Travel

Labour Day Weekend in Prague

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Our AirBnb Disaster

Our little getaway to Prague, the Paris of Eastern Europe, didn’t start off so great due to what we are calling an AirBnb “bait and switch”.

Looking back the warning signs where all there, we just didn’t know any better and are frankly too trusting. Leading up to the holiday,  the host didn’t reply to my messages. The address didn’t show up on Google Maps. He had multiple listings and they were good.  However, the only other review of the place we chose mentioned a last minute change.  But it was still a positive review so we felt comfortable.  Lastly the host offered to pick us up at the airport, which is rare I would say.

It was only then 10 minutes into the car ride to the Old Town (or so we thought), that he told us he had to take us to another apartment.  He said not to worry, it was a short distance to old town; only 3 or 4 train stops. His list of excuses were long.  He had put the wrong price on the listing. He said it was impossible to find something in that area at the price we had actually agreed too. He was losing money because he had to put us in an more expensive listing.  He told is he didn’t own the listing; he manages several.  He had known about this for 4 days.

When we pulled up to an apartment about 3km from where we had wanted to stay, things got a little awkward and hostile.  We made him (and his gf) wait while we called Airbnb to sort it out.  We stayed there that night since it was already getting late and after many lengthy phone calls to AirBnb and having to ‘speak to a manager’ there, we were checked into a hotel close to Old Town all paid for my Airbnb.

Although I was anxious and felt I was getting the runaround by AirBnb on some of the phone calls and at one point really thought we were getting screwed, once the Experience Team was on the case, we were well taken care of.  Our money was refunded, and they put us in a decent hotel which was not cheap.

Since it was a holiday weekend, there was scarcely any AirBnB listings and other hotels were miles above the 150 euros a night where we stayed. We even got a generous Airbnb voucher to boot. We might not be so happy once we get the phone bill but I’m convinced it was worth it as after that was dealt with our holiday was on an exponential upswing.

We met up with Amy and Nick and their friends Chris and Lindsay.   Although our first impressions of the city were soured, we were happy these friendly and fun Americans were there to help us enjoy our time.

PicMonkey-Collage9For the full two days we had, we did a lot if walking around Old and New town.  We saw the major attractions: Astronomical Clock, Charles Bridge, Old Square, the main shopping street, The Castle, the Dancing Building and in need of seriously warming up on a very cold Saturday, we went to the Gastronomy Museum (not exactly recommended unless you have nothing more to do)

IMG_8765pic-collage-6Impressions and highlights in short:

  • Charles Bridge and most of Old Town were swarmed with so many tourists and especially tour groups. I don’t even want to know what it’d be like in summer.  It made us want to avoid the main attractions in fear of being swallowed by the hoards of people
  • Food is as you’d expect, hearty and mainly meat and potatoes.  We did have some great meals – see below for recommendations
  • I’m not a beer drinker but you can’t go to Prague and not have beer. Especially when it’s literally cheaper than bottled water and at one place we went too, cheaper than tap water!!  Thanks to good company we made our rounds across the city tasting multiple beers.

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  • Since we were out in the outskirts for the first night, we had to use the metro, which is incredibly deep underground. The escalators there were the longest I’ve ever seen in my life.  My pet peeve with the metro was that you could only buy tickets at the machine (despite there being a window and an employee right there).  The machine also only takes coins! A trip is about 23Kc. Not cool when the bank machines give out nothing smaller than 1000Kc notes. Even more annoying is the fact there are no change machines and the employees at the news stand right in the metro gripe when you want to buy water with a 1000Kc bill after having asked for change.
  • The architecture was very unique and beautiful.  The cobbled streets really made the old town quite charming but difficult to walk.

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  • My favourite building was the Municipal House.  The interior had been beautifully restored to its original Art Deco glory.  It also had a really cool looking bar.  We didn’t have the chance to stop in for a drink.

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  • There were a lot of dudes.  Packs of bachelor party goers filled the streets at night.  One unfortunate groom to be was forced to have dinner in ass-less leather chaps and thong.  We went to the five story club and as expected that too was packed with dudes.  I’d hate to be a single girl there unless you really wanted to have your pick of there litter.

