So I spent all this time on the train, studying a guidebook and making of list of historical things and museums to see in Prague. I’d even made a list of gluten-free friendly and vegetarian restaurants to try. Once there, I got on the tram, and two stops later, saw a sign for a vegan restaurant, and promptly got off.
Which is a lot how my trip in Prague was: despite all my attempts to plan, sites and sounds and places kept distracting me. Even with a map, I found I couldn’t walk in a straight line, or stick to a schedule. Which worked out: the unexpected captured me.
Honestly, I had some reservations about Prague. A particularly bad ex of mine loved the city, and so I wasn’t sure what to expect— or how to leave my baggage behind, so to speak. I knew I wanted to see the Mucha museum, scope out the gargoyles on churches, and walk over the Charles Bridge at least once. Also, check out the Kafka museum. But, unlike some cities I’ve visited, I hadn’t actually thought about visiting Prague before— there was no “must see” destination in mind. I wasn’t sure what to anticipate.
I had not excepted the city to be so beautiful.
The first restaurant I stopped at was the all-vegan Loving Hut— which served food buffet-style, and luckily, had everything (gluten-free) labeled. Bliss! Also, I had the most deletable gluten-free dessert there: a raw, rich chocolate and nut confection, dusted with cacao, the type of thing that must be slowly savored. Its sweetness made up for all the scents I’ve walked past, coming from Czech bakeries. However, that meal was the highlight of my first day.
To be blunt, I spent a better part of my first day there cheerfully getting lost, accidentally happening on touristy places, and taking photos. I wound up in a fairly touristy spot for dinner— a place called Švejk Restaurant. They had a gluten-free menu, though their veggies choices were super limited. Unfortunately, it was also the type of place that had accordion players you had to pay to go away. This is probably what led me to try absinthe at the place a few doors down, afterward.
Saturday, I was more in my element: I had figured out the map and tram system somewhat, and I went to St. Vitus Cathedral and Prague Castle, and became obsessed with taking photos of gargoyles. Something about Gothic church architecture— all the spires, the narrow roofs. Going up into the tower to get a better look at the cathedral was worth the climb— but did kinda give me vertigo, looking down.
A good friend of mine once described as the place he thought “beauty came from.” And I agree: the Baroque details, the countless sweeping spires, the river— I alternated between taking photos of everything and just finding place to stop and take it all in.
Later, a friend had offered to show me around, and I’m quite glad he did. The swinging of the Prague Metronome was interesting— a giant metronome, built on the foundation where a giant statue of Lenin had once stood. The place where time ticks forward.
And time does move forward— though I kept trying to recognize places from my ex’s photos, it was as if we had been in two different cities. We had parted ways long ago— it is just hard to accept that you’ll never cross paths with someone again, even in such an intangible way.
The most memorable public sculpture was a fountain, actually— of two men urinating poetry into the shape of the Czech Republic. And I admit: I don’t really get it. It seems like a weird literary take on the peeing boy (Manneken Pis) statue in Brussels.
Also, a great vegetarian place to check out is Maitrea (there is a sister cafe called Clear Head.) While it’s in a very touristy part of town, it’s two floors. Go to the underground level— it’s calm, cozy, with fantastic lighting and atmosphere. My roasted vegetables and cream sauce were delish, and my companion’s burrito looked wonderful. (And yes, all the options— vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free— are marked.)
Sunday, I spent wandering around, going to the small museums I had missed: the ones for Alphonse Mucha and Franz Kafka. Mucha’s was absolutely beautiful, a lovely collection of his Art Nouveau posters, and there was even a nifty English-language video.
Franz Kakfa’s museum I was deeply impressed by, though. Between the English and German, the letters and photos, the explanations and the sound/light exhibits, I thought they captured the idea of Kafka-esque very well. My favorite room was the one full of filing cabinets, floor to ceiling, with a few drawers pulled out, to reveal documents and info about his life.
And a final note on food: in the end, I discovered that there are piles of Asian restaurants, in particular Vietnamese, in Prague. You could argue that the food isn’t really “authentic,” but whatever. It’s just as authentic as the “real Czech food” I saw advertised all around the Charles Bridge. And when you’re a hungry, gluten-free vegetarian, a bowlful of vegetables, tofu and rice noodles is an authentically lovely sight.
Since I’m only an hour and a half away by train, I am definitely going back— this time with a map to Kafka’s Prague, a nose for good veggie places, and no baggage.