The Beautiful Buildings of Prague

Prague is an absolutely stunning city. It feels like it’s straight out of a fairy tale and the buildings really add to that charm. While the city center (Prague 1) is understandably gorgeous, I think Vinohrady (Prague 2) and Vršovice (Prague 10) are equally as beautiful.

Here are some buildings around the city, to get a feel for what it’s like to simply walk around this incredible place.

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Žižkov TV Tower: Žižkovský Vysílač

The Žižkov TV Tower looms high above the Žižkov neighborhood. It is really pretty ugly, super weird, and is so tall, you can see it from pretty much anywhere in the city.

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From the office.

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From Vítkov.

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From Riegrovy Sady.

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From 50m up during our Dinner In The Sky.

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From Old Town Square.

TV Tower 4And from Malá Strana.

However, Jillian and I agreed that by the end of the month, we had grown to like the tower. It felt familiar, like a beacon home.

We went over to the Žižkov Tower one morning to get a closer look, and it is as weird as we thought. It was built in the late 1980s, which explains the uber-communism design, although there is a rumor that it was constructed to block incoming Western radio and TV transmissions.

There are three pillars at the base, with one of the pillars extending way past the others with an additional antenna attached, giving it the appearance of a rocket ship.

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There are also these grey boxes protruding out of the pillars, which makes it kind of look like the Jetsons’ home.

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But the weirdest part are the babies crawling up the outside.

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I’m not 100% sure why they’re there or their representation, but they apparently started as a temporary installation in 2000 but became a permanent fixture a year later.

You can go up to one of the grey boxes and it provides a pretty incredible, 360-degree panoramic view of Prague.

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Strahov Monastery & Brewery

I hadn’t heard about Strahov Monestary when I studied abroad. However, when you google Prague now, it’s one of the top things that comes up. I’m willing to bet because of Instagram – it’s one of those places people love to post about when traveling to Prague. And I get it.

It’s tucked up above the Prague Castle and is just far enough off the main tourist road that it’s not totally swamped. To be honest, it was mostly old women checking it out. The monastery was founded in 1140, but it’s the library that attracts everyone. It’s over 800 years old and absolutely stunning.

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See why it’s so popular on Instagram?

While the library is beautiful, I’m not going to lie, it’s kind of a rip off. It cost 120 crowns to enter, which is only about $6, but still far more than it’s worth. It’s essentially a long hall with several bug collections…

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Brings back bad memories of the mandatory bug collection I had to do in 4th grade.

and two library rooms. The first…

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And the second…

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The worst part, they charge you to take pictures!!! I didn’t see the tiny, little sign before I started snapping away. And only after you’ve lifted your phone and taken that first picture does the docent come over, point to the sticker on her shirt, and demand 50 crowns.

Oh well, I guess you can’t win them all.

I was mildly annoyed as I walked out but was very happy to discover the brewery tucked away right across from the monastery.

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It was only 11:30am but I figured I deserved a beer. Hey, do as the Czechs do, right!?

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I wouldn’t discount Strahov Monastery, as the library was cool to see. And the brewery was excellent. But I wouldn’t go out of your way to check it out. That being said, it’s a stone’s throw away from the Prague Castle orchards, which offers one of the best views of the city. (Look up Bellavista on Google Maps. It’s an outdoor café that’s overpriced and I’ve been told doesn’t have very good food. But if you can snag a table, enjoy a drink soaking in the beautiful view. There’s a reason it’s called “good view”)

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Bohemians Praha 1905: My Neighborhood Soccer Team

I really lucked out with my landlords throughout the summer.

In Split, Kristine and I had quite a few plumbing problems. Our shower drain hardly worked so it looked like there was a flood in our bathroom after each shower. The sink drain would also get backed up. And we had no idea that there was a huge water jug on our balcony connected to our air conditioner that needed emptied every few days. Our poor, old, Croatian neighbor downstairs came up one morning trying to tell us that our balcony was dripping water onto her clean clothes. It took about 20 minutes of some intense charades followed by her finally coming into the apartment and out onto the balcony to show us what was wrong.