Places we ate and drank in Prague

  • Hemmingway Bar is worth a separate mention as I wish we had discovered it earlier in the holiday. I completely agree with it’s position as #1 restaurant/bar on TripAdvisor. It was the more unique, swanky bar I’ve ever been too.  A 20 page menu listed all the cocktails and individuals shots available.  A separate book listed all the different rums.  It wasn’t cheap by Czech standards but hellava lot cheaper than Paris and the atmosphere, service and presentation were bar-none.  Waiters wore bow ties, suspenders and vests.  It felt like a jaunt back in time to the 20s.  David’s Hemmingway’s New Fashioned came with a beautiful crystal glass and a book which he opened to reveal a flask.  My creme brûlée cocktail came in a creme brûlée ramekin and truly tasted divine.  The other two cocktails we had were equally tasty and inventive.  I’d probably consider doing back to Prague just for this bar.

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  • Karlovy Lazne, the five story club was pretty epic. Is it sad we enjoyed the ‘oldies’ floor too much? Or sad that the oldies floor comprised of 80s and 90s hits.  The floors are divided into the radio hits, hiphop, chill out and there’s the ice bar.  The ice bar was cool. Pun intended.  I liked drinking out of the ice cups until they started to leak.  It was a fantastic way to end our trip even it it meant going to bed at 3am and having to get up at 630 to catch our flight.

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  • U Tří růží:  this 4 storey restaurant had its own brand of beer which was the only beer I actually enjoyed drinking.  David ordered an Absinthe. His first tourist mistake was asking if it was “real” (since true absinthe is legally sold in Prague). Then when it arrived neat in a low tumbler, he asked the waitress if it would come with a water and sugar. To which is chuckled and walked away, probably murmuring ‘stupid tourist’ under her breath. So Chris and David were Forced to nurse their 40ml of absinthe, probably inhaling the 70-proof fumes more than drinking it.
  • Indian Jewel:  getting sick if the meat and potatoes, we opted for Indian. Again thanks to TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet, this place was a gem. Friendly and quick service, cozy and nicely decorated restaurant with arched ceilings. They served the best butter chicken I’ve ever tasted in my life.  It was incredibly rich and creamy and portions were very satisfying
  • U Kroka:  dinner was another hearty serving of Czech fair. We were the only tourists in the packed homey restaurant which I always think is a good sign.  David had goulash and I had a chicken steak (which was pan fried chicken topped with a local ‘smelly cheese’).  It was filling and delicious. (group photo credit: Amy at the cityofguldanlight.blogspot.com)

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  • Krčma:  our first Czech meal and not knowing what Czech food was like, the boys were a little disappointed with their really dried our ribs.  I liked the goulash. And we sampled a mix of appetizers that had mixed reviews. The place was packed so we were glad to have a reservation.

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  • Cukr káva limonáda:  Nice little lunch spot near the Castle.  We had crepes, lemonade and delicious coffee.
  • Le Mistral: we enjoyed a light lunch here comprised of two soups and a spread of vegetable pates.  It’s described as a modern bistro and the atmosphere was light and airy. My pumpkin soup lacked flavour but David’s tomato soup was spot-on.  I enjoyed a juice of the day to get more veggies in me.

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  • The Beer Museum: which isn’t really a museum but a bar where you can sample a multitude of beers.  A wide selection and variety allowed us to find the ones we liked and didn’t liked. It was just too bad that it was so smoky.  Unfortunately they have not banned smoking in bars so we stunk like smoke for most of the weekend.

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All in all it was a fun weekend getaway and frankly, we didn’t need any more time there.  It definitely wouldn’t have been as much fun without the other four.  So grateful we were able to have fun together, have funny and intelligent conversation and generally just meld together so well.  Looking forward to spending more time with them back in Paris.

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  • Hello,
    I found this old post quite helpful. I am considering some options for my September vacation and Prague is on my list.

    • Thanks for reading Maria! Glad it was helpful 🙂 Enjoy!