By : James Lambert
When I was asked to wax poetic over Prague’s romantic virtues, I leapt at the opportunity. A writing gig that allows me to deliberately pause and reflect on my time in the Czech Republic? Ano, prosím!
I lived (really lived) in Prague for nine years from 2000 to 2009, with the exception an ill-advised repatriation to America in late 2007. I lasted all of four months in the stucco maze of La Quinta, California. It was a comfortably miserable mistake. The town was nice enough but there was no action. I returned to Prague in April.
With this piece I am to convey Prague as romantic city that should be on every couple’s Bucket List. How can I – in 800 words – convince you the reader that Prague is worth your money, your effort, and your time?
In short, I cannot. There are not enough words permitted here to justify the love I have for, and the love I have cultivated in, this stunningly beautiful place. Still, I shall dangle enough proverbial carrots before the proverbial travel website shopping cart so as to ensure that Prague will be czeched off (witty!) your list and forever reside in your grateful hearts as “that most romantic trip of all”.
Indulge me for a moment and let’s state the obvious: The city of Prague is old. Many, many centuries old. 800 A.D. old. A great chunk of modern humanity has overlapped its long history. Prague is a wizened town, drawn from the hearts and minds and ghosts of millions of its past citizens, overlords, and passers-through. Shoot, even that bastard Adolf Hitler handpicked Prague to serve as a living museum of all the nations and peoples he had conquered, citing its unrivaled beauty. As a result, Prague was well protected for the duration of the Nazi empire and emerged almost completely unscathed following World War II. It means that every step in Prague’s architectural evolution remains on display for your admiration, often in daily use and open to the public. Read more on Prague’s incredible history here.
It’s vast architectural treasures, the most generous of Prague’s blessings, will allow you to wander cobblestone streets and to step through time. Imaginative visitors become amaranthine ringers of their everyday selves. It’s possible in Prague. After all, when was the last time you made love in a rowboat beneath a century-old granite bridge? Or frolicked through down a lovers’ hill beneath a canopy of cherry blossoms? Or cuddled up to your sweetheart on a riverboat cruise powered by finest jazz musicians in Central Europe? Or tucked into a Michelin star ranked restaurant steps away from the heart of the Velvet Revolution? Learn more about Prague’s top restaurants here.
There’s more to discover:
• Cavernous wine cellars that run several levels beneath their innocuous street entrances
• Traditional Czech cuisine unlike anything you’ve every tasted: Pheasant and dumplings, pickled sausage, garlic soup, smoked pork neck, goat cheese potato pasta, delicious pastries, and the best beer in the world. Just remember to pace yourself and pack your toothbrushes. Czech cuisine is not your thing? Over three dozen nations are represented in Prague’s dining arena. Come and be amazed.
• An ornate, magical local currency and wildly obtuse exchange rates. Come for the bargains; stay because you withdrew too much money from the ATM!
• An EU capital city growing through its own troubled history: Communist rule ceased only one generation ago. Prague is an ancient city that enjoys the amenities and five-star service models of the Western World.
More seemingly incongruous facts: There exist in Prague breweries (and their brewpubs) that have operated continuously since 1500. Pilsner beer was invented in the Czech Republic over 170 years ago. Über-hot supermodels pop up like dandelions in the Czech Republic, testaments to the striking Slavic genes that shape the face of the nation. Prague enjoys legalized gambling, (gasp!) prostitution, and is very tolerant of marijuana use and open alcohol containers in public. Vice City! Did I mention some the top clubs in Europe? How about the topless pools and swimming holes?
Okay, I admit it. I wrote that last paragraph for the guys out there. After all, there’s a 50/50 chance you’re footing the bill for this little Bucket List vacay. So I’ll throw the ladies a bone:
• World-class shopping in Prague’s city center
• Horse-drawn carriage rides through Old Town Square
• A thriving cafe scene and sublime music venues
• Accommodations to suit anyone’s taste
• Did I mention the romance?
There. Wasn’t that easy? (Sigh) It’s difficult to convey in words how Prague truly is a magical place. A real-life living, thriving Disneyland. An art-and-architecture buff’s wet dream. The best beer in the world! A highly efficient public transit system that anyone can navigate. Thriving Asian, British, Canadian and American expatriate communities. Some of the best Georgian cuisine outside of Tbilisi itself. And a vibrant, outspoken community of photographers, artists, and filmmakers.
I guess if I had to sum it all up, the truth is that Prague is everything you’re hoping for and nothing you’d expect. It’s a city alight with natural and architectural beauty. Winding rivers, soaring cliffs, lush gardens, dense urban textures, and miles of rolling countryside. The Czechs are a wonderfully idiosyncratic people; prone to gruff facades and hearts of gold, and lively conversationalists! My parting advice is to book a two-week European holiday with Prague as your centerpiece. Consider multi-day trips via train to nearby Berlin, Vienna, or Budapest. You cannot go wrong in Prague. Discoveries await around every corner … What a gift for traveling romantics!
James Lambert used to raise hell. Now he mows the lawn.