But I reference all of that because it required multiple visits from our landlord, Andelka, who turned out to be awesome! Kristine and I spent many mornings talking to her while her husband worked on the shower and sink drain. It was so much fun getting to know her and she provided us with a local’s perspective of living in Split. (side note: she came over on our last night and gave Kristine and I each a Split keychain. I still have it on my keys and it makes me happy each time I see it)

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My Italian keys and my Chicago keys

 

In Turin, I roomed with Kristine again and our landlords were a bit untraditional: 18-year-old and 20-year-old brothers who had just inherited the apartment from their grandma. They were so proud and we loved their touches of trying to make it welcoming for us.

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My only interaction with our landlord in Barcelona was when he brought clean linens to our door halfway through our stay. Based on that 20-second interaction, he seemed like a lovely man.

In Prague, my landlord was Martin, a guy around my age whose family owns the entire building. They’ve actually owned it for 150 years, but the Russians confiscated it after WWII. They were able to get it back and now he and his fiancé live in one apartment, his sister and her boyfriend in another, his fiancé’s sister in the third apartment and they rent out mine.

I went to dinner at the beginning of the month with Martin and his fiancé, which was a lot of fun. He told me about the neighborhood soccer team and invited me to join him at their last home match. It turned out to be one of the coolest things I did in Prague!

The soccer team, Bohemians Praha 1905, was founded in, you guessed it, 1905. And has a pretty interesting history; Martin’s great-grandfather actually helped found the club. In the 1920s, the Czech National Team pulled out of a tournament in Australia and the Bohemians went in their place. To everyone’s surprise, they won the entire thing, their prize being two kangaroos. They brought them back to Prague, donated them to the zoo, and there are still kangaroos at the Prague Zoo today because of them. And to honor this, their logo is of a green kangaroo.

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In 2005, the club was on the verge of bankruptcy. But the fans pulled together to collect enough money to pay off their debts. Martin said the neighborhood held an event in a bar and everyone donated their pocket change, collecting one million Czech Crowns. The neighborhood is now a 2% owner of the club so their loyalty is understandably very strong.

We started off the night by grabbing a few drinks across the street from the field, which was around the corner from our apartments. Martin’s sister’s boyfriend, Michael, joined us as well. Apparently, it’s tradition to have a beer and some green shot in honor of the Bohemians. It tasted like mouth wash.

 

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We headed over to the field which was already packed with fans. Martin, Michael and a few of their friends have started a “club” which basically means they get a special section of the bleachers and hang up a flag on the fence. This is definitely not your standard adult-league soccer match here in the US. But it does mean that everyone in the stands knows each other and makes for a really fun environment.

 

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The best part…the beers. It cost about $1.20 for your first beer, that includes a $0.50 deposit on the cup. At the end of the game, you can get your deposit back or, as most people do, recycle the cup and donate the $0.50 to the club. Now for the ingenious part, they designed their cups with these little clips. Why, you ask?

So you can clip it onto your pocket to free up your hands for cheering!

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You can also clip the beers together for easy carrying. Meaning one person goes and gets the beers for everyone. You simply give them a 20 crown coin (about $0.70) and they return with full beers for everyone.

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I think I should bring these back to the US; I’d make a killing!

The game itself was awesome! The soccer was really good and the crowd literally chants the entire time. There is a guy standing on a platform up front that leads everyone in different songs and cheers. I’m not kidding, his only break was during half time.

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You can see him on his megaphone in the middle of the picture.

The Bohemians squeaked out a win at the very end, which meant fireworks were shot directly into the stands.

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I have a ton of videos of the different chants uploaded here, and here, and here, and here.

It was such a fun night with Martin and Michael and again, made me so incredibly thankful that we didn’t just visit each city, we were truly immersed in the neighborhood.

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I’m Back!

