A weekend in Prague (for travel bloggers and creatives)

A weekend in Prague (for travel bloggers and creatives)

A welcome cool breeze skimmed across the Vltava, as dozens of paddle-boat revellers and a few small ferries floated past me on excursions along the Prague waterfront. I’d arrived ahead of Cooper for our weekend in Prague for travel bloggers – or, with a creative content twist; you see, we’re on our way to another annual TBEX conference, and I couldn’t be more excited to be in the Czech Republic.

It was Friday afternoon about 6.30pm and after a scorching hot day fighting through crowds for a glimpse at the city’s famously pretty highlights, I’d stumbled into a stunning yet quite secluded spot by the water. The place was otherwise anonymous, crudely labelled ‘Riverside Bar’ on a blackboard out the back of the place.

The shabby-chic joint served cold drinks and was streaming chilled House tunes – right up my alley. Similar name as a luxe and expensive Brisbane counterpart (that admittedly I love), yet cheap, romantic, less sweaty and overlooking the city’s medieval structures including the Charles Bridge. With a flavoursome gin and tonic sparkling in my eyes and the sun beginning its descent across the Czech Republic, it occurred to me, this is the life. I could be an a$$ and hashtag it ‘blessed’, but…

For the first time in months, I’d say, I sat without thought, just observing in peace.

It’s been so so busy this year and I need this weekend in Prague. I don’t like to overuse the word ‘busy’ – we tout a saying in my team at work about how ‘busy’ has become an excuse, often meaning that actually, you believe your ‘stuff’ to be more important than someone else’s, when often we have no idea what others are up against, nor do we remember to be respectful of it.

That said, while I’ve tried hard to balance things, it’s been tough, and writing or blogging for myself and for this lifestyle and travel space is the last thing I have energy for. Yet, it’s in my heart. And away from the hustle and bustle of Prague’s overcrowded tourist centre (not to mention my ‘other’ routine life), yet with its best bits in my line of sight, I felt inspired again.

While I moan about the crowds (apparently Prague is the fifth most visited city in Europe), I must admit to having a moment on Friday afternoon. I was wandering the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage listed Old Town Square, and as I gazed around me at the colourful, historical architecture and felt energy of so many who had come before, my breath caught and tears came to my eyes. It was rather overwhelming and took me by surprise. Probably nothing to do with being deliriously tired following a work social the night before and a 6am flight.

In all seriousness, it’s as beautiful as I remember it, and more than that, how lucky are we to have the chance to be in such places, so far from home?

Beyond the selfie sticks and those taking more photos of themselves than their surroundings, the depths of crowds attempting to enter popular areas, and hundreds of tourist groups dripping in deep-fried ice-cream-stuffed doughnut cones (yep it’s a thing, although not even Czech, as I understand it), there is palpable magic in this city of red rooftops and a thousand spires, wooded hills, romantic views and influence from generations gone by.

Founded in the latter part of the 9th Century, Prague became the seat of the kings of Bohemia. The city flourished during the 14th Century and for hundreds of years was a multi-ethnic city with an influential Czech, German and Jewish population.

From 1939 the country was occupied by the Nazis and while Prague’s structures remained relatively undamaged during the war, most Jews either fled the city or were killed in the Holocaust. The German population was then expelled in the aftermath of WWII.

Most of us remember the Prague that was under Communist rule for over 40 years, rarely visited by tourists until after the Velvet Revolution on 17 November 1989. Freedom meant a huge economic boom and an influx of delighted visitors from then on, which only increased after the Czech Republic joined the European Union in 2004.

As mentioned, we’re destined for TBEX Europe 2018, in a place I’d never thought to have visited, Ostrava. That said, as travel bloggers and explorers we are very excited to see somewhere new! Preparing and in Prague for the weekend, Cooper and I wanted our schedule to be part (re)discovery, part relaxing, part planning for networking and the conference (which I blogged about for the TBEX Events site recently).

