The Answer is always yes?
““Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”– Mark Twain
This particular adventure starts in the rain and the dark. ( It’s the UK… ) I am thankful that for the booked taxi to whisk me to the airport. Expensive but then a little luxury is warranted after having my wings clipped for so long. Outside the rain taps taps taps on the window as if calling me to adventure. It”s still unreal I’m travelling to Prague ( city of a 100 spires ) and the Czech Republic today.
I almost decided not to go. Should I save the money for other things? Is it wise to travel in a pandemic? Am I doing the right thing? But who knows what the future holds? Who knows how long we have? When adventure holds out her hand then you have to take it. So here I am a few days before my birthday with a bag packed full of clothing, hopes, and dreams. It’s not always easy to grab that hand. I never find it the easiest thing but always a worthwhile thing. So here I am in any taking the hand.
The taxi ride feels like a dream. The night clothed world looks dreamy in blurred lights and dark pools. It still doesn’t feel at all real. The driver says nothing – which I am actually thankful for because I’m just left with my thoughts and the rain spitter spattered London streets. As we get closer I realise there is a song coming from inside me. At first, it was so quiet that I didn’t hear it but as we approach the airport it’s rising. It’s a sense of wonder and adventure and anticipation.
“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”– Leonardo Da Vinci.
Suddenly we are here. Suddenly it doesn’t feel like a dream any longer. Taking a step from the taxi into the fresh dawn air feels like a step from dream into waking. The song is louder now. Excitement growing in me. This feels like Christmas morning. Butterflies in my tummy. A few of those flutterings are nerves… or hungry!
I like everything about travel but get so nervous about passport control and immigration. I have these stupid necrotic ideas that something will happen. Of course it never does. Maybe because I used to be a secret agent. I hope nobody finds out about that… Oh wait.
The Magic of Flight
“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds”– John Gillespie Magee, Jr
I never tire of flight. It’s all to easy to loose the wonder of the magical world we live in. Just a 100 years ago many of the things we do would be viewed as fancy or fairy tale are not common. Flying is magic. I always savour the thrill as the engine ramps up and the plane leaps from the ground on silver wings to touch the sky and meet the clouds. Below the dawn dim cherry shaded land rolls by to give way to ocean. I rarely “do anything” on a flight. I’m far too full of anticipation.
“I just few in and boy are my arms tired!”– Anon
Once again I must pass the passport control and immigration. I always fancy that I will use the old joke, “I just flew in… and boy are my arms tired” with passport control/immigration but I never do. It’s probably for the best because they are not renowned for their sense of humour.
The officer I got doesn’t look like she enjoys humour. The line next to me moves quickly. Each traveller greeted with a smile and some small talk. This officer doesn’t look like she likes small talk. Or smiling. She scans my passport, carefully turning each page with a face that could sour milk at 100 paces. I’ve no idea what she’s looking for or expects to find there. Finally she seems satisfied and hands me back my passport. She grunts me through.
I made it. I am in Prague.
“Leave home, leave the country, leave the familiar. Only then can routine experience—buying bread, eating vegetables, even saying hello—become new all over again.”– Anthony Doerr
There’s another moment I really enjoy about travel. It’s that moment when the doors slide open and you step out into another country. I step out. The air is fresh and cool and the sky is blue, what more could I want?
Just like a boyscout, I have come prepared. Well, there’s no cans of baked beans or rope for tying knots but I did research the way to my airbnb. With a little help from my dear friend Google maps, I am hoping not to get lost.
I take bus and metro. I don’t get lost. This is a good start. Travel renders the familiar new again. Even the every day ordinary things are magical and once again we see the world fresh with a child’s eyes. Everything is new again and interesting. So much the same but so much so new. It’s all the little differences that tumble together into a novel exciting whole.
A first glimpse of Prague
“The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century—or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies.”–Laini Taylor
The metro escalators raise me up and out into the sun splashed beautiful square of grass and trees. hugged on all sides by magnificent handsome buildings dressed in shades of yellow and cream. Each of the buildings is capped by a bright red roof. There are balconies and turrets. I can’t help but be enchanted by these enchanting fairy tale flourishes.
Cafes and coffee shops line the edge of the square. The sounds of chatter and laughter drift and dance with a the lone notes of a saxophone player. An old man sits on one of the benches that dot this space and plays. At the centre is a modern church constructed of grey stone with an enormous clock set in its tower like a big white eye. The church has the rather grand name, Church of the most Sacred Heart of our Lord.
My airbnb is in the middle of a handsome tree lined street. The room is like a small apartment. The bed is raised off the ground and assesable by ladder! Exciting. It feels like an adventure going to bed although little did I know this bed is romantic and adventurous yet will do terrible things to my back. This bed hates me. By the end of the week I’m happy to break up with it, exciting ladder or not.