It’s been nine months since my last post…and we’re closing in on 1.5 years since I got back from my summer abroad. BUT, I’m bound and determined to finish blogging about The Remote Experience.

I started out doing it to keep my family updated on what I was doing. I then decided it would be a great way to look back on what I had done on this unique trip. What I was surprised to find, was how much I really loved doing it. Writing about what I had done allowed me to reflect and remember everything I was experiencing, even if it had happened only a few days ago. I’ve always loved looking back through pictures of different trips. But writing specific posts forces me to put myself back in that experience, trying to remember the minute details of what I was doing. Not only do I get to relive it, I’ve found that it lets me savor those moments, reminding myself how incredibly lucky I’ve been to travel so extensively.

A lot has happened in the 16 months since I got back from The Remote Experience. Being around “coworkers” again made me realize how much I missed the human interaction and collaboration of working in an office. So upon getting back to the US, I found a new job at Retale – a mobile shopping app based in Berlin with their US headquarters in Chicago. It was such a wonderful set-up: I worked out of the Chicago office but was fortunate enough to go over to the Berlin office twice, tacking on side-trips to Rome, Amsterdam, Munich and Edinburgh.

Unfortunately, at the end of 2017, the company had to dissolve US operations. It wasn’t too long before I decided if there was ever a time to try and live in Europe full-time, it was now. So I’ve spent the last month job searching across the pond. It’s still TBD what will happen, but my fingers are crossed that I will once again be a European resident, this time longer than just a four month “trip”.

Since I currently have quite a bit of free time on my hands, I promised myself that I’d use my unemployment to finish blogging about The Remote Experience. And hopefully, should everything work out, I can continue blogging after moving over to Europe!

The Narrowest Street In Prague

Westley mentioned that the narrowest street in Prague was barely wide enough to walk through. While strolling around Malá Strana, I saw a small group of people gathered at a random spot in the middle of a block and stopped to see what they were looking at. It quickly dawned on me that I had found myself at the top of the narrowest street in Prague.

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It’s less than 20 inches wide and requires a traffic light for people to walk up or down as it’s too narrow for two people to squeeze past each other.

 

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A weird Prague quirk, but I’m not going to lie, I was quite pleased that I found it!

Hidden Gardens of Prague

While wondering around Malá Strana one day, I stumbled upon not one, but two hidden gardens!

The first was Vojanovy Sady, a walled, grassy enclave in the middle of a fairly busy street.

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It was quite peaceful with very few people. Although several peacocks called this pretty, little park home.

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The second was Wallenstein Garden, the gardens outside of the Senate Palace, which I quickly realized wasn’t quite as “hidden” as the first. This one had beautiful geometric garden mazes outside an absolutely stunning Senate building.

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I actually lucked out as the Senate Palace happened to be open for a few hours and I was able to roam around inside. While I didn’t get any pictures, it was all very beautiful.

On my way out, I once again soaked in the gorgeous weather and scenery.

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Riegrovy Sady: Prague’s Best Sunset View

I don’t think one can ever get sick of the views in Prague. Whether you’re overlooking the city from near the castle…

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…or up at the castle from the river…

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…or out from the Astronomical Clock…

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…or suspended 50 meters in the air…

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…it’s all just stunning.

Luckily for me, Prague saved one last beautiful sunset. The night before Jillian was heading back to the U.S., we ducked out of work a bit early to go watch the sunset at Reigrovy Sady park.

We had been to the park several times, but usually to frequent the beer garden. So when we found the famed sunset hill, we couldn’t believe the perfectly framed view of the castle. And as the sun set, the view kept getting more and more beautiful.

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Thank you, Prague, for continuing to stun me with your beauty.

European Farmer’s Markets

One thing I really miss about Europe (besides the food, and coffee, and culture, and people, and scenery, and so many other things) are all of the wonderful farmer’s markets. It feels like every few blocks there would be another neighborhood market with local’s selling colorful fruits and vegetables, beautiful flowers and freshly baked bread and pastries. I hate going to the grocery store, but grabbing a few things from the market down the street makes cooking so much easier and fresher.