We stayed about twenty minutes walk from the city centre, at Hotel Kinsky Gardens in a quiet Prague neighbourhood, yet with the convenience of supermarkets, shopping mall, pubs, a delicious tapas restaurant called Miro, and tram stop not five minutes’ walk away.

The river precinct I came to love (including the ‘Riverside Bar’, gorgeous new waterfront restaurant opening this week Kalina Kampa and Belle Vida Cafe) was just ten minutes walk from our accommodation, and is perfect for anyone who has done the central Prague tourist bit and is happy to indulge in the views away from the chaos.

On Saturday night I hosted my very first TBEX meet-up (this is my sixth TBEX conference so I’m excited to have taken this step).

We met up with four locals to Prague and five visitors from as far as America, Costa Rica and another conference attendee coming from England like us. We ran the plans through the conference Facebook group and Katie (an American expat living in Prague) chose a cool pub on a hill with a view for our group’s meet-up, and Prague local Veronika assisted with finding an impromptu dining option so we could all hang out and try local cuisine.

It was immensely fun to meet other travel bloggers and content creators in Prague this weekend and part of the reason we’re so pleased we continue to develop our little corner of the web here, for love and a hobby.

Prague is easy to do as a city break – you can walk around the old town, to the castle, up to view points, catch trams to gardens, boat-ride around the Vltava, enjoy a little jazz, join a free walking tour and get cultural in museums.


A weekend in Prague: practical tips

Be careful of taxis, they can be unregulated and rip you off. Go with a pre-booked service or use the trams and trains as they are very well run and cheap, but DO buy a ticket as if you get caught without one or if you have not validated it the fines are hefty.

Try the beer (it’s the home of Pilsner, after all), and as always, get out of the tourist areas of a cheaper experience when it comes to food and dining.

Take your money out of an ATM that’s associated with a bank and be careful of the exchange outlets that say ‘zero commission’ (usually they are hiking up hidden charges).

Importantly, be curious. In our case, this weekend in Prague was for us as travel bloggers: an unexpected low-key treat and reminder of how much I’ve gained from travel – the people met, surprising and inspired moments, lands wandered at early (or late) hours, and the fulfilment that pursuing creativity provides. We are lucky, but I too am grateful.

Onwards to Ostrava…

Got a question on where to stay, how to get around or things to do in Prague? Drop us a line in the comments – we love to chat and share

Spanked by a witch and pouring pints – only travelling in Prague and Dresden

Spanked by a witch and pouring pints – only travelling in Prague and Dresden

Spanked by a witch in Dresden; Pouring a pint in Prague.

Travelling in Prague and Dresden with Expat Explore travellivelearn.comWho was spanked by a witch in Dresden? It could only happen while travelling in Prague and Dresden…

We were up, packed and served breakfast by 8am yesterday, ‘day 5’ of our great Expat Explore 26-day Europe adventure. After saying a final goodbye to the baby bunnies who reside at the Plus Berlin hostel/hotel we were on the road again, this time headed for the small German city of Dresden, then to Prague (exciting!).

Dresden (Germany) is only a couple of hours drive from Berlin and proved to be a truly beautiful little place. Evidently it was bombed heavily (and quite controversially) right near the end of WWII. Consequently most of the city has been rebuilt or restored, but charred stones and remnants on buildings still evidence signs of this sad period.

The main city square is a bustling cafe and pub type precinct, set amongst gorgeous old buildings and cathedrals. There’s a river that runs through the centre and several pretty bridges linking across it. Many street performers and characters line the area, and we encountered a rather amusing witch who was dancing with a ‘mini’ doll version of herself (creepy).