Walking the streets
“Walking is the perfect way of moving if you want to see into the life of things. It is one way of freedom.”— Elizabeth von Arnim
It’s still light. I have the bookend of the day at my disposal. It’s time to explore. Actually it’s really time to eat something. Although I am a big foodie, I’ve not eaten since 4am. I am hugely hungry. It’s time to explore and importantly get a taste of Czech food and quite the growling tummy monster. Rrrrr.
I set my destination in Google maps and begin. I could take a bus or a tram but to really know a place you need to put feet to the ground. Transportation is fine but it’s another layer between you and the place. You need to feel the pulse of the place. The ebb and flow. The tempo. Walking offers you a glipse into the life and soul of the place. It offers up surprises. The beauty is in the details. Be aleart. Drink it in. Life is here.
The cobbled streets draw me closer to the heart but not quite That’s for the next day. For now I pass through quiet courtyards with benches and trees. There are quaint churches and fairy tale balconies and turrets. There are elegant restaurants that wear the years. Cafes send the scent of coffee into the closing day air. Unfamiliar scents linger.
Trams trundle by me. I love the trams! They give add an otherworldly feel to this city. Give it an elsewhere dream feel like you have slipped suddenly into a world that’s similar yet so strangely unfamiliar. They look so elegant running through the streets with one still arm clutching the overhead wires. In the night they are lit with a creamy gold candlelit glow.
““Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”– Anthony Bourdain
I finally arrive at my destination. The first taste of Czech food awaits me at Naše maso which means our meat. The place is well known and well loved by foodies and seems the perfect pick for my first try of Czech food. I’ve been salivating for some time after reading about this place and watching some videos. Now it’s time to try it for myself.
It’s still repetitively early but by the time I leave it’s already becoming packed with hungry souls. Naše Maso is a butcher shop selling high quality meats sourced from some of the best suppliers in The Czech Republic, so you can be sure of the quality here. At one end of there’s a cooled treasure chest of meaty treasures: sausages, steaks, burgers, and more. You can either buy to take home or have them cook for you or prepare the food for you on site. At the other end is a small bench with enough space for three or four people.
After a quick chat with the very friendly ( English speaking ) staff I choose to get steak tartare, a dish very popular in the The Czech Republic although not unique to it. I also order a beer. My very first Czech beer!
Here today at this temple of meat I will also get my first taste of Czech beer! I am a Czech beer virgin and but this will soon change as I pop my hoppy cherry – so to speak. Uniquely this place has you pour your own beer from a cool looking pump!
I sidle over with my plastic beer “glass” and pull my first frosty golden pint with a perfect creamy foam head. Well… That’s what I wanted to do. In fact what happens is I make a complete mess of it. I end up with a thimble of beer and half a cup of foam. Beef failure! The staff have to come and do it for me. I slink to my chair with my beer. Still, it is flipping delicious. Well, I suppose I won’t be pulling pints in a pub any time soon!
Steak tartare is a dish of chopped and seasoned raw steak meat mixed with an egg yolk. It’s popular in many European countries. Here in the Czech Republic it comes with a side of toasted bread and garlic to rub on the toast.
I’ll pause for a moment to mention the bread, not just here, but throughout my stay. The bread is amazing. It’s yeasty with a chew but soft and light at the same time. It comes with a toothsome dark crust. I always enjoyed the bread here during my stay in the Czech Republic.
But on to the tartare. First I generously apply the garlic to my toast, heavenly scent! I take the knife and slather a thick layer of meat onto the bread. I take a bite. The garlicky crunch of the toast gives way to the rich aged steak meat. The texture is soft and velvety. Heavenly! I soon work my way through the lot while I people watch through the window.
Really this was a generous portion, as is everything you will get served across the country, but I can’t leave without trying something else so after a little more discussion I settle on their famous burger. I’m very tempted by the smoked sausage but cheese burger it is!
The chunky burger is kept simple and lets the quality of the ingredients do the talking: this is how things should be. The burger is well seasoned and served rare. Slabs of semi melted cheese blanket the seared outer crust along with some thick cut pickles.
I take a bite and my mouth is instantly flooded with meat juices! This is an impossibly juicy burger. It’s rich and meaty with just the right amount of cheese and tangy pickles to counter the meaty umami richness. One of the best burgers I have eaten. It will come to no surprise I’ve eaten a lot of burgers! This is a great one.
