Prague, Pickpockets and Pilsner

Old Town Square ┬ęSam Cracknell

This time last year, some friends from halls and myself were scouting out holiday destinations to while away a few days of the long Summer holiday. Our destination should be somewhere a little tamer than Amsterdam, yet wilder than a cottage in the Cotswolds, but also more cultural than all night boozing in Magaluf. Prague came to us like a shiny light of culture, history and cheap, cheap beer.

Being outside of the Eurozone, Prague is already a cheaper holiday destination and you can get much cheaper hotel deals a little outside of the city centre in the neighbouring areas. Another benefit of staying further out is that you can easily discover authentic bars and restaurants with ridiculously cheap prices to boot. A beer will set you back around 80p and we aren't talking about any watered down Fosters either. This is the holy grail of beers, Pilsner Urquell perfectly frothy and served in huge, frosty tankards bigger than my head. I was salivating and I don't even like beer.

The Czechs drink more beer than any other country in the world but they also take pride in their absinthe. With a wealth of bars in the centre serving a huge range of Absinthe shots, cocktails, ice cream, coffee and chocolate, if you don't see the green fairy here, there's no hope for you. Restaurants are as cheap as the bars, but beware of the shady trading practices in the city centre tourist traps. We learnt the hard way after having to argue with a waitress who furiously ran after us when we didn't pay the extortionate service charge that she decided to work out for us on a calculator at our table.

If the limitless bars aren't enough to satisfy you, Prague is also proud daddy to Karlovy Lazne, the biggest club in Europe. Here, dance floors are made of reformed Roman public baths and the five storeys are home to a bounty of chill out rooms, retro dance floors, R&B bars, table football, computer rooms and a well (?). It's record breaking capacity also attributing to it tourist mecca status means that it isn't where the locals hang out but its great to experience it once.

On emerging mole-like from within the underground drinking taverns, Prague's beautiful streets and architecture can also be seen. Gargoyles decorate the buildings and numerous statues adorn the city, the most impressive being upon the Gothic-style Charles Bridge. Thirty baroque statues line the sides, drawing in the tourists and making it one of the busiest places in Prague. Along with Charles Bridge and Prague Castle, the medieval astronomical clock in Old Town Square is another highlight. On the hour, every hour a crowd will gather to watch the skeleton of death mounted on the clock toll the bell and for Christ to appear through the trap doors marching with his apostles in tow.

For cultural keenos, Prague has a great art and music scene. In particular Artbanka Museum of Young Art, is a must for any Damien Hirst fanboys. Innovative and hugely controversial, the works of contemporary Czech artists are thrown into sharp relief with the formerly grand but now rather crumbly palace that they are housed in. For Kafka fans there is a whole museum dedicated to the man himself and for music lovers there is a large range of live classical and jazz music on offer. We even indulged ourselves in a trip on the jazz boat where we took a relaxing cruise down the river listening to the sweet sounds of a live jazz band and generally congratulating ourselves on what cultural individuals we were.

The more creepy amongst the group (aka me) also decided that we should probably take a trip to the torture museum, which was slightly disappointing but generally good enough to make us appreciate our fingers and toes a bit more. Also, concerning the pickpockets in the title, this may have just been me being sensationalist (and a stickler for alliteration). Despite hearing numerous warnings of high pickpocketing rates, generally I felt safe the whole time I was there.

In conclusion, visit Prague. Stag parties, culture vultures and history lovers all flock to the city for their own reasons. However, the joy of an ice cold tankard of Pilsner Urquell is universal.



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