We travel a lot. Much of it is based on deals that we find, timing and synchronicity. We aren't confined by only two, three, fours weeks to squeeze travel dreams in, so we can go with the flow and let plans unfold as they are meant to. When friends and family members ask us "Where are you going next?" we often don't know what to say because we don't know ourselves. We do, however, keep an informal dream list. It includes top places where – if the price and timing are right – we'll book in a heartbeat. Prague has been on that list for as long as we've been keeping a list. A long time.
So here we are, fulfilling a dream of dreams in stop #3, Prague, in the middle of our zig-zagging travel adventure. As has been the case over the last several weeks, there is so much to share. We're doing so much that it is difficult to find the time to write, much less decide which aspect to post about. Down the road, we'll be writing more thoroughly about different parts of this entire journey. For now, we're providing a taste of our experiences.
In our last installment, we shared a quick day-to-day look at our experiences in Hawaii. Prior to that, we posted an overview of our week in Washington D.C. Today, we want to give you our take on a great day – a single day in this place, Prague, where we immediately decided we needed to switch things up and – no joke – put down the guide book
Why switch things up?
I don't know exactly what we were thinking prior to arriving in Prague. Being avid travelers and having done our homework, we knew long ago that the "undiscovered Prague" no longer exists. That ship had sailed, and we went into travel planning mode with eyes wide open. Flash forward to our first full day in Prague, and there we were visiting the most discovered attraction of all attractions – Charles Bridge.
Yikes. We found a huge crowd gathered around a guy playing "Memory" on an accordion. Another vendor – in the form of the ubiquitous "human statue" – was mesmerizing tourists with his ability to remain perfectly still. One edge of the bridge was occupied by a guy drawing caricatures of enthralled visitors. At this point, it's not even April – not even shoulder season, and the crowds are mind-numbing.
Fighting exhaustion and still smarting from having fallen victim to a police scam (more on all that in a future post), we made our way off the bridge and to Old Town Square. We find no reprieve. For as far as we could see, the huge square was filled with group after group. Clumps of about 20 people – each either listening to their leader describe an attraction or following their leader's marker (a colorful flag, a wacky umbrella) as the group snaked their way through the mass of people.
This was our early reality in Prague; this is why we needed to revisit our plan.
So, to be fair, our snap rating of Prague was probably a "B" – not bad, right? I want to say we weren't disappointed, but we were – even though we kind of knew what to expect. In truth, we don't fully mind this kind of experience; it's authentic because it is what is happening – the reality of the moment. That makes it cool. It's just not what we hoped for.
We wanted Prague – of all places – to get an immediate "A" rating. But everything is so surprisingly polished, upscale even. At every turn, at least in the main part of the city, the rough edges that we love to discover and dig into are minimal. And then there are those crowds.
We're experienced enough to know what we need to do to "make it work." We don't live in woulda, coulda, shoulda mode – we just do – we make things happen (except maybe when visiting Patong Beach in Thailand where we stayed in our room the entire time, but that's a different story for a different day). So, the next day, we challenged ourselves to seek out a more gratifying experience.
The No People, No Polish, No Meat Experiment.
First off, we got up way before sunrise to experience the city without the floods of people and to see the charming streets of Bohemia come to life. On this particular morning, we immediately "got" Prague. We simply needed to see it stripped down and quiet.
Later in the day, we went on a long, random run deep into the different outlying neighborhoods. We saw places that hadn't been polished up. We got a better glimpse into how people move and live.
We ended this long day on another off the grid mission - a mission to find great vegetarian food in the midst of a goulash and schnitzel-palooza. The stellar meal we found may have just been the most welcome contradiction of the day. We had one of the best meat-free meals ever. Yes, in Prague.
For us, Prague is hard to love without some "adjustments." Even so, we like it – a lot. Rather than sitting around and griping about what we don't like, we're doing our part to make this experience as satisfying as possible. It's working in a big way, and, really, it's not too tough – even in the center of the city. I mean, come on, how can you not like this setting:
We just needed to tweak the details of our visit a bit. Strange how this experience mirrors life. You have to be an active part of making it work for you.
When have you had to remodel your mindset in order to more fully enjoy a place?