horse that looks ready to crush downtown underfoot, Godzilla-style. It wasn’t until boarding the metro that would bring us to the LESitW that I even questioned our zombie-like ambition to visit the monument.

“Uh, Brittany, are we sure we want to see this thing? Have we ever even cared about equestrian statues? This sounds an awful lot like The World’s Biggest Ball of Twine to me.”

“Of course we want to see it! It’s the Largest Equestrian Statue IN THE WORLD.”

“Hmm, I guess you’re right.”

Brittany and the LESitWFor the benefit of those who may come after us, it turns out that the LESitW really IS a whole lot like The World’s Biggest Ball of Twine. Once you get there and see it, you can’t remember why in the world you came. Who is the man on the horse? What does this commemorate? Why would anyone be interested in seeing the Largest Equestrian Statue in the World? These questions may never be answered. Fittingly, we would later read that no one actually knows if this equestrian statue is the largest in the world. In other words, Prague simply makes the unsubstantiated claim, and no one else in the world can imagine caring enough to challenge them on the point. Prague Tourism Industry 1, Ben and Brittany 0.

Next time, on a very special episode of Euros Ate My Dollars, suffer vicariously through our 24-hour bus ride from Prague to Barcelona. But until then, practice your Czech with this beginner’s language guide!

Dobreh Den = Hello
No = Yes (good luck with this one!)
Ne = No
Dekuji = Thank you
Prosim = Please/You’re welcome/Can I help you?/Fo shizzle my nizzle
Pivo = Beer

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Jan 07 2008

Christmas Carp Addendum

Published by under Prague

Allow me to add my $0.02 to our Christmas Eve misadventures in trying to locate the fabled Christmas Carp. While it is true that we never found the alleged bathtubs of live, splashing carp for sale, all was not lost. While wandering through Old Town Square, we stumbled into a line of people stretching across the common area. I followed the line to its source, and discovered that volunteer chefs were ladling out bowls of soup to anyone willing to endure the line. A little probing was enough to discover that the soup was FISH soup, and I think I understood that it was made from fish heads. Of course, that was really all I needed to hear, so I ran to join the line.

our old guy friendWhile waiting for soup, I made friends with the elderly Czech man in line in front of me. We didn’t speak a word of each other’s language, but we shared a spiritual understanding that crossed language borders. We ended up eating our fish soup together, and Brittany and I experienced some true Czech generosity when our new friend reached into his plastic bag to retrieve a loaf of bread for his soup, and produced a loaf for Brittany and me as well. Fish Soup is Czech for Merry Christmas!

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Jan 06 2008

Christmas in Prague

Published by under Prague

The story of Europe goes like this: beautiful, irreplaceable, historically significant buildings and towns stood carefully preserved for 2000 years. Then the Nazis came along and blew everything up during World War II.

The war devastated Europe, and you’re now just as likely to see a war memorial as you are to see an ancient monument or gothic church.

the charles bridge + prague castle + birdsPrague is unique it that it somehow escaped Nazi bombing, making it one of the best-preserved cities on the continent. Wandering the streets of the old town and Jewish ghetto is a remarkable experience – if you’re able to ignore the hordes of camera-wielding tourists, it feels as if you’re walking through a medieval village. Instead of pointing out the site on which the oldest synagogue in Europe once stood, we were able to actually see the oldest synagogue in Europe. On our hike up to Prague castle, we saw a sign on the door of a bar that said, “open since 1492.” Now that’s something you don’t see in America.

Since the country shed communism in the Velvet Revolution of 1989, Prague has become a huge tourist destination, and you’re just as likely to run into a fellow English-speaker as you are a native. And because their city is constantly overrun with annoying foreigners, many of the Czech people we did meet were pretty grumpy. If you ever find yourself in Prague, after visiting the typical hotspots, I’d encourage you to turn off of a main avenue and get yourself seriously lost in old town. Either that, or ride the metro to a random stop and get off, without a specific destination in mind. There is always something incredible to see. Our hostel was located across the river in a working-class neighborhood, where the people were friendlier, and the food even better and cheaper.

