I was always fascinated with the rich culture and long, unique history of Central Europe. It was my friend’s 30th birthday and we decided to celebrate it at Prague and Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic.
Prague is an amazing city, with a long past and a thriving present that lend an amazing atmosphere to the whole city. The old town part of Prague is a UNESCO-protected heritage site, which is carefully maintained. Being there is almost like a journey back in time — walking through the cobblestone streets that lead to well-preserved buildings dating back to the ninth century.
The scenic Vltava river runs right through the city and the incredible Charles bridge that dates back to 1357 connects the other side, which is mountainous and holds the impressive Prague castle. It has an amazing architecture and offers an impressive bird’s-eye view of the entire city.
Cesky Krumlov is also UNESCO-protected and is a miniature version of Prague. The city is straight out of a page from the past and its castles are amazingly quaint, well- preserved and even has a river flowing right through it. And the best part is being able to walk around the entire place in less than 30 minutes!
The one memory that stands out from the trip is celebrating my friend’s 30th birthday in an underground bunker from the second World War that was transformed into a bar.
A busy street in Prague
I always knew Prague had a very diverse and rich history and what I did not know about was how wonderfully all the different time periods coexisted with each other. I was very fascinated to learn about how much the country and the cities, especially the Jews from the region, suffered during the second World War and the effects of the Communist regime that followed the war.
With regards to Cesky Krumlov, right after the fall of Communism, the city was in absolute disrepair and houses there were selling for as low as $3,000. Now after the city was restored, houses generally sell for $500,000 to $2,000,000. I wish I had invested in property there a couple of decades ago!
Prague and Czech Republic, in general, have very friendly locals. They are ready to share a piece of their city and culture with us. Right from cab drivers and bartenders, everybody seemed really happy to not just have us there but also to learn about India and our culture.
St. Vitus Cathedral
In Cesky Krumlov, the locals form a minuscule percentage of the population. Even with that, we ran into quite a few of them who were very warm and welcoming.
Both of us are primarily vegetarian and we had a pact to only try local cuisine while we were there. The local cuisine is diverse and unlike what you might taste at any other part of the world. Our favourites were goulash with a side of potato pancakes, a thick stew usually made with beef, but also served vegetarian in some places. We also loved Trdelnik, a local dessert served in small shops along the road. It is a fresh baked soft cake, made with rolled dough, sprinkled with sugar and served plain or with toppings such as ice cream or chocolate.
Central Europe and Prague, in particular, are great travel destinations. They are very different from the typical European countries Indians travel to, like the UK, France or Italy. One should definitely include central Europe in one’s travel wish-list and visit the place with an open mind. Make a loose itinerary that leaves plenty of time to walk around and simply experience the place.
Church of Our Lady before Tyn, Prague old town
Prague is a city filled with romance more than adventure. Even if you are an adrenaline junkie like I usually am, the best adventure Prague offers is the opportunity to connect with a long unique history, lose yourself in old-world charm and leave with memories — not of the things you did, but the place, culture, and people!
(As told to Merin James)