I have taken a lot of busses during my time in Europe. Seriously, a lot. Most of them are great with wifi and big seats and just the right amount of pit stops to stretch your legs. The bus from Vienna to Prague was not so great. I was left without wifi- something that really isn’t a big deal unless you have no cash in the appropriate currency, no idea where your hostel is, and the only advice you had been given prior to leaving was “don’t take a cab in Prague”.
As you can tell by the fact that I have something to write about Prague, I did eventually find my way to a spot with free wifi and then to my hostel. I stayed at what I thought would be Mosaic House, but was actually a smaller, newer building owned by Mosaic House called Hostel Mingle. The hostel was more like a big apartment, with a great kitchen, three dorm rooms, and two bathrooms. Everything was new and clean, which I really appreciated. My roommates and I were even able to become a little family for the two nights I was there, sitting and eating together, getting fro-yo, and listening to each other toss and turn all night in the 100 degree room. Other than the heat, it was a great place to stay.
My whole weekend in Prague rained, which was a bummer because, as anyone who has been knows, Prague is all about walking to different sites. I pulled out my umbrella (when I remembered it) and braved the rain anyway.
I woke up on my first morning in Prague realizing my bananas and two of my granola bars had been stolen. I guess I was naive to leave them in the kitchen anyway, but there were bins for people to leave their food in and I had followed others, leaving mine in a bag with the rest. I was disappointed, but losing about $0.15 in bananas, luckily, isn’t a day ruiner. I decided to head over to Mama Coffee for coffee, an unexpected piece of cake, and to work on my blog.
Mama Coffee is SO cute. Two floors of super stylish cafe serving everything from flat whites to pumpkin gnocchi. I picked a table and ordered coffee and a piece of poppy seed cake (naturally gluten free and delicious looking so I couldn’t help it). Cake is acceptable for breakfast, right? There were seeds and nuts for protein, cherries for antioxidants and vitamins, and dairy for calcium! Health.
I was deep into writing my post about my time in Austria when a baby ran past me and screeched. That’s when I saw the cutest thing ever. In the corner of the second floor on the cafe, parents and kids were decorating wreaths for Christmas. The kids would collect up decorations in a little box, head over to another table to pick a wreath, then they would glue the pieces together with help from the adults. It was adorable and it really made me wish I was either someone’s mom or had my mom there with me. Ok, it’s probably good that I am not toting a baby around on this trip, but shout out to my mom- I miss you!
Embarrassing story time! It wouldn’t be my blog without these stories, so here is one for Prague. After enjoying my delicious breakfast, I went up to the counter to pay. Like the modern woman I am, I handed her my credit card ($$= miles, am I right??). She looked at me confused, and said in a strong Czech accent, “cash only.” That’s when I realized, I had no Czech currency and hadn’t even considered needing it. What a rookie. She pointed me in the direction of an ATM and I swore I would be back in a minute. I ran to the ATM, put in my card and pressed withdrawal. Please Contact Your Bank Provider. Shit. So my debit card wasn’t working, they didn’t take credit, and it was Sunday so I had no way to contact my little hometown bank.
So what did I do? Naturally I texted my mom angrily about the lack of customer service from our bank, who in reality is an awesome and totally customer service oriented bank, just not on Sundays. My mom being the rational and perfect human she is told me to find a cash exchange and just deal with the fees. Did I mention how much I appreciate my mom?
I found a cash exchange with 0% commission, learned that 1 CZK = $0.039 which is awesome, and ran back to the cafe. The waitress must not have expected me to come back because she laughed and said “Oh you’re back!” when I walked in.
After that exhilarating experience I headed to the old town center where all the magic was happening. I wandered through the Christmas market, tried to avoid overpriced souvenirs, and started to feel the holiday spirit. I do warn you though- traveling alone during the holidays is really tough. I’m an independent woman but there’s nothing like a Christmas tree and people singing carols to make you miss the people you love the most.
I do have to say, I didn’t get to see as much as I wanted to. There were times when the rain came down pretty hard, and there’s nothing like cold rain to make you lose your motivation. I did wander through most of the Old Town, seeing the Astronomical clock and the beautiful castle like buildings. I also wandered through the Jewish Quarter, which was really interesting and full of history. This area may have been my favorite.
Prague was one of the first places that I had a real kitchen to cook in, so I took advantage. I was able to buy groceries for two dinners, two breakfasts (minus stolen bananas), a bottle of wine, and some snacks for only about $12. This saved me a ton on food costs, which is huge for backpacking. It really is shocking how much you can save making your own food, and it feels pretty good to eat a home-cooked meal.
I did go out for one meal, wanting to taste local Czech cuisine. I had read that Czech food is really a combination of the other large countries around it with influences coming from all over, but I was determined to try to find something special. Through my Googling, I found a restaurant that was pretty highly rated, and also had a gluten free menu. I know you’re probably saying, “oh god, she’s one of those gluten-free fad people” but I actually have a gluten intolerance/wheat allergy that I choose to ignore for certain special meals (and beer). So, being able to get a Czech meal that is also gluten free? Perfect.
The servers working at Svejk Restaurant U Karla were very nice and super accommodating. They offered me the gluten free menu right as I walked in, as it must be a huge draw for tourists. The server suggested the beer cheese appetizer so I ordered a bowl of the goulash soup to go with it.
The cheese came out, and I was honestly pretty surprised. The plate was composed of a line of cheese wedges, a pile of minced onions, small dots of spices along the rim, and a big pile of mustard. I looked at him confused. He directed me to take my fork, mash it all together really well, then wait five minutes to let it combine before spreading it on the gluten free bread. I can get down with interactive food, so I did as I was told.
The combination was… strange. It was spicy, and oniony, and so much mustard that I almost couldn’t find the cheese. I couldn’t tell if it was great or terrible, but I was leaning towards the latter. I ate a few bites and asked for my soup to go along with it. Luckily, the goulash soup was delicious with chunks of beef and potatoes strewn throughout. It was warm and comforting which was nice after five hours of walking through the rain. I was incredibly full post soup, so unfortunately I couldn’t finish the beer cheese… what a shame. I do recommend this restaurant though, there were so many options and the staff was very nice!
I again walked through the market, seeing it as it got a little darker, and appreciating how beautiful Prague is. It is the perfect place to spend time before Christmas, with a market that is just amazing and expands throughout multiple areas of the city. Every time I had thought I had seen the whole thing, I would turn a corner and find another group of stalls to look through. I have to warn that the weather in the winter isn’t very dependable, but even through the rain it was gorgeous.
I hope that you all get a chance to Czech Prague out at some point. How many times can I use that joke before people unfollow this blog? And, I hope I get to go back at some point where there will be less rain and more family or friends to share it with. ❤