We could never explore for too long, though, because it is seriously cold in Prague. I don’t know if we were particularly wimpy because we were coming from balmy Southern France, or because we’re acclimated to the coastal climate of Virginia, but I couldn’t stay outside for more than thirty minutes without screaming that I JUST CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE and running through the nearest door. Which is how Ben and I ended up drinking beers throughout the day, as we often and suddenly found ourselves shivering in doorways of random cafes.

On Christmas Eve, we spent an unusually long amount of time outside on an unusual quest: the hunt for the Christmas carp. Before coming to Prague, we had heard that the traditional Czech Christmas dinner includes carp. On Christmas Eve, there are alleged tubs of live carp for sale on street corners. This was a sight Ben in particular was eager to see.

So that afternoon we set out amongst the neighborhoods of Prague to find Christmas carp. We were confused when we’d wandered for a while and there wasn’t a carp in sight. So we started asking people. We’d run up to the nearest Czech and say, “fish? carp??” while doing swimming motions with our hands and make fish faces. We learned the Czech for carp was “capr,” which we unsuccessfully tried to pronounce. Inexplicably, everyone we talked to seemed to think there was a tub of carp right around the corner (well, that, or seemed bewildered and slowly backed away from us, as we screamed “FISH! PLEASE! THANK YOU!”). All we can figure is that there is a wide-scale conspiracy to keep fresh carp out of the grasp of evil tourists, because our exhaustive search elicited no fish, alive or dead.

We selected Sir Toby’s Hostel primarily because it provides a free Christmas Eve dinner. So, hoping to allay our disappointment after our failed hunt for the carp, we trudged back to the hostel in order to be the first in line for the feast.

christmas eve dinnerThe meal helped Christmas feel a little bit more like Christmas for Ben and me, with home-cooked stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, turkey and delicious desserts. Having missed out on all the goodies at home on Thanksgiving, we both appreciated the comfort food, despite Ben being disappointed that carp wasn’t served. There was a Czech spin on the meal, however, as all the food was served with the obligatory abundance of beer.

Our hostel also organized a visit to a midnight mass at the local Anglican church. In an effort to make it feel a little bit more like Christmas at home, we decided to brave the sub-zero temperatures of Prague at night and tag along. I can’t remember too much about the service because 1. I was freezing (the only heat in the cathedral was a pathetic foot warmer beneath the pew), and 2. the preacher was scary. He had a booming, deep voice that resonated loudly throughout the old church as he bellowed his sermon. He stood atop the pulpit with a dim spotlight shining from above creating frightening shadows on his face. I couldn’t pay attention to what he was saying for fear that he was condemning me to eternity in the fiery depths.

Christmas day was a lazy one – we slept in, hung out with fellow hostellers, enjoyed the Christmas markets and talked to our families on the phone. That evening we had tickets to a performance of The Nutcracker at the National Theater. The Nutcracker in Richmond is a Christmas tradition for us, and we are often forced to pay up to $60 per ticket for seats. So we were a bit more than pleasantly surprised when we discovered that tickets for the production in Prague cost 30 crowns, or about $1.50. Granted, the only seats remaining were in the very back row of the gigantic theater. But we had fun playing with the small binoculars provided for those in the nosebleeds.

fun binoculars!The performance was incredible — it was technically a strange combination of The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol, so Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit had starring roles. In an inexplicable twist, the dancer who played Bob Cratchit also played a shirtless devil that danced around with demons dressed like mummies. I was confused during that scene.

We returned to the hostel to find the downstairs pub lively with Christmas cheer, and spent the evening teaching Australians a few American drinking games and learning about all the crazy animals they have down under. They have exotic/terrifying animals such as seven-inch wide spiders and yet are amazed that we have squirrels running around our backyards.

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Jan 04 2008

Czech, Please! (don’t worry, more puns coming)

Published by under Prague

Most people travel the world to see the ancient buildings and natural wonders that the many nations have to offer. And I say: Good for them! But we travel the world to eat the food. There was a point in time when we could have denied such a vicious accusation, but that fleeting moment has long passed. Our names are Ben and Brittany, and we strike museums from our travel itinerary in order to make room in our budget for the appetizers, drinks, and sweets of the world. There it is, the first step toward a recovery that I will always resist.

