Czech Republic Trip Report – August 2012 – Introduction (Part 1)
Where to begin? I saw so much in my week in the Czech Republic. I flew into Prague; toured the city for a couple days. Took an overnight trip to Cesky Krumlov; a charming countryside town of about 14,000. Took a day trip to Terezin Concentration Camp; with an afternoon in the small town of Litomerice. Enjoyed a dinner river cruise and spent my last night at the Prague State Opera House. It was a grand trip! So many wonderful memories clutter my mind.
MY IMPRESSION OF THE CZECH REPUBLIC
In my opinion the Czech Republic from the places I saw is a beautiful country. Unfortunately it is overshadowed by a very dark past that I think it will probably never leave behind no matter how much times passes. The people wear their past on their faces. The majority of the Czech people I saw were NOT smiling. There were some exceptions but as a whole very stern faces that make you feel the sadness of past oppression behind the look. I smiled many a time to many Czech’s to receive only a scowl in return. Never did a Czech guy smile or try to flirt with me. Not that I was looking for this but it’s unusual especially when you are traveling alone or with another woman. Men are usually always more friendly to woman than other woman. Not in the Czech. You see them looking at you but with a scowl. You know they are checking you out but the look on their face is so odd. The only men that would smile and act like American men were foreigners. We saw Chinese, Turkish, African, Italian, etc. It’s a strange thing coming from the United States where everyone smiles quite frequently and most people are friendly to a certain degree depending upon the person. I sat next to a Czech gal on the plane ride over who was about my age. She was born and raised in the Czech Republic under Communism and left as a young woman to come to the United States. She told her parents she was going to the United States to work for one year and would return. Twelve years later she was on my flight returning to the Czech for the first time since she left. I learned more about the Czech people in that nine hour flight than you could in a week traveling around the country. She told me the best thing she loved about the United States when she came was the way all American’s smile. It was so different for her and she just loved it. She said if you are Czech and you smile like that all the time people will think you are crazy or have mental problems. So strange!
My encounter with this sweet young Czech woman left a big impression on me. I felt really priveleged to learn so much from her about her country and people. We really bonded during the flight. She was extremely nervous coming back to her country. She was never able to return before because if she did she would not been able to return to the United States as she was on an expired visa. She eventually married and now has a green card. But you could feel the anxiety she had returning. It was like she knew the passport document she had said she was free to return to the United States but you could see the the fear on her face. I think it was that she knew she had the green card but being raised under communism she knew that some times things happen out of your control. She asked me to stay with her as we went through security. I really could feel her worry and stress. Both of her two children are Americans and born in the United States. She had sent them early in the summer to visit her mother and was meeting them all in Prague. I hated to leave her when I did. I felt like she really need a friend. She was so sweet. She even invited me to come stay with her in her mother’s home. They lived about 4 hours from Prague in a small town. Though my time with her was brief I’ll never forget her and our time together.
The food was incredible! I just absolutely loved it all! I missed the food as soon as I returned. The meals were made with the same food as we use but just put together in different combinations with seasonings that are completely unusually different from any American food. I had a lot of goulash, pork, dumplings, potato pancakes, sausage, soup and much more. Czech food is very savory and rich with flavor. Not mild or bland at all. A friend recently asked me if it was like German food and I said, “Not at all. Much more flavorful.” I loved their mustard too. It’s like a combination between dejon and regular mustard. Czech food was a lot of meat such as pork, beef, poultry, and a lot of organ meats like liver, kidneys and brains, also tongue. The meat is frequently prepared with gravy and then eaten with dumplings, cabbage or potatoes. Lots of vegetables like carrots, peas, and cabbage. They also have yummy sweets such as fruit dumplings, buchty (buns filled with jam or chocolate/pudding – loved these!), koláče (small poppy seed cakes), and apple strudel. The pastries are totally delicious but not as rich as our pastries or say other European pastries. Lots of good chocolate either from the Czech, Germany, or Switzerland.
They have some very nasty tasting alcohol which I didn’t care for. One of the popular drinks is slivovice. I order this drink on the recommendation of a nice Czech gal. The only purpose in this drink is to get drunk. Needless to say, I didn’t drink it because it just tasted too nasty for me and I’m not interested in being drunk. I also tried what they called Grog just because I wanted to see what it was. Basically nothing fancy just hot rum and water. Again, this is nasty too in my opinion. Keep in mind, I’m not a big drinker. I like to have an occasional glass of wine or cocktail but that is about it. The Czech’s also have a drink call Abstinth which is suppose to just really make you instantly drunk even in 1 shot. Didn’t try that one! My mother-in-law did try that drink in another country and gave me the skinny on that. I decided to stay clear!
Czech Republic also has the highest reported beer consumption in the world. Czech beer is like water to many Czech’s. They drink late at night and into the morning hours regularly. Prague has hundreds of pubs and places to have a drink. They are on every corner. Czech beer is supposedly the best beer in all of Europe. I couldn’t give me opinion on this as I didn’t even have one sip! Can’t stand beer or the smell. Now sweet hard liquor that’s another story. Our first night in Prague we went to a restaurant recommend by the concierge at the Park Inn where we were staying. The restaurant gave us this special “welcome” drink. It was this yummy sweet hard lemon liquor. Went down so easy! Could have had another but I was a good girl as I usually am!
Here are some of my meals:
(Click on pic for closer view)
As an American traveling to visit the Czech Republic you are considered very wealthy. You can eat large fabulous dinners for $5. 1,000 Kroners will keep you going with food, entertainment and transportation for quite while. We felt like we were just loaded there. So fun to travel somewhere where your dollar goes really far.
1,000 Kroners = $50
3,000 Kroners = $150
5,000 Kroners = $250
10,000 Kroners = $500
Here are a few examples of the typical costs in Kroners of food items
|Coffee||50 – 70cz|
|Pasty||8 – 20cz|
|Breakfast||85 – 150cz|
|Sandwich||40 – 70 cz|
|Dinner||85 – 250cz|
- People enjoy dining out in Prague. Many social gatherings are in restaurants or around the table at home.
- Despite the many churches in Prague, the majority of people don’t attend church. Non-believers are the majority after a long bout of Communism
- It is customary to give up your seat on the metro, etc. to an older person or a small child. Czech Republic culture is definitely of the Respect Your Elders type.
- If you visit someone’s home or even an office of some kind, you are generally expected to take off your shoes. Many homes will even have slippers for you!
- Czechs have a different sense of physical space than we do in the US. They don’t mind being right up on ya.
- Prague was filled with playgrounds, parks and beautiful outdoor places to relax with families and children.
- Czech love dogs. You see people all over Prague walking their dogs.
- Theatre & musical performances are very big in Prague. Unfortunately, only the wealthy and tourists like me can afford to go. This is what my shuttle driver told me anyway. I figure he is probably a good source being an average working Czech.