The Way Back Machine
TAXI!!! My kingdom for a taxi!– me after too much food and beer
Now I am absolutely stuffed. I’ve totally over packed my travels belly and as I roll myself out of the door, I realise my tactical error. I’ve got a long 35 mins walk back. I quickly abadon ideas of walking the city and discovering it by foot. Screw that now I ate my own body weight in meat and beer. I’m getting a taxi!!! I recommend either Uber or Bold, by the way.
First I stop off at a nearby convenience store where I discover that yes beer here is really cheaper than the water. However, this time it’s the water I want along with a few other basics. Although I can’t get everything. I need to head to a supermarket for that. An adventure for another day…
My taxi arrives and I climb in gratefully. The streets of Prague slide by as I sit fattened and contented in a meat ( beer ) coma. It’s been a good day. I’ve kissed clouds on silver wings, I’ve walked the ground of two countries in the same day, I’ve experienced a new culture and place all in the space of a day. Oh and of course I’ve had some excellent food.
“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.”
I spent an amazing 22 days in Prague and The Czech Republic. I would urge anybody to go and experience it for themselves. It’s endlessly and impossibly photogenic. Every turn seems to present a new view or surprise that surpasses the last. Czech food is delicious. The beer is some of the best in the world. The country is affordable and easy to travel. So should you go to The Czech Republic and Prague? Absolutely.
Not only should you take this trip but you should take any trip or take any chance at something beautiful and wonderful that life gives you. When something wonderful offers her hand you should take it. We have no idea of what waits us in life. We have no idea how long we will be here for. Take every chance you get. Did I make the right choice? Yes. I know out there something wonderful is waiting and I am ready to take the hand…
I hope you enjoyed this post and it gave you just a taste of travel and Prague. This city and the country is well worth a visit. I enjoyed my time here very much. I’ll be writing more about the country so ( if I stop procrastinating in 2022 )
I’ve written a guide on Czech Food and Drink There’s so much delicious to discover in this country of pure comfort food and rather remarkable beer. Your pants might explode but it’s worth the risk! So head on over to find out more. You won’t believe in no.7 ( because it doesn’t exist ) You might also enjoy reading about my burnout experience in Decin, Czech Republic.
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😄The bed/back relationship… And the miserable airport woman…
The “shadow side” of traveling!
Meanwhile, back home, we’ve got strong, hot showers with plush towels that wrap around us 3 times. Queen and king sized beds with pillows that gently cradle our head and necks…..
I always think it’s funny that I’m excitedly paying extra to travel into a world with many aspects that I wouldn’t necessarily even tolerate back at home.
And yet, it’s somehow all worth it
Good article! I’ve got itchy feet now – must get planning my next adventure!
I love how you write, you really bring the place alive through your descriptions, love it! I haven’t yet been to Prague, or the Czech Republic for that matter, but I really want to go!
I felt like I was travelling with you! I have never been to Prague though I have travelled a lot. I hate flying, always have done, I see it as a means to an end. But once you arrive at that new destination, that flow of adrenalin! Made me laugh about the bed, been there, done that.
Prague is a magical European city. It’s fantastic that you’ve visited there. I wish I will be able to visit Prague one day. Thank you for sharing this awesome travelogue.
What a great post! I have the travel bug just as you do and loved the time I spent in Prague a few years ago. We have not been able to travel since spring 2019 ( I live in a high risk household), and I cannot wait to start travelling once again. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and photos and allowing me to travel to Prague once again!
This is a fun review. I have fond memories of going to Prague in 1995. You made me want to go again.
Fun post. I like how you described most everything in present tense to make it feel like we are there with you.
This was such an enjoyable read! Love your sense of humor. That burger and beer is calling my name 🍺
So lovely to read your latest blog as I have missed your humour and wonderful style of writing. Prague sounds amazing and the architecture interests me. The food sounded yummy, I love a little eatery as you really get a feel for the culture. I look forward to the next blog. Lisa.x
No wonder you were full! The food does look and sound delicious though.
Very picturesque description of Prague and your arrival,
Beautiful quotes. Hopefully I will visit soon again..
This is such a lovely read, Martin. Really nicely written. You’ve completely captured the excitement – and trepidation – of travelling overseas during these uncertain times. The airport sequence brought a smile to my face, as it’s so relatable!
What a destination to choose, too. Prague is a magical city, and I’m more than a little jealous that you spent nearly a month eating your way through the Czech Republic. I can’t wait to hear more from your trip. Thanks for sharing!
As always, I liked your travel report. Even though I don’t know anything about the Czech Rep, I do get butterflies to go there. I loved the part in the airport, and the love for flying too. Indeed, it’s magical. Keep up those posts Martin. People love it.
Amazing read and so well written. Ever since you posted that burger on instagram I’ve been having dreams about it lol