Praha

Here I am in Prague.

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In three days, we’ve managed to see quite a bit: the castle, a tour of all the synagogues in the Jewish quarter, a driving tour of much of the rest of Old Town and some of New Town, a few museum visits, and some fancy lunches and dinners.

But of course, you can read about tourist destinations in Prague anywhere. Here are some of the most interesting things I’ve noted in my time:

  • You can buy little bottles of Absinthe on the street. In cute little bodega-esque stands:
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  • Prague is no longer the budget travel destination it once was. My brother told me that just seven years ago, you could get 40 koruna per dollar. Today it’s about 14 koruna to the dollar. Yeah, that’s a big Ouch.
  • And that’s only partly because of how poorly the dollar is doing today. The Czech economy is apparently booming, and the tourist industry is certainly big-time booming, even for what is technically considered off season. Old Town, where we are staying, is packed with tourists all day long to the point where it becomes difficult to push yourself down the street through the mangle of Italian college students and Japanese families.
  • It’s true: You don’t come to Prague for the food. Now, I have yet to go to Kampa Park, supposedly the best restaurant in the city; and I spent much of yesterday sick in bed with a sore throat. But I was expecting street carts with sausages and sauerkraut piled on top of random dishes, and at least a few dishes per menu that end in -wurst. Haven’t had a real -wurst yet.
  • They really hate the Communists here. Given the history, that’s not especially surprising, but Prague’s history is filled with torment, persecution and corrupt governing. Our guide told us the story about how the walls in the New-Old Synagogue ran red with blood after the Catholics (I think it was the Catholics, but it’s hard to remember given how many groups persecuted the Jews in Prague over the years) killed off 90% of Prague’s Jewish population and how those red stains are still visible today underneath the synagogue’s white paint. But nearly every guide we’ve had or local we’ve spoken with somehow manages to get in a hard word or two about the Communists.
  • Speaking of the Communists, they built some darned ugly buildings in a city known for its beautiful facades. We happen to be staying in one of the Communists’ crowning architectural achievements (photos and comparison of Non-Communist Pretty vs. Communist Ugly architecture to come).