The move from Croatia and small town vibe Split to metropolitan Prague provided a bit of a shock to me. When I left my Santa Monica apartment to travel the world as part of Remote Year with 52 co-nomads, I knew I was expecting a change. I was uprooting my routine and way of living and trading it in to work remotely for a year, traveling across 12 different cities over a year’s time period. What I didn’t expect was how quickly one can get accustomed a certain pace of life – the beat of the city. After just one month living seaside, being in the middle of Prague proved to be a bit jarring at first.
Quickly enough, Prague ended up feeling like “home.” (Again – shocking how quickly one adapts to change! Here is some reading that notes that successful adaptability occurs when one is able to form new expectations around their new conditions.) I noticed this when I went away for a week and came back, turning the corner on the street I lived on instantly provided a feeling of comfort and ease. I was returning to something I knew.
It’s definitely the prettiest home I’ve ever had. Every square is lined with beautiful architecture and the skyline is littered with pointy towers from castles and round dome church tops. The Vltava runs through the middle of the city, hugged by green parks on one end and the old town on the other, making for amazing sunset and sunrise views.
A Bit on the People + Culture
I went on two unique walking tours while in Prague – one that described how the communist party came to rule in Prague, and then forcefully stayed in place via Soviet military force following the Prague Spring, and the other was organized by a non-profit that helps bring awareness to the homeless population within Prague.
During the tour that reviewed the communist regime in Prague, I found it particularly interesting because instead of just telling you the history, we actually went to the places where the events took place. We saw the square where the results of the election in 1938 were announced, which fairly elected the communist party into parliament; we saw the main square where the Soviet tanks occupied Prague during the Prague Spring; we saw the street in which the student demonstration that led to the final demise of the communist regime occurred in November 1989. Being able to actually be in these places and see where a beaten and bruised leader of the Republic (beaten and bruised by Stalin) addressed the public and let them know that communism was here to stay in 1969 after some hopes of reducing its presence allows for context and familiarity of a city that is rarely experienced.
The after effects of the communist regime are still strong – in the 70s and 80s, people didn’t talk to each other just for the sake of talking. Chit chat and gossip didn’t occur, as anyone could be a spy for the Soviets and anything that you say could be seen as treason against the government, throwing you into jail. Instead, people picked up dogs as pets, as dogs couldn’t rat you out.
This distrust in people is still apparent in the older generations in in the city – people aren’t overly nice and eager to talk to you- they mainly keep to themselves. We were warned by our city team that it doesn’t mean that the people are not nice, but they just take awhile to warm up. Being able to form that connection from the past to present behavior reminds me, always, that people have a story behind who they are today.
Learning about that story and brining in that perspective of why someone is a certain way is what helps each of us grow. Being month 2 of our year together (I am currently traveling as part of Remote Year), it’s definitely more accessible to learn more about the people behind or under the surface, whereas our first month was all about “name, age, what do you do and where are you from.” This was especially apparent during our farewell to Prague gathering which was a storytelling night, and while I unfortunately wasn’t there as I was on a work trip, I was touched to hear how honest people were with their stories. There were some incredibly personal experiences that people shared, including losing a son, finding out that they had cancer, a past sexual assault. While there was a smattering of people who shared these deep stories, I’m confident that we all have these demons in our closet. The bravest felt comfortable enough to share them with us, but having that sense of comfort within our group just in month 2 is so humbling and special. I’m comforted to know that this is a place of only love and zero judgement.
The second walking tour I went on was actually led by someone who is homeless. Prague has a large homeless population. At the peak of his career, Ivan, our tour guide, was part of the Prague National Concert Hall as a composer and musical coordinator. He was commissioned to put on a play in Greece so he left for the summer, during which drinking and general debauchery ensued since practices occurred until 2 in the morning, and when he came back, the fall season of his regular job already started, meaning that he missed it. He was paid well for the Greece work, so he lived off of those earnings and kept up with his heavy drinking lifestyle. Then, shortly afterward, his mother passed away, so alcohol became his tool to cope. He was kicked out of his apartment and homeless for the first time at 44. In and out of the streets for the next years, he was still homeless when he gave us this small walking tour of the city of the places that had special meaning to him, like the Philharmonic and the School of Music he was a student at, all while playing small pieces of music on a violin at these different sights.
I didn’t realize that he was still homeless when he was giving us the tour as he had a watch and sturdy shoes on – which again, illustrates the duality of perspectives: what someone outwardly shows us vs. what they may be struggling with internally. We are not alone in having our own personal battles, but having compassion for realizing that we all have something we are dealing with is difficult to remember, so is amazing to see in our group.
Below are my top moments in Prague.
My Top 5
Sunrise on the Charles Bridge + John Lennon Wall (x2)
Prague sunrises – I was lucky enough to see a couple of them, and they didn’t disappoint. The first sunrise was completely spontaneous, having left a nightclub at 3:30, we all decided it wasn’t that far off from 4:30 (sunrise), so we headed over to Charles Bridge to take in the view and to the John Lennon wall. The second sunrise was during summer solstice, and again involved the John Lennon wall, this time, each of us making our mark on it.
One of the best meals I’ve ever had, and definitely the best Gin and Tonic of my life. Prague was a culinary gift – we were able to dine in multiple Michelin star restaurants, but Eska definitely took the cake. It was a farm to table restaurant in an up and coming neighborhood with a tating menu to die for. I did not have a single bad bite at this restaurant. I rarely choose food as a shining experience, but this definitely DEFINITELY was a highlight. If in Prauge, this is a must.
Mucha Museum + Metronome Festival
A much-needed cultural day, my roommate and I went to the Mucha museum and later met up with our friends to go to the Metronome Festival, a local music festival in the heart of the city. I had a weird revelation in the Mucha museum when I realized that Mucha painted The Seasons, which was one of my favorite pieces of art that I stared at relentlessly for hours in another museum in a trip years ago. The detail in his works astounds me and his paintbrush makes all women more feminine, more celestial, more ethereal.
This bar, which was a labyrinth, with multiple underground rooms that gave off a cave like feel, became our go to bar for the month. The first time we went was the first Wednesday of the month and we expected to stay maybe an hour or so. That quickly changed when Bon Jovi’s It’s My Life came on, causing all of us to wake up and scream the song at the top of our lungs – and then repeat for every song that came on afterward.
You know those times when everyone is in a bad mood and then shit gets worse, so you’re certain it’s going to be a bad day? That was how this day trip started. Our train was an hour late, lunch was pushed back by hours, the Bone Church (the main attraction at Kutna Hora) really wasn’t all that it was hyped up to be. Then, you begin to see the humor in everything because you may be slightly delirious from hunger and the claustrophobia inducing caves, and all of a sudden what started as a bad day ends up being one of the best days in the month. Never have I ever laughed so hard at a game of Heads Up in my life. It’s true what they say – it’s all what you make of it and not where you are, but who you’re with.