The envy of the world?
- On time,
- Extensive, and
prague's trams are great for sightseeing
The envy of the world?
Anyone who has ever lived in Prague or has spent a significant amount of time here knows that the city’s public transport system is world class. In fact, on the whole it is probably one of the best public transport networks in the world. It has everything you want in public transport - it’s:
prague's trams are great for sightseeing
And not only is Prague’s system wonderful n a practical sense, its tram network is a great way to see the city, including the historical parts that you’ll want to see on your visit. As I mention in my guidebook, “Prague Travel Tips: An American’s Guide to Her Adopted City,” certain tram routes are especially beautiful, such as the 17 and 18 along the river and the 22 up to Prague Castle and out to beautiful Náměstí Míru in the trendy Vinohrady neighborhood.
Where She Came From: A Daughter's Search for Her Mother's History by Helen Epstein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is one of the best Holocaust memoirs I've read. In it, Helen Epstein traces her mother's roots to find out more about the life of both her mother and maternal grandmother back in the author's birth country of former Czechoslovakia, a place the author spent only the first year of her life before she and her parents emigrated to the United States. But she goes even further back in time to discover much about the history and culture of Czech Jews many generations prior to her grandmother's. One of the best things about this book at the time I read it is that it was the best source I had found on the history and lives of Czech Jewry.
The author states that she found her mother an utterly amazing person, and that fact inspired her to learn more about her mother and "where she came from;" hence, the title. And I think that if you read this book, you'll think that her mother was amazing, too!
View all my reviews
Not only is Prague a relatively small city (1.2 million people), but the fact that its amazingly efficient public transport system is fast, dense, punctual, and dirt cheap makes the city that much easier to navigate and explore. This means not having to stress about not having enough reading material for the ride or about getting places on time, and it’s also easy to make quick stops (the system does not require you to swipe every time you get on) and to venture outside of the city center.
Prague is a fairy tale-like city, and with its Baroque palaces, gardens and châteaus, it's no wonder that it has become one of the world's top wedding destinations in recent years.
Prague - a great wedding destination
These weddings and related activities typically fall into four categories: 1) People from abroad who choose Prague as the site of their nuptials simply for no other reason than its overwhelming beauty, 2) International couples with one Czech partner and one partner from another land who live here or who live abroad but choose to have the wedding in the Czech partner's home country, 3) Couples who come here weeks or months after their ceremonies just to do photo shoots, and 4) Fashion photo shoots of brides and grooms who are not actually married at all!
Blending czech and american wedding traditions
This year I was fortunate to have the opportunity to help plan a wedding for a couple in category 2. The bride was from North Carolina and the groom was from Moravia - the eastern part of the what is now the Czech Republic. This provided the opportunity to combine various traditions, such as a resounding "Na Zdravi Y'all!" printed on the cornhole board, as well as on small bottles of homemade slivovice (plum brandy), which was distilled by the groom's father and handed out to guests (and plenty of it was imbibed at the wedding reception, too!).
Prague's gardens - perfect for weddings
Given that Prague is such a fairy tale-like city, there are plenty of places to hold a fairy tale-like wedding. The most popular locations are the city's beautiful Baroque gardens. The Vrtba Garden is one of Prague's top spots for weddings, and you can see why from the picture below.
Plan your fairy tale prague wedding
In addition to Prague wedding venues, there are plenty of castles and palaces outside of Prague that host weddings, like Chateau Trebesice near the town of Kutna Hora, where the wedding I helped plan was held.
So if you've got wedding bells in your future, or if you need a perfect destination for a destination wedding or photo shoot, consider Prague! And if you need any help with picking a perfect location or planning the event, contact me about my Concierge Services.
Happy wedding planning!
Yesterday I visited the Old Jewish Cemetery in the Zizkov neighborhood of Prague for the first time. Prague actually has several Jewish cemeteries, only one of which is still in use, and some of which are only remnants of what they once were.
