So You’re Going to Prague

6 Jun

Last summer, Daniel and I had the opportunity (thanks largely to the best father that any girl has ever been spoiled to have) to spend the month of July in Prague.

I went as part of the Prague Summer Program and spent the month working my butt off and loving every second of it, Daniel went to be with me, to go to Europe for the first time and… to review as many beers as possible.

Since returning we have fondly reminisced and lusted to return but, since we can’t do that, we’ve decided to work together to compile a short list of things that we would have liked to know before we went that we figured out during our month there.

Having said that, I’d like to think that a lot of these points would be handy to any beginning Euro-traveler, so enjoy!

And if you’re in the know, feel free to add your own travel suggestions in the comments!!!

1. If there’s English on the sign/window, consider it a charge:

It’s easy to avoid the tourist-y parts of town because you’ll immediately begin to see English on windows and menus. While some of these places aren’t horrible (I particularly enjoyed the crepe places that seemed to equally pander to all), they are most likely over-priced.

You should also be prepared to expect that if you ask for an English menu anywhere (because other smaller restaurants will have that option) that those dishes on the English part of the menu might have higher prices.

To be fair, some places treat it more as a service charge than as an excuse to rip you off. But be smart and learn to tell the difference.

2. Find your local corner store and investigate early on:

In Czech, it’s “potraviny” (Poh-trah-vee-nee) – in America we might call it a convenience store. But the European version of this well surpasses our ideas of this, it’s more like a corner market. Get anything from drinks and fresh produce to small grocery items, and the hostel that the Prague Summer Program uses has at least three within walking distance.

These places come in super handy for a snack/drink on the go or, alternately, when you don’t want to head that far away from home to pick up a few things.

3. Consider your kitchen:

Since last year, I think the hostel has improved it’s kitchen availability. But, just like anywhere, it’s important to use this to your advantage to save money. D and I would have loved to make Pork Knuckle Soup if we had found a place with cheap pots and pans early on. So here’s directions to the best TESCO we found:

It’s right at the Andel tram stop. According to the Prague Metro website (English version at www.dpp.cz/en) you can take the 22 tram from Pohorelec to Malostranská and then the 12 tram from  Malostranská to Andel. It’s inside of a shopping mall, which I highly suggest walking around. (I’ve been to malls in the U.S., Europe, and Asia and the ways they differ is pretty interesting.)

The locals may be of more help than the website for the details of the journey however. Last year many of the tram lines had changed their normal routes so that English Metro site, in addition to the locals, was a TON of help.

4. A few basic words go a long way:

Learning a few Czech words and using them liberally (especially if they are words like please and thank you) will go a long way. It’s important to remember that American tourists/travellers have a widespread reputation of being pushy and presumptious. Making the effort to speak the language, even if you fail miserably, will immediately show them that you care enough to try. All of the Czech people I interacted with were very nice and helpful, if they’re mean to you it might be that you’re coming off badly.

This is really a complicated way of saying that you should treat others as you would want to be treated.

  • Please – “prosim” (Pro-seem)
  • Thank You – “děkuji” (dyu-KOO-yay)
  • Hello/Good Day – “dobřy den” (doh-bree den)
  • Goodbye – “na shledanou” (nah schledanoo) (very difficult until
    practiced frequently)
  • Danger/Warning/Attention – “pozor” (poh-zore)
  • Beer – “pivo” (pee-voh)
  • Juice – “džus” (dzhoos) (the ž makes a “zh” sound)
  • Water – “voda” (voh-da)
  • I am American – “Jsem Američan” (sim A-mer-i-chan)
  • I don’t speak Czech – “Nemluvím česky” (Neh moo-vlem chessky)
  • English? – “Anglicky?” (Ain-glint-skee)

5. Take every opportunity to learn from the locals:

The Prague Summer Program has some amazing staff/faculty/friends (I promise the Prague Summer Program isn’t paying me) that are either Czech or have been to Prague several times. The Czech locals were not only some of the coolest people I’ve ever met (Milos, Tomas, and Hana are the best!) but they were all very supportive of helping us figure things out. They encouraged us to go off on our own, which led to one of my favorite weekends that we spent in Plsen, but also let us feel like we got to know Czech culture in a much more immediate way.

Making friends is always the best way to get to learn a new place, right?

Most importantly though, have fun! I love travelling because you never know exactly what each day will bring. In Prague, just riding the tram from the hostel to Charles University every day was  an experience to really treasure (public transportation is like people watching with a purpose).

Anyhow, I hope this might help a few of you. If not, feel free to post Questions (or Answers) in the comment section!

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3 Responses to “So You’re Going to Prague”

  1. Doug Lance June 27, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    I am very disappointed that there was no mention of absinthe in this post.

    • redshana June 27, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

      Um… there’s lots of shops that sell it? Haha!

      Feel free to fill in/ask questions about Absinthe if you want, not sure if I’d know exactly what to say except that a lot of touristy shops sold it.

  2. Mariella July 6, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    I read this and thought that I should have something to add, but I couldn’t think of anything, but now I did 🙂 especially in large cities in Western Europe and also basically anywhere in Eastern Europe, you might encounter quite a bit of begging. My advice is to not even start giving any money or else you will leave bankrupt. Rather buy some food, that also ensures that the people won’t spend your money on alcohol or cigarettes. But you probably knew that already. What I have come to find on my travels in Eastern Europe and also in my daily life in Berlin that more often than not people approach you with the question: “Speak English?”, less often in the full sentence “Do you speak English?” If you are like me, instinctively you will think that those people want the time, directions, or any other sort of help. Often enough they will tell you their heartbreaking life story that doesn’t necessarily have to be true (although even if it isn’t true for them, it is most likely true for someone out there) and try to shame you into giving them money. I’m not saying you shouldn’t respond to anyone that asks you if you speak English, but you should take a quick look and ask yourself if you want to answer to it and if you say yes and they start talking about stuff you don’t want to get into, leave. Also be aware of cultural differences in the body language (with beggars and any other person). in Bulgaria, for example, shaking your head means yes, while nodding means no. I firmly shook my head at a Bulgarian Roma woman once when she asked me for money and she followed me down the street for what felt like an eternity because she was expecting something, even when I corrected myself and started nodding like a madwoman.

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