Quirky Prague: a jumble of art, culture and culinary treats. Remarkable museums, retro cafes and art galleries, sculptures, historic sites and authentic Czech food, beer and wine.
Yellowing leaves drift to the ground and litter the grass lined pathways. The colourful blanket dances around in the light gusts of cool air. I stroll along the banks of the Vltava River and a crisp wind brings a chill to my cheeks on this autumn morning in Prague. “Perhaps I under-dressed”, a thought crossed my mind. I wished I had worn my favourite woolly hat, gloves and scarf. It is colder than it should be for this time of year. The feeling on my cheeks takes me to a visit earlier in the year. I remember how Prague was just as beautiful in the spring time – chilly breezes, clear skies, light shining down and reflecting on the calm river waters.
A light chilly shower of cold rain droplets brings me back to the moment. I was in love. In love with a beautiful, inspiring woman. In love with this amazing city. Each visit to Prague ignited new feelings for me and brought a new perspective, newer, fresher memories. What will this new adventure in Prague bring?
I try to blend in with the crowds. I identify with so many of these people, recalling memories: the tourists taking “selfies” from Charles Bridge in view of the Vltava River and spectacular Prague Castle; the couples affectionately holding hands and exchanging affectionate glances; the best friends experiencing a new place; the solo travellers; the residents and expatriates. I smile to myself and relish in my anonymity among so many different people. I wonder what their stories are, what path in life has brought them to this amazing place, what their reasons are for being there. We all wander the cobbled streets, admiring Prague’s unique beauty from the baroque architecture in the old town to the bizarre art installations, tasting Czech beer and wine, eating dumplings and beef stew, pork cutlets and pickles, cheese and beer with garlic, mustard and onions on fried toast.
Suddenly, my mind flits to a clear memory from the summer. I sat in a riverside cafe courtyard of Cafe Manes in the tourist clad part of town, drinking an overpriced beer in the sweltering heat, hoping that it would nurse my hangover. Sweat was running down my torso under my thin cotton shirt and I thought “Wow, it’s hot. Thankfully this beer is doing the trick”. I wiped the sweat from my forehead, and chose to ignore the agonising reminder of my social over indulgence from the night before. The Czech Republic is well known for the variety, quality and low price of the beer and a visit is not complete without trying some of it.
Sure, just like most places in Europe, the guide books are filled with top rated places to see, landmarks, eating establishments, things to do – river boat trips, guided tours on sedway, food tasting tours. However, when I think of Prague, two things stand out for me: art and quirkiness. There are so many weird and wonderful things to experience that may or may not be published on paper. One will not have a problem locating David Cerny’s obscure and well documented art installations of crawling babies with bar code faces in the grounds of the Kampa Museum or of two men urinating at the Kafka Museum.
But,what a treat to find that hidden narrow stairway controlled by pedestrian traffic lights leading to a waterfront restaurant or a smoky café bar called Cafe Mlynska (Mill’s Cafe) in Kampa Park with it’s unique bar worktop: everyday household objects encapsulated in resin – tampons, condoms, children’s toy cars, tennis rackets, money – you name it, you will find it. Or perhaps to stumble upon an art exhibition in a night club with a giant cast iron bone hanging from the ceiling above the bar (NOD Art Gallery at Roxy). If you like quirky, Prague should be a destination on the top of your list.
Here are my top tips for seeing quirky Prague:
- Check out a free exhibition of up and coming local artists at NOD Art Gallery then have a cocktail in the retro bar in Roxy.
- Have an authentic and moderately priced Czech meal of sausages, mustard, whipped horseradish and gallons of beer in Lokal on Dlouha Street (just below Roxy and NOD). Or enjoy a tasty meal and beer while basking in the rays of the sun on the street terrace of Restaurace Dejvicka Sokolovna.
- Said to be the best beer makers in the world, one should not miss out on Czech beer. Try a locally brewed beer taster menu – mini glasses of different types of beers, some flavoured (banana, coffee, raspberry) and Czech food in Pivovarsky Dum microbrewery.
- Go to a free art event like Free Art Friday Praha. Support local artists and pick up an amazing piece of art to take home with you, for free! The beautiful venue of this event, Venuse ve Svehlovce hosts many artistic, theatrical and musical events over the year.
- For amazing Asian food, try Yam Yam in Dejvice.
- For something different but historical, visit the KGB Museum or the Museum of Miniatures.
- For sheer, mind-blowing beauty, don’t miss the Clementinium Library.
- If you visit in October, the Signal Light Festival, a video-mapping and interactive light show on famous landmarks and buildings is not to be missed.
- Take a trip on the Prague Metro system. Many of the underground station stops have amazing graffiti art and wall claddings installed during communist times such as Namesti Miru Metro and Malostranska Metro.
- Prague certainly has more to offer on the culinary front than only Czech food. If you like your international food, visit a farmers’ market such as Naplavka Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings beside the river.
- Keep an eye out for postings on entertainment events in Prague – expats.cz website is perfect for this.
Lastly, a weird and wonderful “Did you know?” fact that might be obscure to some. In Zambia, where I grew up, like many other third world countries, Bata shoes were part of our childhood. Not only were they the shoes that we used for school, but for play and for special occasions. On my very first trip to the Czech Republic, when I visited a town outside of Prague called Beroun, much to my childhood delight, I discovered that the Czech Republic is the birthplace of The Bata Shoe Company, founded by Tomáš Baťa in 1894. Bata shoes are now available all over the world.
You can order postcards of the sketch of the Vltava River through my art website: Kelly Goss Art.
This article is now available for download for offline reading and for obtaining travel directions (by foot, car or bicycle) to the points of interest mentioned. Download here: GPSMyCITY – Celebrations of Autmn in Quirky Prague