My lovely fiance, Cooper, dropped by to say hello (so I could take a photo) and was promptly poked and spanked with her broomstick, much to the hilarity of the crowd watching! A gorgeous stop if you’re ever in the neighbourhood, although I’m not sure about the ‘Erotic Car Wash’ that I saw a sign for on the way into the town centre – sounds more like something you’d expect in Japan, not Germany, but then again…

By around 5.30pm we had finally arrived in Prague (Czech Republic), most of us first-time visitors so eagerly craning our necks around each corner of the bus trying to spot the beautiful landscapes that this city is renowned for. We were excited to see that the bus pulled up outside a very nice little Ibis Hotel (Hotel Ibis Praha Mala Strana) which has turned out to be fantastic accommodation – contemporary, clean, well appointed and located right near public transport and a shopping centre with supermarket (critical for supplies when you’re travelling on a budget).

Travelling in Prague and Dresden with Expat Explore travellivelearn.com

During the evening Expat Explore guide, Ali, took us into the main section of Prague’s centre. The clouds had finally cleared and the late afternoon setting sun cast a glorious light over the enchanting city which is famous for its beauty as well as probably the most peaceful revolution in history – aka The Velvet Revolution (1989) which saw the overthrow of the communist government that had ruled since the end of WWII. We explored the Old Town, across famous Charles Bridge, down into the ‘new town’ and stopped at 8pm with another several thousand people to watch the famous Old Town Hall Tower & Astronomical Clock‘s chiming performance.

Prague’s popular music, culture and beer venues beckoned on Wednesday night too, and the group divided to play at various notable venues around town including the fabulous Beer Factory where customers can pour their own beers at each booth, and for only the equivalent of about €2 per pint; Karlovy Lazne, the biggest music club in Europe – five levels high, the simply fabulous Agharta Jazz Centrum, and Bily Konicek Restaurant (located in a stunning 12th century medieval cellar, one of the oldest houses on the Old Town Square and popular for its awesome jazz shows 7 nights a week).

Today on our ‘free day’ most of us had our sights set on Prague Castle, one of the largest castles in the world (the largest according to the Guinness Book of Records). The stunning structure dates back to the 9th century and was expanded several times until second half of the 18th century.

The castle itself also houses a complex of sights including the St. Vitus Cathedral and the St. George’s Basilica. We wandered around the area for the morning before heading back towards the Old Town on foot. Prague is actually quite easy to navigate on foot, but if you do get tired (as we did) the public transport system is very efficient, inexpensive and easy to navigate.

Travelling in Prague and Dresden with Expat Explore travellivelearn.com

Another ‘must’ in Prague – pay the mere fee of CZK Kč70 and walk up the tower above Charles Bridge. This idea came as a suggestion to us during our walking tour of the city, and at first we thought the experience was only a small level set above the city in a tower room that had been decorated with old Royal attire and furniture… until we discovered more stairs leading up to an outdoor area – glorious in the sunshine and worthwhile for the photo opportunities alone.

Evidently the city is stunning, and the people although a little reserved have been (in our experience) friendly and helpful. I was assisted in my first foreign beauty related transaction (try explaining that you need blonde hair toner to someone who doesn’t speak English – we were successful though!); and on a totally frivolous note, we added to our TGI Fridays tally now having dined in Prague (actually it was one of the nicer of our dining experiences compared with those at TGIs in Tokyo, New York and London… where will be next? ;-)

Travelling in Prague and Dresden with Expat Explore travellivelearn.com

So far this trip has been brilliant and has included the right mix of adventure, information, history and even ‘free time’ to do as we please. The accommodation and food has been great too – honestly couldn’t have asked for anything to be done better up until this point. We’re very lucky that Expat Explore introduced this new 26-day trip for the first time in 2011. The best part? We still have three weeks to go!

Tour guide Ali tip: a few words to remember for use in Prague…

  • prosim (pronounced pro-seem) = please
  • deukuji (dyek-oo-yee) = thank you
  • dobrý den (dob-ree den) = hello
  • pivo (peevo) = beer
By Sarah Blinco | View our travel galleries on Flickr