Prague, March 2023
Olya and I went to Prague for a couple of days, below are a few short notable things from that trip.
The first thing I want to mention is not about Czech Republic but about Germany. I probably won’t ever stop marvelling at how terrible the railway system works here. The information system in Germany’s railway stations tells you exactly in which section of the platform to wait in order to get the correct carriage. Very convenient! Except the cases when the train arrives in reverse order and you have to run from one end of the platform to the other in 2 minutes before the train departs. No carriage with the number on your ticket? Well, sometimes it happens, passengers will somehow sort it out. You have bought two tickets for neighbouring seats, but the train with a different carriage arrives and now you are sitting across the aisle four rows from each other. Who cares?
The second thing, which was really highlighted to me, is not about Prague, but about Berlin. Berlin is, without exaggeration, — the dirtiest city in Europe I’ve ever been to, whereas Prague, at least its centre, is one of the cleanest cities. In Berlin, you slowly get used to the trash, cigarette butts and other traces of human life scattered everywhere, but it is especially noticeable after you have travelled to other European cities.
I spent quite a lot of time in Prague in 2014 and 2017, therefore this time we didn’t do much sightseeing (though, apparently, we went to Charles Bridge and Staroměstské náměstí) and mostly focused on the local cuisine. The most popular local meal is a pork knee but its disadvantage is that it has almost the same taste everywhere. However, pork ribs have a specific authentic recipe in each restaurant. The number 1 pork ribs, in my personal opinion, are cooked in the restaurant Lavička. They are marinated in a honey sauce and served with horseradish, barbecue sauce and crispy croutons. Delicious caramelised crust, soft tender meat that separates easily from the bone… mmm… ich mag das. You should eat this meal oooonly with your hands, it’s muuuch tastier in this way :)
The first time I tasted these ribs in this place was during my first visit to Prague 9 years ago and since then the taste hasn’t changed a bit. But it’s times like these when you don’t want there to be any changes.
Despite the fact that pork knees have relatively the same taste in all places, here I also have my own favourite place from 2014, it’s the restaurant U Balbínů. Here they serve this meal with pickled onions and cucumbers. Pork meat, to my taste, is too fatty and the pickles here create a perfect balance: on the one hand they suppress this sticky fatty taste left in your mouth by the meat, but on the other hand the meat eliminates the acidity created by the pickles, in case you ate too many of them. The knee itself here is literally enormous, it may easily weigh more than 1 kilogram, so, it’s safe to order for two.
To add to that, when talking about local food it would be a crime not to mention the Wenceslas sausage — a hot-dog in which they use a chopped meat sausage instead of regular one. Yummy. Earlier, in 2014, in Prague’s downtown there were plenty of kiosks where such hot-dogs were served. These days, for some reason, they’ve been removed and you now can only find Wenceslas sausages in a few small restaurants where this street food is to go.
In 2014 in Prague’s downtown there was an obscenely large number of currency exchange kiosks with predatory Euro to Czech Krone exchange rates. Now they also exist, but their number has reduced significantly, I stumbled upon only 2 of these, where the exchange rate was about 16 Krones to 1 Euro whereas the official exchange rate is about 23. The fact that the number of such scummy exchangers has been reduced is a big advantage, but tourists still have to be careful.
In Prague’s downtown there are still a lot of Thai massage salons with prices starting from 9.99 Euros per session. I can’t imagine what kind of service they provide for this price, highly unlikely to be anything valuable. Apart from such fishy salons you can find those where a massage costs more or less an adequate amount of money. For example, in 5 minutes by foot from the Wenceslas Square (in other words, the heart of the city) an hour of a good Thai oil-massage costs 1000-1200 Krones (50-60 Euros) and in the salon Leela, 4-5 tram-stops from the downtown, 700-800 Krones. By the way, from the 2014 prices Leela’s have remained almost the same.