When most visitors come to Prague, they tour the Old Jewish Cemetery, which is located in Prague’s historic Jewish Quarter. However, there are others that are worth a visit, and the Old Jewish Cemetery in Zizkov, though a bit out of the city center, is one of them.
Located next to the space-age TV tower (the needle in the sky that you can’t miss in Prague’s distant skyline), the Zizkov cemetery was founded in 1680 when the plague swept through Prague and burials within what were then the city limits were forbidden. Next to it a Christian cemetery was also founded, and both were initially used only when necessary due to epidemics (a second wave of the plague came through in the early 18th century, and burials again took place in the Zizkov cemetery). However, after 1786, it was used as Prague’s main burial place for the city’s Jewish community, when all burials within the city limits were banned.
In my Prague Restaurant Guide, I talk about Prague's "food revolution." I also mention several of what can be called "mini-revolutions" within the broader food revolution. One has been in the area of coffee. And a recent one has been in the area of burgers. Every corner now seems to have a "burger joint" in hot pursuit of the perfect real (American) hamburger.
These food "mini-revolutions" are happening at such a pace that I find it hard to keep up, let alone try all the new things on offer. But I have had no trouble finding time to explore the subject of Prague's latest revolution: gelato! That's because, along with the French fry, I suppose ice cream is my favorite food.
Angelato has competition... And I'm glad!
If you've followed me on Facebook or other social media, you know that I am a hugely devoted fan of Angelato, one of Prague's first gourmet gelato spots, and certainly the first to offer unusual seasonal concoctions such as poppyseed, jasmine rice and other inventive flavors.
Angelato will always have a special place in my heart, and I will always visit it several times every spring and summer. But earlier this year, Creme de la Creme appeared on the scene, and I have a new ice cream love. Its owner apparently spent years in Italy learning the traditional art of gelato-making, and if he happens to be in the shop when you visit, he will gladly explain the differences between his product and Angelato's (and why his is superior, of course).
Creme de la creme
Creme de la Creme has a lot of the same favorite flavors that Angelato has, like salty caramel (and Creme de la Creme has salty peanut, also) and many seasonal flavors, too. In my view, the consistency of Creme de la Creme's gelato is creamier than Angelato's, and the flavors are a bit more intense. And they also have a few vegan choices. Let's just say that Creme de la Creme is my new favorite (sorry Angelato!).
And then there's puro...
And there's another local gelato on the scene. Actually, Puro has been around in its first location out in the 'burbs for a few years, but this week they opened a long-awaited shop right in the middle of Old Town, near Old Town Square. It's located on Kaprova Street, and I can't wait to try it.
You might know that in recent years Prague has become one of the top tourist destinations. That's because it's filled with architectural wonders and has centuries of rich history. But you might not know that Czech beer is also one of the country's national treasures.
Czech beer is simply delicious, and the Czechs drink more beer per capita than any nation on earth. Don’t be surprised if you spot a few construction workers drinking it on their morning breaks! And Czech doctors routinely prescribe Pilsner Urquell to treat certain digestive disorders. As Gene Dietze points out in his popular memoir, “For the Love of Prague,” a Czech doctor insisted to him that a pint of beer or less per day is not considered alcohol, scientifically speaking.
Pilsner urquell - king of Czech beers
Many people (not just doctors) consider Pilsner Urquell (Plzeňský Prazdroj) to be the best Czech beer, or even the best beer in the world. It originates in the town of Pilsen, which is where we get the name "pilsner" from. Technically speaking, only beers brewed in Pilsen are allowed to call themselves pilsners, but the brewery gave up that loosing battle long ago. But they have not given up their time-honored tradition of brewing delicious beer. When you visit Prague (and most places in the Czech Republic), you will find Pilsner Urquell everywhere.
this bud's for you!
Another famous – and probably one of the best – Czech beer brands is Budweiser (Budvar). Yes, you read that right – Budweiser originated here in the town of České Budějovice (Budweis in German). This Czech brewery alone among all others is still state owned – the government doesn’t want Anheuser-Busch to get its hands on this national treasure.
