a "lonely" corner in touristic Prague

For me, Prague feels like a pure European maiden, embodying all the characteristic features of medieval Europe yet exuding a classical and sophisticated beauty, with bold Western elements intertwined with softness and hidden corners, as if it harbors many mysterious beauties in its soul.

One cool morning, we left Frankfurt eager to meet the heart of the Czech Republic – the beautiful capital city of Prague. Through the familiar GoEuro website, we booked two Flixbus tickets for 25 Euros each, traveling straight from Frankfurt to Prague in about six hours. Flixbus and Euroline are two popular and reasonably priced bus companies for traveling across Europe. Euroline might be a bit cheaper at around 20-23 Euros per ticket. However, for convenience and timing, we chose Flixbus, enjoying the upper deck seats. Long-distance buses in Europe often feature double-decker designs, and despite this, they remain sleek and flexible.

After enduring six hours on the bus with a pile of potato chips, fresh fruits, and smoked meats we bought in advance, we found ourselves standing at Prague’s Florence bus station. Contemplating calling an Uber for affordability, a Czech taxi driver caught our eye, beckoning us with a wink. Tired and eager to reach our hostel quickly, we jumped into his dusty-looking five-seater. The driver seemed playful and youthful, striking up conversations with us and freely blasting cool hip-hop music. We nodded along to the exciting beats, praising his taste in music. However, moments later, we realized that he not only had a good taste in music but also drove like a character from Fast and Furious. Prague’s streets, although quaint and sometimes narrow, witnessed the Czech driver’s freestyle driving, as if the highways were devoid of other travelers. The journey from the bus station to the hostel was not too far since they were both located in the city center, yet we found ourselves dancing to hip-hop music amid Prague’s historic streets!

Of course, that was just one wild moment, an occasional occurrence when you first encounter a place, something we’ve learned to accept during our long travels.

Throughout the rest of our time, Prague truly captivated us with its classical, yet sharp beauty, with its charming cobblestone streets lined with quaint Bohemian-style houses, forming cute and ancient rows of streets. Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, the spacious squares filled with wind flowing through ancient statues, towers, and churches… all harmoniously blend into a characteristic European architectural landscape, perfectly complemented by stone streets, old-fashioned street lamps, and historically tinted buildings. It seems like every corner, every nook and cranny of Prague, could be considered a masterpiece with perfect compositions and impressive colors, sometimes enhanced by the contrasting hues of the late afternoon sun or illuminated by streetlights.

Walking through Prague’s streets, particularly in Prague 1 district, one can, at any time, transition from a crowded square bustling with street musicians and magicians to a quiet alleyway filled with breeze or a tranquil sidewalk corner with old, peaceful thresholds, to find a peaceful stop in the heart of bustling Prague.

There were times, as we strolled through those quiet alleys, that I felt as though I were walking through the streets of medieval European capitals, with the sound of carriages and horse hooves echoing on the glistening cobblestones underfoot, the streets seemingly leading to ancient castles.

During our days in Prague, we befriended two IT guys from Morocco, who seemed rugged on the outside but were kind-hearted and incredibly patriotic. They spent hours describing their cultural traditions, foods, and traditional dances from their homeland. One evening at the hostel, they even improvised drum beats with tables and chairs, singing and teaching me to dance until we were exhausted. I hope to visit Morocco someday and reunite with those friendly guys.

At the hostel, we also made friends with two Danish students, very intelligent, quirky, and extremely open-minded. In the evening, the four of us bought beers from the local stores, mostly owned by Vietnamese, as most 24-hour food stores in central Prague are, and went for a beer-walking session. We roamed around, sipping beer, having colorful conversations, ranging from cultural histories, national traits, to even astronomy, where the Danish guys displayed remarkable knowledge. They were cheerful and modest, with incredibly unique thoughts, exuding a confident and unbridled air. They looked like ideal socialist citizens in Karl Marx’s dreams. Toobias, one of them, jokingly said, “Danish people love everyone. They don’t hate anyone.” They shared how much they enjoyed going to university in Denmark, as students are paid a salary and provided financial support for all expenses. Of course, such high social benefits result in higher costs and taxes in countries like Denmark and Sweden compared to other European countries.

After a night of partying together at the Five Stories Club – supposedly the largest club in Europe but seemed rather ordinary – we promised to explore the most famous entertainment venue in Prague nightlife: Strip Clubs.

The next night, after trying our luck at a glittering casino near the Horse Square, Tung and I took the two Danish guys to a Strip Club where men could enter for free but women had to buy tickets. This is a common practice in most Prague strip clubs. Of course, strip clubs are where female strippers perform.

Inside the club, we were overwhelmed by the pulsating music, cool atmosphere, and dazzling lights. Thanks to the Danish guys’ confident and slightly lucky demeanor, the four of us, with just enough money to buy cheap drinks, were invited to join the “party” table of some wealthy and carefree gentlemen, allowing us to watch the highly professional and sultry strip performances from a close distance. I won’t delve into the details of this exciting strip club experience, as it is a rule in Prague strip clubs not to film, photograph, or attempt to describe the scenes in detail. Just know that it was an unforgettable experience for my friends and me in the beautiful, ancient city of Prague, which transformed from a quaint, historical city by day to a vibrant, sultry city at night, offering various forms of entertainment that were both classic and legally sanctioned.

Another unforgettable experience in Prague, specifically and the Czech Republic in general, was tasting the legendary dark beer. The Czech Republic is not only famous for its top-ranked European beauties but also renowned for its traditional beers. Among the Czech beers we tried, we especially enjoyed the dark beer. Czech dark beer has a light and smooth alcohol content, a rich malt flavor without being overpowering, giving off a sweet and mellow aroma as if it still retains the pure essence of malt.

I’ll also never forget one afternoon in Prague when Tung and I walked over seven kilometers from one side of the Charles Bridge to the other, only to find ourselves lost in a tiny café nestled quietly in a clean and deserted residential area. There were only a few simple wooden tables and chairs arranged in front of the café’s small courtyard. A Czech barista, with a gentle smile, served us, looking somewhat shy. At that café, we struck up conversations with an elderly Czech lady with graying hair. She initiated conversations with us. Despite coming from three different backgrounds – two countries, two cultures, two generations, two styles – we shared so many views and thoughts about life, family, and even some political and historical stories, immigration, and racial discrimination.

I’ll also forever keep in my memoir those vivid images of Prague’s talented street performers: a quintessential Czech girl with short, dark orange hair playing the violin with both delicate and intense melodies; an elderly man with flowing platinum hair, dressed in a black suit and hat, elegantly playing a soulful saxophone; a gifted jazz singer with a rich, powerful voice; a young girl with golden hair, wearing a black fedora, her hands dancing over the drumbeats; and a handsome street magician with striking blue eyes, skillful hands, and a playful, humorous face.

I will also always remember our second visit to Prague during the same European trip. We ventured into the quiet, pristine area of Prague 5, far from the tourist crowds of Prague 1, and savored authentic Czech cuisine in local restaurants frequented solely by Czechs. By this second visit, after traveling through many countries and spending a considerable amount of time in a small Czech town, we had begun to grasp basic Czech, allowing us to order food without relying on English, unlike our first visit to Prague. This was a truly enriching experience—visiting a city twice in the same trip, first navigating it with English, and then returning with enough local language skills to communicate more authentically.

This is the Prague I hold in my heart, with all its beauty and cherished memories, carefully preserving every precious moment from the places we have been through.

Enjoy this post in Tiếng Việt 😉


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