Special thanks to my newly christened co-guide Ann for inspiring not only this trip, but also this blogpost title!
After 50 hours in Prague, 11 out of 16 of us continued onwards for a day in Budapest.
Seeing that this would be my third time in Budapest the past 2 years, there’s no need to rehash here the walking tour that I have come to know so well for my favorite European city. If you need one at the moment it’s all here: Budapest By Night and Buddha With The Best In Budapest.
What I will point out in this post is the unique litany of experiences and company that serve as proof of the magic of this city. After convincing Ravi last night to change his flight to continue onwards with us and saying our goodbyes to Daniela, Anthony, Li Li, Aggeliki, and Sidian, the 11 of us caught the 12:00pm noon flight out from Prague to Budapest.
We landed on time at 1:25pm in BUD airport, where we hopped on the public bus back into the city center and checked into our digs at Hostel One Budapest.
After half an hour checking in and freshening up, half the group went in search for sausages while the rest of us kicked it with some locals over Hungarian/Israeli fusion fare at the popular ruin bar, Mazel Tov.
Afterwards we went on our walking tour of the city, beginning with Saint Stephen’s Basilica, which I’ve probably been more times than I can count at this point.
We then passed the Hungarian Opera House, the Synagogue, and crossed the Szechenyi Bridge before taking a cab into the magic wonderland of Fisherman’s Bastion. One of my favorite cab rides ever.
Afterwards we then hopped back in the same cab for the highlight visit to the Szechenyi Baths, where I got to rendezvous with Elisabeth, an old college buddy I haven’t seen since 2006!
Did I ever tell you that Elisabeth is one of the best people you can ask for when it comes to group photos?
After 2 hours at the baths, we then congregated for dinner at legendary Kiosk, where I dined only 10 months ago, also with another group of wonderful monsooners. I might make this an annual tradition!
And how would I ever forget their Poppy Seed Ice Cream served over the world’s richest Poppy Seed Cake? This ranks as one of the best desserts I ever had.
Afterwards we took the scenic river walk along the Danube back to our hostel, after which we rallied one final night to one of my favorite bars in the world, Szimpla Kert.
As you may remember from my last visit, this ruin bar has EVERYTHING: a hookah bar, dance floor, outdoor bar, farmer’s market, cafés, libraries, restaurant, brunch spot, multiple bars, terraces, movie theater. . . .
At this point while everyone else continued to rally onwards to the nightclub at Instinct, I began to fade and decided to turn in earlier at 2am to make my morning flight back home.
After nearly a month on the road, it was finally time to head home and get back to work the next day. It’s been real.
- At time of posting in Budapest, Hungary, it was 1 °C -
Humidity: 73% | Wind Speed: 13km/hr | Cloud Cover: cloudy
The last time I was in Prague 19 years ago, I was 11 years old.
And I haven’t been back since. So does it count if I really don’t remember anything but this photo? NO IT DOESN’T.
Last month, when 7-time monsooner (Luxembourg, Australia, New Zealand, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait!) Ann Wen found out she had more days off than expected and asked me to extend my travels, the convenient thing was to ask her to join me in Fiji since I was already in the area. Of course, being based in NYC she balked so we had to find a compromise…where could we meet in the middle? And if she’s never let me down on past trips, how could I?
After finding ridiculously cheap flights from Fiji to Prague via layovers in Auckland, Shanghai, and Xi’an, it was meant to be. Prague was happening.
15 more people signed up within 2 weeks, and then Ann recruited a random stranger she met at the airport on the way to Prague: a medical student from Kazakhstan studying in Prague named Aia. Another monsoon was forming.
For “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
And nearly 2 decades later, I was back in one of my first European cities: Prague.
After 3 weeks island hopping in the Pacific and the least visited countries in the world, I took off from Suva for a 3 hour flight to Auckland (on almost the one year anniversary I was last there!) where I had a few hours to transit to a 17 hour Emirates flight to Dubai, and then a few more hours there before finally getting on a 7 hour Emirates flight to Prague. And right after disembarking and stamping into the EU, I hailed an Uber for a 25 minute ride into the city to meet up with the rest of the monsooners at a pre-reserved lunch at Terasa U Prince.
It’s known for having one of the best rooftop views in the world for lunch, although I don’t know which governing body would determine that.
After lunch and introductions, we returned back to our hostel and immediately hit the ground running in monsooning Prague.
There are sights everywhere; right outside our hostel grows a little statue called Embryo. Designed by Czech sculptor David Černý, it was created as his statement about the difficulty of creating art in an unimaginative world
A few paces east we found Man Hanging Out, aka “Zavěšený muž”: Černý’s statue of a dangling Sigmud Freud as a critical statement about intellectualism in the 20th century.
About 5 minutes away south we walked by the Velvet Revolution Memorial, which commemorates November 17, 1989, the date that changed the Czech Republic forever.
It was that date when a crowd of students marched towards Wenceslas Square from Vyšehrad to demonstrate against the one-party rule of Communism, as well as to celebrate the anniversary of a similar student demonstration against Nazi occupation 50 years ago. After being met with fierce resistance by riot police, the students’ numbers swelled from 50,000 to 200,000 within days, leading to the eventual fall of Communist Czechoslovakia.
Across the street is popular Café Louvre, where we grabbed breakfast on our 2nd day.
And if we hadn’t had enough memorials and monuments, A few paces more east is the fittingly enigmatic and constantly shifting Head of Franz Kafka:
We then walked 10 minutes more south, passing by the birthplace of Kafka (thanks Jommel for pointing it out!)
. . . to the National Memorial to the Heroes of the Heydrich Terror.