For this reason (that is, the limited amount of funds a state-run enterprise has for things like distribution), it is relatively difficult to find a Budweiser here unless you’re close to the town of České Budějovice where it is brewed. But if you do find it, try it! It is very different from (and much better than) the American Bud.
Book a day trip to the pilsner urquell brewery in pilsen
And Czech Budweiser is also very different from its main rival, Pilsner Urquell. The storied history of Pilsner Urquell is worth a trip to the town of Pilsen for a brewery tour. Because of its special fermentation process, this beer takes longer and costs more to make than other Czech beers. That’s also why it costs more than other beers. Still, given its amazing quality and taste, it is incredibly cheap by “western” standards (cheaper than bottled water – the Czechs would have it no other way). In any case, you’ll taste the difference.
Yes, the microbrew trend has hit the Czech Republic, too, with great results. I'll tell you more in a future blog post, or you can learn more about this trend and all Czech beers in my Prague Restaurant Guide! It's available in both paperback and Kindle formats.
Spring weather has finally arrived in Prague, and that means it's time for people to head outdoors and soak up the sun. Winters in Prague are notoriously long and gray, and so when the sun finally appears and the temperatures rise, Prague's residents hit the streets - and the ice cream shops!
Or ice cream SHOP, singular, I should say, because for most of us locals, there is only one place to go for ice cream: Angelato. OK. There are two places to go because Angelato recently opened a second location, pictured above. When the weather is nice, there's always a line out the door at both locations. But don't worry, the line moves quickly!
Angelato is known for its fresh, natural ice cream that is made each morning. They also experiment with wonderful seasonal and unusual flavors, as well. Currently, they're featuring avocado flavor, olive oil and basil flavor and salty caramel (yum!). But they also have plenty of traditional flavors like vanilla, chocolate, and the best pistachio I've ever tasted!
Find them at Rytířská 27 in Old Town and at the Ujezd tram stop in Mala Strana, right next to the Hotel Roma. And find more great food in my new 2016 Restaurant guide!
If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I'm a major foodie, and I am always looking for great food in Prague. I especially love to discover new restaurants so that I have another interesting place on my list when planning an evening out in the city. But like many of us, I'm a creature of habit, and I love to return again and again to my old tried-and-true places. So occasionally it happens that I miss a wonderful new entry on the Prague dining scene, and I have recently discovered that I have overlooked such a place.
Last week I had the pleasure of dining at Kalina Restaurant. I can't believe that I missed this new star. Under the fine direction of Chef Miroslav Kalina, this restaurant serves up some of the most inventive and interesting dishes in Prague, all expertly prepared from the best ingredients available, sourced both locally and internationally.
Chef Miroslav Kalina at his restaurant
a new take on czech cuisine
And if you want to try Czech cuisine without the heaviness it is sometimes known (or infamous) for, Kalina specializes in the recent gastronomy trend called The New Prague Cuisine: modern interpretations of old Czech classic dishes and ingredients.
The restaurant's location only a few steps from old town Square is also a welcome break from the many tourist traps serving overpriced bad Czech food or the ubiquitous pizza. And while Kalina is not cheap because it is a fine dining establishment (though it does have a very affordable lunch menu), it manages to combine a local, casual feel with a somewhat formal service and decor. This combination is a rare find in old town these days. Kalina's website says it best:
Our "Genuinely and purely designed interior without any pretentiousness offers nothing less than thoughtful simplicity and a pleasant atmosphere. The real luxury is actually waiting for you on your plate and inside your wine glass."
a local place in touristy old town
On the night I visited, the restaurant was filled with a well-blended combination of both local and visiting clientele. I felt as if I were in a local neighborhood rather than the tourist mecca that Old Town has become. I'm not knocking tourists or tourism - I think they are great and good for Prague in many ways, and, of course, my business is based on tourism. But Old Town in particular has lost some of its "local" feel, and it seems like we locals rarely go there to dine anymore. Kalina felt like an exception to this rule.