When my Mom and I were in Modena, we walked through Mercato Albinelli, a huge daily market that’s been around since the early 1900s. The produce was so colorful it made you want to pick it up and eat it.

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My Mom pointed out that she bets it’s a lot easier to get kids to eat vegetables if they can help pick it out in an environment like this.

The other thing that blows my mind is how cheap all of the fresh produce and food is at these farmer’s markets. You could get half a loaf of fresh bread for the equivalent of $0.50. Or a pint of strawberries for $0.75. And the best part, you were supporting the local family businesses.

Right outside of our office in Prague was an incredible little market on the side of a park. It was always crowded with locals, getting lunch, grabbing a few things for dinner or just buying a beer and enjoying the sunshine.

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I spy Jillian.

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I can’t even keep track of how many farmer’s markets I went to throughout the summer, but I loved them all just the same.

Prague:

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Barcelona:

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Croatia:

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Westley Overcash: Our Angel in Prague

As I’ve mentioned before, The Remote Experience organized a local ambassador in each of our locations to help us experience the city like a local. They took us on walking and history tours our first day in a new country, planned welcome dinners, helped organize our excursions and would answer countless questions throughout the month. Our local ambassadors in Split and Barcelona were nice and helpful, but kind of kept to themselves. We literally couldn’t have had anyone better in Turin with Chiara. And we struck gold again in Prague with Westley!

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Although originally from the U.S., Westley has lived in the Czech Republic for over a decade, spending quite a bit of time in both Prague and Karlovy Vary. He used to work in PR but has since shifted gears to running his own business, writing travel guides about Prague and curating personal travel experiences for visitors to the Czech Republic. Not only did we luck out in terms of his experience, Westley also became a fast friend!

Westley made sure that we experienced all of Prague, not just the main tourist attractions. And within the first 24-hours we were there, he armed us with an incredible list of the best places to go, things to see, beer to drink and where to eat. Jillian and I made it our mission to check (Czech?) off as many as possible. And I’m proud to say that we made a fairly sizable dent in his list.

Thanks to Westley, we fulfilled our Mexican craving by trekking out to Prague 9 to try Mexicali Mercado. While it doesn’t stand up to Southern California Mexican food, it was definitely the best we had in Europe. Not to mention, it got us out to experience the boonies of Prague.

He also introduced me to Wine Food Market, which based on the name, doesn’t sound very appealing. And to be honest, my expectations were even lower while walking across a sketchy bridge next to the train tracks. I tried distracting myself with the view:

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But I should never have doubted Westley; it turned out to be the most incredible Italian market/café/restaurant! I actually ended up going back two more times to work…and to get one last authentic pizza while I could.

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The market was in front with the café. I wanted to buy everything and bring it home, it felt like I was back in Italy!

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The cheese vault, enough said.

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The back was dedicated to different food stations – pizza, pasta, wine, meat, bread, baked goods – and a pianist entertained everyone while they ate.

Along with all of the recommendations, Westley also organized walking tours. I was out of town when the group walked over to Vyšehrad, but I heard it was great. And I was so glad Mikela got to meet Westley when he took us up to Žižkov, showing us a new neighborhood as well as a massive Communist statue and building.

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He was also so nice to organize a trip out to Kutná Hora to see the bone church. That was actually one of our last group activities of the summer; I’m not sure what was better, seeing the church and quaint village or the company?

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But what I cannot thank Westley enough for, is the amazing help he gave me when trying to figure out how to get up to Kraków to meet Mikela. He found numerous different routes, tracked down the pricing, and even called to make sure that my train-to-bus transfer was all in the same station. I don’t even want to think of where I would have ended up without him!

So, if you ever find yourself in Prague, I highly encourage you to hire Westley as your Prague travel guide and ambassador! Not only will you have an unforgettable trip to the city, you’ll gain a great new friend.

Westley – thank you so much for such a wonderful month in Prague, I can’t wait to share a beer with you the next time I’m there!