Prague has skyrocketed to the top of my “favorite cities” list because it knows that the path to my heart goes through my stomach. Or, alternatively, my wallet. And when the Czech Republic’s delay in adopting the euro means that beer is cheaper than water, Prague is the belle of the ball. By way of tasty lineup, allow me to present the culinary distractions of Prague that thoroughly shielded me from absorbing any unnecessary culture.

Trdelnik in PragueWhat: Trdelnik
Where: Multiple competing booths in any Prague Christmas market
Huh?: Do not allow its abundance of consonants intimidate you into avoiding this cinnamon-sugar ring of fried dough. This is exactly what the International League of Purveyors of Easily Pronounce-able Desserts (ILPEPD) is deviously banking on, as they continue to peddle over-priced, low-quality snacks with 3 letter names. Eat a trdelnik, and viva la resistance! Just make sure you keep your napkin from becoming baked on to the hot, sticky exterior, lest your girlfriend make you eat the papery section while she enjoys trdelnik sans napkin.

Dumplings + Kraut + Gravy = Yaarg!!What: Dumplings and Sauerkraut
Where: Authentic Czech restaurants. Which means anywhere except Prague’s tourist-packed city center.
Huh?: For the equivalent of a couple US dollars, you can get a heaping plate of pork-filled potato dumplings and kraut, topped with thick gravy and a half-liter of beer. Yaarg! (read: manly Viking/Pirate roar of delight). Maybe girls have trouble with the Viking/Pirate roar, because Brittany’s version in these restaurants tends to sound more like a resigned groan. Bonus Insta-Authenticity Litmus Test: Does the restaurant staff speak English? If yes, try again.

Dough + Ketchup + Garlic + Cheese!What: Word can not be pronounced due to lack of vowels. Emit a low gutteral grunt in order to receive one from nearest Czech.
Where: Right next to trdelnik booths
Huh?: It’s basically fried dough again (hooray for Prague!) but with a Hungarian twist. The fried dough is flat, and covered in garlic butter, ketchup, and shredded cheese. A satisfying lunch, but only for the bold. Also, only for those who didn’t already have one yesterday. Trust me on this one, because it can get ugly.

What: Lo Mein. Yes, you read that right.
Where: Prague traditional town market
Huh?: Yeah… Before we ever made it to the town market, multiple locals told us about this authentic dish we simply HAD to try. They called it fried noodles, so we were instantly sold. When we found the recommended stall in the market, we knew exactly what to order. And when it arrived? Lo mein. Don’t get me wrong, I love lo mein as much as the next guy, but I think the Czechs are in for a rude awakening if they ever visit a shopping mall in the U.S., and find out what is being served at 3/5 of the restaurants in the food court. I, for one, didn’t have the heart to break it to them.

Look at that half-liter glass!What: Beer!
Where: In the bar, in the supermarket, in your heart
Huh?: The Czech Republic is home to some fantastic beers, which must be why no one drinks less than half a liter at a time. A 12 oz (33 cL) bottle is a rare sighting in Prague, and is generally associated with toddlers being weaned off the baby formula. In bars, I drank a lot of Kozel at 17 Czech crowns per half liter. (25 crowns = 1 USD). Pilsner Urquell is more like 25 crowns, and the cheapest water I ever found in a bar was 27 crowns. Out of habit, we asked for water with our first meal in Prague, a mistake that was not repeated. Looking back, the bottle of water is the fail-safe identifier of the Czech Republic rookie.

What: Medovnik
Where: Sweet shops in residential neighborhoods
Huh?: It looks like cake, tastes like Golden Grahams, and maybe best of all, can be pronounced by the Capitalist tongue. They’re also dirt cheap, which explains why old ladies don’t feel bad about shoving three of them in their mouths at once. We smuggled some of these onto the bus at the end of our Prague diversion, but short-sightedly polished them off before the bus could leave the station. Old Czech ladies everywhere would be proud.

Next time: Czech out the continuing journey of food at Christmas Eve dinner! (can’t say I didn’t warn you…)

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