After assassinating SS-Obergrupenführer Reinhard Heydrich in the Operation Anthropoid, 7 brave Czech paratroopers escaped to this basement crypt and over the course of 20 days killed 700 Nazis before they ran out of ammunition and killed themselves.
And next door to the memorial we had to take obligatory photos with Dancing House, the famously curvy office building designed by architect Frank Gehry.
Get creative here!
We then headed back north, passing by the Jan Palach and Jan Zajíc memorial, which marks the site where Jan Palach immolated himself in 1969, followed a week later by his friend Jan Zajíc, in protest of the Soviet invasion of Prague.
10 minutes more north you’ll reach hit the eastern edge of Old Town at the Basilica of St. James, which is known for its art-filled baroque interior, as well as a 400-year old shriveled mummified hand of a thief dangling from a chain (having served as a warning to other kleptomaniacs).
spot the hand?
And from there we entered the gorgeous Old Town Main Square.
We made sure not to miss the Prague Meridian, which was used like a sundial to tell time back in the day.
And in the spirit of telling time, the creme de la creme would be the Prague Astronomical Clock. Installed in 1410, this gem exists as the 3rd oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still in operation.
Legend has it that its creator was forcibly blinded by the Prague Council in order to prevent him from making similar clocks for other nations. In response, he committed suicide by throwing himself into the clocks’ gears, hence placing a curse on anyone who attempted to repair the clock in the future.
Then we walked north to Josefov, the former Jewish ghetto. Once you pass by another odd Memorial sculpture to Kafka, you’re at the eastern edge of the former ghetto.
We first visited The Old-New Synagogue, Europe’s oldest synagogue and Prague’s first building of Gothic design when it was completed in 1270. More famously, however, it is the reported legendary home of the Golem of Prague (that’s who that ladder on the outside is for!)
Next door we looked for the photogenic Old Jewish Cemetery, which houses over 12,000 tombstones of bodies up to 6 layers deep!
Leaving Josev to the south, we stopped in the Municipal Library of Prague, which features the “Idiom” installation: A literally literary (get it? hah!) tower that appears to stretch into infinity.
We then crossed the street to sneak into Prague City Hall, which is home to one of the world’s only Paternoster elevator, aka the elevator that never stops! Accessible after 10:00 Monday to Friday, we went through the huge doors on the front of the building, and then headed to either left or right to get around to the other end of the building where the lift is.
From the ground floor it goes up 4 floors but then it keeps going…I mean you can stay on the lift after it passes the last stop but only If you dare…
… you really can’t say you’ve ridden a Paternoster unless you’ve gone over the top and around the bottom!
Then the sight that all tourists who come to Prague for: We finally crossed The Charles Bridge, Prague’s landmark stone bridge that links Old & New Towns.
Be careful of your stuff here! This is where Joanne got pickpocketed, losing both her wallet and green card! However, luckily she was able to get an emergency re-entry permit from the U.S. consulate within 24 hours despite the current shutdown.
When we approached New Town, we made a quick left for the John Lennon Wall.
We then made an about-face north and passed the narrowest street of Prague to our right, built originally as an emergency fire exit.
Steps away we had a laugh at Piss Sculpture, also designed by aforementioned David Černý, which features 2 statues that will piss out actual messages that you can text to +420 724 370 770
Then we walked over to St. Nicholas Church, a structure that took over a century & 3 generations of architects to complete when it was finished in the 1850s.
We then walked 5 minutes south to the Church of Our Lady Victorious and The Infant Jesus of Prague, open late and famous for its statue of infant Jesus and its constantly rotating wardrobe throughout the year. According to Jommel, this was the statue that inspired the spread of Christianity through The Philippines.
Finally we walked uphill to Prague Castle, the symbol of the city and the holder of The Guinness Book Of World Records title for being the largest ancient castle complex in the world at 70,000 sq. meters (750,000 sq. feet) and the official office of the President.
The group then split, with a third staying at the Prague Castle for the numerous art galleries and other exhibits, while the rest headed west to Loreto Prague just to take a gander at the peculiar Statue of St. Wilgefortis, a bearded female saint. We sang our heart out karaoke style to “I Want It That Way” here.
They also have a treasury on the 2nd floor, of which in their collection the most famous being the 6222-diamond encrusted monstrance, the Prague Sun:
Then we walked up to Petrin Tower, a 378m cast-iron tower that was built to be taller than the Eiffel Tower in 1892, featuring a deck for city views.
We paid for the elevator up just in time for sunset.
Then as we headed out of the park back towards the direction of old town, we sauntered past an equally sauntering Monument of Karel Hynek Mácha.
As we exited, we took pause at the Memorial to the Victims of Communism, which commemorates all the political prisoners jailed during Communist rule.
That’s pretty much most of central Prague, all of which can be done in 10-12 hours over the course of 2 days!
For our third and free day, some of us caught on the latest trip gossip over a lazy brunch at Café Savoy,
. . . with others checking out the weirdness of the Kafka Museum:
Later in the afternoon, some chilled out at one of the handful of beer spas in the city.
…and there was a lot of socializing at our gorgeous rooftop maisonettes at Old Prague House:
And what would a monsoon be without group dinners and drinks at some fine establishments? On our first night we pregamed at Hookah Place next to our hostel.
And then across the street at 5-story Karozy Lane — aka the largest nightclub in Central Europe — we were able to turn this:
. . . into this:
And finally we celebrated Katy’s birthday at Mlynec!
What To Eat In Prague
Open faced sandwiches at The Sisters Bistro:
Next door is Lukásskálacukrár for sumptuous Czech pastries:
They can be generous with free samples!
And don’t leave without trying the Pork Knuckle
- At time of posting in Prague, Czechia, it was n/a -
Humidity: 86% | Wind Speed: 6km/hr | Cloud Cover: snowy