Either way, after sampling some local Czech beer, I had a whole wad of insightful opinions about the city we had been in for less than five hours. J was lucky enough to hear them all on our moonlit stroll home from the Micro Brewery. But with choices like coffee, banana and nettle beer you kinda have to try them all.
But don't worry: According to the Czechs themselves, Czech beer is so pure that it is virtually impossible to get a hangover after drinking it. Its always good to think positively.
Prague, to me that night, was a juxtaposition of soft elegance and bold change. Beautifully detailed, brightly painted buildings topped with red roofs, next to concrete slabs covered in graffiti. A Vietnamese pho shop next to a traditional eatery. Grey communist-era buildings beside the KFC. So many painstakingly restored buildings in a city with a long, fascinating history. Prague was built up in my head and I was worried that it couldn't live up to my imagination. But finding the cobblestones, the narrow alleys, the massive ornate buildings hiding themselves around each corner, the Prague Castle reflecting in the river, the mellow glow of street side lanterns making every step oh-so atmospheric. Prague was magic.
Fast forward to the next day at noon. Standing in front of the Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Tower, in the Old Town Square. Aka. Tourist Central. The clock performs a forty-five second mechanical display with four characters playing a part: Death, Greed, Vanity and Pagan-Invasion (the biggest fears of 15th Century Prague-ites) essentially a giant cuckoo clock of sorts. “This is THE MOST touristy city in all of Europe,” I exclaim to J. Its jammed. With a bunch of tourist gawking at the clock. I get the feeling that most of them aren't sure why they're there. They just know they're supposed to be. I can't really be annoyed about that, though. I'm standing there too; watching the (rather anti-climatic) astronomical clock strike noon. I feel a bit bad for the clock.
A quick duck down a side alley and the tourist crush disappeared- another shot of Prague magic. Stray one street away from the wax museums and key chain emporiums- and you lose 75% of the tourists. Definitely those following the tour-guide-lady with the stuffed turtle taped to the top of her umbrella.
A breath of air (and some warm Trdelník, a sort of sugary/doughy dessert) and I'm in love with Prague again. I am also in love with this new travel app I downloaded called “Triposo.” You can download a city map, along with food, accommodation and activity recommendations. And the map is so detailed. It is like coming out of the dark ages of LP cartography. Seriously. Then, on your handy dandy smart phone you can use your GPS and find your way around super easily! Gone are the days when we're standing on a street corner arguing! Hello happy travel partner!
Prague is street after cobblestone street of photogenic Eastern/Central Europe. The Prague Castle, all fairy-tale-like, looms over the city and offers sweeping views to those who huff up the hill (as well as those who took the funicular- but they didn't really earn it, now did they?) Then there's St. Charles Bridge, where legend has it that in 1393 a priest (St John of Nepomuk) was tossed off by King Wenceslas IV (...not good King Wenceslas who looked out on Boxing Day) for refusing to divulge the Queen's confessions. Legend also has it that gold stars in the halo of his statue followed his corpse down the river. Now his statue has a bronze plaque at the bottom of it. Yet another tradition is that if you rub this plaque, you'll return to Prague one day. Who doesn't love a good tradition?
Speaking of tradition, lets bring this blog post full circle: The age old Czech tradition of beer drinking. According to our guidebook, Czechs drink more per capita than ANYONE else in the WORLD. Around 150L per person, per year! There is no doubt that there are certain consequences to the reality of that statistic, but I digress. With a brewing tradition that goes back nearly 1000 years, the Czechs have really had time to perfect lager. Or Pilsner, if you prefer. Pilsner was actually developed here in the Czech, in the town of Plzen. So there's a fun party fact.
Prague has a lot to see. Its especially hard to get through all the serious sightseeing when every other street boasts a refreshing beer intermission. But wait- there's the Prague Beer Museum. This is no museum, I admit. Just a tricky name to ease a bit of the sight-seeing guilt as you watch the glass of time drain to half full. All you while trying to decide which of the 30 beers on tap to taste! Plus, we were at a Beer Museum after all, one should expect to learn something. For example, I learned that while beers in the Czech are labelled by degrees- temperature is not actually what the little degrees symbol is indicating. Its actually some complicated system that doesn't relate at all to the temperature the drink is served at, nor directly to the percentage of alcohol in the beer, but its “an indicator of specific gravity known as a 'Balling' rating.” Ok, so I didn't actually learn that. I copied it directly from the guidebook. I stopped trying to understand after the words 'gravity' and 'beer' were in the same sentence. But, thankfully we have smart friends: Thanks, Lasse!
Anyways, I can tell you who was going to forget everything that they learned that afternoon. That would be the four German twenty-somethings who rocked up to the bar and proudly declared as they clinked their first foamy glasses, that they were going to work their way through ALL 30 beers that the Prague Beer Museum had on tap. Cue us leaving.