Since joining the Marine Corps I've spent several birthdays in less than desirable locations, one where I distinctly remember the most memorable part of the day was eating a hard slab of MRE bread with a cold bag of spaghetti in the middle of the hot desert. So now whenever it is possible I try to visit a new city or do something exciting for birthdays. For the big 25, I ended up in Germany for work the week prior and was able to jump over to Czech Republic where I got to see the lovely old town of Prague. There is tons to see and do in the beautiful city that is full of history and it does not hurt that everything is significantly cheaper than most of the Western European countries, a huge plus when traveling on a budget!
After the long bus ride, I dropped bags at the Air bnb and joined the crowd of tourists on the beautiful Charles Bridge to catch the sunset. Despite the busy street being filled with people selling trinkets and tourists snapping a million photos, it was truly a beautiful sight. Early the next morning though after my boyfriend arrived we went back to Charles Bridge for the sunrise which was quite literally night and day difference. The bridge was nearly empty with only a handful of people meandering across it compared to the night before when it had been absolutely filled. We were able to watch the sun rise there in the quiet morning which was the most perfect way to start the day.
We continued exploring around Old Town and took one of the Sandman Walking Tours around the city where we learned about the Government Buildings, the Jewish Ghetto, the Castle, and the movie Euro Trip which was filmed mostly around Prague. The tour guide also introduced us to Europe's second most disappointing tourist attraction, the astronomical clock in the center of Old Town. At the top of the hour, crowds gather to watch the small figurines move and slightly wiggle if they look closely. While this would have been very impressive six centuries ago when it was originally completed, the best part of visiting this attraction now is watching everyone's disappointed faces as they wait for more to happen.
Next up was the beer spa. The man at the front desk checked us in and showed us to a large copper tub that he filled with barely and hops while explaining the health benefits of the beer bath. The tub came equipped with its own spicket that provided unlimited beer during our hour of relaxing. And no, the beer was not attached to the tub water but was connected to a separate keg filled with fresh beer. After an hour of drinking and soaking, then drinking some more, we were taken into the next room where we were given electric blankets and a large straw bed to lay back on. The combination of having bellies full of beer and being swaddled in a warm bed was the perfect conditions for a glorious afternoon nap!
One of the most impressive views in the city and of it is from the massive Prague castle which enjoys the title of the largest ancient castle in the world. Overlooking Prague, the lovely castle from the 9th century is one of the most iconic locations in the city. It is steeped in history and in addition to being a national cultural monument, it currently serves as the seat of the head of state. It is well worth the hike up to learn more about the extensive background of this landmark and to see all of Prague stretched out below.
Many cities offer their own unique specialty dishes and delicious street food and Prague is no different. While they are known for their sausages and dumplings, it is their Trdelník sweet buns that steal the show. Sweet dough is spiraled around a pole and cooked over a fire like a barbecue to roast chicken. However, this barbecue is used to create a soft hollow pastry that can be filled with ice-cream, whipped cream, drizzled in nutella, or enjoyed plain. The smell from these tasty treats cooking waft through the air and it is simply futile to resist.
Of course no trip to Prague is complete without enjoying some of their popular and very cheap beers. Doing a pub crawl is a cost effective way to explore many of the more unique bars from the underground tunnels that have been converted into popular bars and the larger disco dance floors. The city is also a major destination for stag and hen parties and these rowdy groups were seen in nearly every bar tearing up the night.
On the opposite side of the nightlife spectrum is attending one of the classical music performances by an orchestra in one of the many beautiful churches. One of the highlights of the trip for me was attending a Mozart concert in the Church of Our Lady before Týn, one of the most ornate buildings downtown. The combination of the incredibly talented orchestra and the gorgeous backdrop in the massive gothic church was quite the experience and an excellent way to end the trip!