BACK STAGE AT PEPPERMINT IGUANA HQ: Gigs, Festivals, Parties, CDs, Books, Protests, travels, photography and Cardiff City FC

Friday, September 01, 2006

PRAUGE: Party capital of Europe.... and much more

The amazing Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square

Prague. I have to say, it is one of my favourite cities. It has more amazing architecture in one place than any other city I can think of, it has a shed load of history, it has possibly the best beer in the world, it has a pretty wicked nightlife, it is still amazingly cheap and it has Absinth.

This particular visit was slightly less laid back than my visit two years ago. On that occasion I walked a million miles, around the castle, around the Jewish quarter, around the old town, around museums and art galleries, had a trip on a boat and saw ALMOST everything there is to see. We even went miles out of town to a really dodgy club called Abaton to watch the Misfits.

I was glad I had seen it all before because this visit was more about partying. The purpose of the visit? It was a Valley RAMS tour to watch Wales play their first match in the euro 2008 qualifiers. Not being into lap dancing clubs and strip joints, we did not have quite as hedonistic a time as some of the lads. We found some nice little local pubs with good local food, good beer at cheap prices and we found a nice little pub that stayed open till the early hours, had a wicked music policy and sold Absinth. Prague aint quite Amsterdam, but there is plenty to keep you going till dawn.

We did not spend the entire week in pubs, we did have a look around, Charles Bridge being an absolute must see. Last time we were there, there were psychedelic cows everywhere; they are gone now, but there is still plenty of art lying around in the streets giving the place that bohemian feel, it is after all, the capital of what was Bohemia.

There is a golden rule with football tours ‘What goes on tour, stays on tour’, so with that discreet moto in mind, here endeth the blog, and here be some photos.

Taxi for Mr Iguana!

Art is crap (or should that be crap is art?)

Hep cats 'take it to the bridge'

Northeren side of charles bridge. No matter which way you look, there is more stunning architecture than you can shake a stick at.

Rocky Orileys, 'the biggest irish pub in town'

Irish Pubs abroad not really my thing, but no matter what time of day (or night) you called in there would be City fans off our trip in there (and they did serve Strongbow!)

This is more like it, a local pub selling wicked beer and traditional Czech food, at local prices. this particular pub was a hunt for dissidents back in the 1968 prague Spring

The massive Prague Castle, the only way to get the whole thing in shot is from accross the river

Wencleslas Square, site of massive protests against the oppressive communist regime during the velvet revolution, now home to Marks and Spencers, McD*nalds, and Darlings lap dancing club. That's 'progress' for you!

Not all of the RAMS flew out, and if you are going to drive, make sure you go for 'No Mileage Charge'!

Well, that is the blog over.... but before we went I wrote an article about Prague to go in the RAMS international 'RAMzine' about the city...... here be it:

Prague is a MASSIVE city, with a population of 1.2 million people. However, virtually everything worth seeing is in the compact city centre and everything is within a reasonable walking distance, including Letná Stadium, home to the Czech Republic’s most successful football team, Sparta Praha.

Prague, the centre of ancient Bohemia, has changed hands many times over the last 2,000 years, with the Germans, Romans and Celts fighting over it. Therefore it has more history than you can shake a stick at and you could spend several days looking at sites of historical and architectural significance. Despite its history it has been almost completely undamaged by war and natural disaster and is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The ‘Old Town Square’, Charles Bridge, the Jewish Quarter and the Castle are ‘must not miss’ attractions, but there are dozens more sights for the keen ‘tourist’ to check out. Most recently of course, it was part of the former Soviet Eastern Bloc and the Museum of Communist life is worth checking out. The best way to check it all out is one of the many walking tours that leave the old town square every hour, which can range from a couple of hours to a full day and often include a pint and a meal.

Since the fall of the ‘Iron Curtain’ it has become a popular destination for Western Tourists … and it shows. Wenceslas Square, site of huge rallies during the ‘Velvet Revolution’ in 1989 now looks like any other western European city, complete with McDonalds, Benetton and Marks and Spencers. Don’t expect any bargains, Prague’s popularity as a tourist destination has put an end to that.

Because of the number of tourists the city now attracts, in the centre virtually every one has a grasp of the English language. If you venture away from the Tourist areas you will be struggling a bit.

As part of this influx of westernisation, stag and hen parties have been attracted to the city in search of the legendary cheap beer, resulting in the city resembling Cardiff’s Saint Mary Street on a high season weekend. A consequence of this inevitably been a rise in prices and many of the pubs in the centre will charge the same prices as a Cardiff pub. If you wander a little off the beaten track you will find pubs where the locals drink and still be able to get wrecked on a fiver. You can go on a guided walking tour of the best of the traditional pubs, but these are more of a ‘pub history’ walk than a pub-crawl.

The beer in Prague is among the best in the world, with both dark beer and light (clear) beer. The local pubs are generally quite small, and you will find your pint being replaced almost as soon as it has emptied, without the need to go to the bar, and you will be presented with a bill on your way out. If you are desperate for a pint of ‘Bow you will have to visit one of the many English and Irish bars with names like ‘The George and the Dragon’, that have materialised to entertain the massed hoards of UK beer monsters. These bars will often show live football and MTV on big screens.

There’s a host of nightclubs including many casinos and the usual ‘adult’ venues. You can even go on ‘Top Tottie’ walking tours.

Even during the days of the Soviet Union, Prague boasted a healthy artistic scene with a host of jazz musicians playing in underground clubs. Jazz still has a health presence in the nightlife of the city but lately many new ‘super clubs’ have opened up to keep the visiting ’cheesy quavers’ happy. The city has also managed to attract a healthy dose of big name bands on tour.

Local food is mainly pork, with more pork and a side order of pork. Vegetarians beware, only eat stuff that actually says ‘meat free’ because even the most innocent sounding of dishes will contain… pork! If you are not the sort that likes to try the local dishes, don’t panic there are plenty of Western fast food outlets about.

Taxi drivers everywhere have a bad reputation but in Prague even more so. Many hotels will book a taxi for residents but you are strongly advised not to flag down a taxi in the street unless you enjoy being ripped off. Being an ex-communist state they have a very efficient public transport system with trams running all over the city and a modern underground system. Unless you are venturing out of the city though, pretty much everything you want to see is within walking distance.


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