The evening began with an outstanding glass of champagne. It sparkled with flavor yet was incredibly dry, and it went perfectly with the small taster that was served complements of the chef. After choosing appetizers and a main dish, the restaurant's staff offered excellent input and recommended perfect pairings of wine with each dish.
a place for wine
Speaking of wines, not only is Kalina's wine list extensive and filled with excellent Czech and imported wines, mainly from France but other countries too, but it also has one of the most extensive lists of wines by the glass that I have come across in Prague. This is an important feature, as, unfortunately, the custom for most Prague restaurants is still to offer the best wines by the bottle only and a very limited choice of mediocre to bad wines by the glass.
The importance Kalina places on wine is summed up thus:
"The strong emphasis on the best quality wine list makes Kalina restaurant the right place for gourmets and wine lovers. Our wine collection is built mainly on Champagne and other wines from the best European wineries."
And to add the final touch on great wines, each wine is served in the perfect type of glass from expert glass maker Riedel (which, incidentally, began its operations in the historic Czech lands).
a great way to start
For a starter I had the Marinated Scottish salmon “label rouge” with citrus skin and pink caviar. This was followed by the chef's signature dish, roasted breast of duck with fennel, caramelized kumquat and almond croquettes. My dining companion tried the cocktail of Kamchatka crab with avocado and green apple followed by the USDA strip loin prime beef with red wine sauce. I might add that it was incredibly difficult to finally arrive at our choices given the enticing offers on Kalina's menu.
The salmon was superb, with a firm, juicy texture and a rich taste that was set off by the caviar. The chef's modern version of classic crab cocktail was truly surprising. The two white wines that accompanied these dishes - an oaky French white with the crab and a dry French white with the salmon - were excellent.
the main attraction
Next came the main courses. My companion's steak had the characteristically wonderful flavor of US beef that I recall from growing up there, and it was cooked to a perfect medium, which allowed the fine quality and texture of the meat itself come through. The mashed potato side was indescribably creamy and thick. The secret, we were told, has to do with preparing the dish with an extra large amount of a very special butter. The accompanying wine was a deliciously robust, oaky red.
The duck, tender and filled with flavor, was a modern take on a classic check dish, and the almond crust on the potato croquettes made for a delicious twist on an old standby. A lighter, yet very flavorful, red was paired with the duck.
make room for coffee and dessert
For dessert, the pistachio ice cream was something to behold. And my companion's poppy seed dumplings were simply heavenly. A similar dessert can be found in many check pubs and restaurants, and I have always loved it. But the version prepared by Chef Kalina took it to a new level and was simply wonderful.
Our end-of-the-meal espresso was thick and robust, and throughout we were given professional service that was attentive but not overbearing.
I will definitely be adding Kalina Restaurant to my Prague Restaurant Guide as a recommended place for fine dining in Old Town.
Dlouhá 12, Praha 1
Tel.: (420) 222 317 715
Mon - Sun 12:00 - 15:00, 18:00 - 23:30
Prague Restaurant guide
After a super hot summer in Prague, we finally got a break a few weeks ago, with much cooler temperatures and the telltale signs of autumn's approaching, especially a dramatic change in the light and the angles of the sun's shadows. But over the past weekend, the summer temperatures returned (though, thankfully, they were not as extreme as in the summer!) and everyone headed for the parks and even a few to the swimming pool.
But another way to cool down in Prague is to head for some great gelato, and by far the favorite choice of locals is Angelato. I can't get enough of it, and on Sunday the line snaking out the door was the longest I've seen so far at either of Angelato's locations. It was at least 20 people long, flowing halfway down the block.
But even though it feels like summer, this time of year in Prague is usually quite cool and autumn-like, and despite the current warmer temperatures, the local fruits in the shops reflect that fact. And Angelato, which makes its flavors fresh daily, also loves concocting seasonal flavors.
I am an American who has been living in Prague for two decades. After a long career in international finance, I left the business world to pursue other interests. I now works as a writer, mentor and guide to the city.