Prague: The Golden City Where Beer Flows Like Water

View of Prague from Prague Castle
Overflowing with UNESCO World Heritage sites, Prague is known the world-over as “The Golden City”. So it’s not surprising that sites like Charles Bridge, and Prague Castle, are packed tightly with tourists year-round. What might be more surprising (to some) is that in my humble, fairly well-traveled opinion, the best thing about Prague is cheap eats and drinks and safe streets to teeter home on.
Being thirsty in Prague is entertaining, as beer is cheaper than water, and pretty much anything else you might prefer to drink
(coffee, in my case). Said beer, or as my father likes to call it, liquid bread, is typically served in half-liter mugs. Jesus and I decide to have a lunch of pitcher-sized beers with Czech bar food, which seems to consist in its majority of sausages, bread products, and some deep-fried appetizers. All in all, heavy but tasty, similar to bar-food in lots of places.
So far Prague is proving to be as charming as described on travel websites, and surprisingly inexpensive. Surprisingly because certain expats that moved or lived in Prague during it’s “golden” or ahem, more poverty-stricken years terrorize travelers’ forums about how Prague’s now “just another tourist destination with prices to match.”
But I’ve got news for them, as compares to other major “tourist destinations” in Europe, Prague is looking pretty wallet-friendly to me.
Strolling city streets with Jesus, I watch, fascinated as cars tailgate trolley cars on steel tracks. Distinguishing the locals from the tourists is anybody’s best guess, as my Czech is limited to “Pivo”, beer (did you know the Czechs invented Pils beer?) and “děkuji”, thanks and I have yet to use either, as in Prague every third person speaks enough English to direct me to the old town. Because of my linguistic limitations, I can only positively peg speakers of English and romance languages.

Charles Bridge Archway

Charles Brige Tower

People on Charles Bridge

Since cobblestones are always trying to get me down, as in down to the ground, I try not to trip across Charles Bridge to Prague’s Old town, which means carefully watching where I put my feet. Charles Bridge. Crowded with vendors and tourists, I can just see its famous baroque statues (replicas of the originals, but I can’t say that I can tell the difference) above the masses. Jesus and I ferret out the famous statue of St. John of Nepomuk, Czech Republic’s patron saint and snap shots of the famous towers at either end.
Apart from the beer, the other thing that strikes me right away about Prague is how clean it is. Unlike Barcelona, the European city I inhabit, I have encountered no dog poop, or tell-tale smears, only dispensers with paper-bags to deposit said excrement in to encourage people to pick up after rover. Jesus tells me that in Barcelona, there were dispensers for a while, and people took extras to use as sandwich bags. The government had to issue a warning that the bags were made of a toxic plastic, not apt for food, but since no one listened, they were retired. I roll my eyes as Jesus shrugs his shoulders “oh well.” So it happens that in Barcelona I can never go too long without narrowly avoiding stepping into a steaming pile. Then again, I guess I’m no better, because I snatch a bag as a souvenir—I’ll write my little brother a letter on it as a joke.
In the Old town’s main plaza, there’s already a crowd gathered to see Orloj, Prague’s astronomical clock. Constructed in 1410 by a mathematics and astronomy professor/clockmaker, the clock was partially rebuilt by yet another master clockmaker named Hanus 80 years later.

The Orloj Astronomical Clock
Legend has it that Hanus was blinded by the powers that be (were) so that he could never build a better clock. In what was quite literally a blind fury, or so goes the tale, master Hanus damaged the clock and cursed it so that it could never be repaired again. Over the years, moving figures have been added to the original clock so that now, much like most of Hollywood’s best actors, it’s a hodgepodge of old and new parts, with varying degrees of authenticity, much like Prague itself. Every hour, on the hour, Death clangs his bell, a Piper shakes his head, and above the clock the 12 apostles bless the city.

Since the throng mills about and hesitates to disperse, Jesus and I push through the crowds of shoulder-top toddlers, young couples joined at the hand, hips or lips and massive tour groups of varying origins and ages across Old Town’s main plaza. Time flies, there’s more to be seen, and what’s more: we intend to see it. 

Copyright 2012 Chris Ciolli. All Rights Reserved. First Published in the Tipton Times unless otherwise noted.

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