While rollouts of vaccinations against COVID 19 have been happening in many countries to varying degrees since the beginning of this year, it looks as though things have really turned a corner at least in the U.S. when it comes to having well over a majority of its population vaccinated in time for summer.
Other nations, for various reasons, have not had as much success, and that has included the Czech Republic. However, just this week we here are starting to turn a corner, too, when it comes to vaccines. Just today the New York Times published an article titled “E.U. Set to Let Vaccinated U.S. Tourists Visit This Summer.”
If you’ve been following my blog, you will know that I spent much of last year exploring more of the Czech Republic than I’ve done in a while. I visited many places for the first time that had long been on my list, and I also revisited some of my favorite places, such as Cesky Krumlov.
If you’re asking Santa for a trip to Prague next year, or if you’ve got a traveler on your holiday shopping list, you might want to add these items to your list, as well!
(Note: The products featured here link to an Amazon Affiliates account, which helps support this page. So it is greatly appreciated if you buy any featured products on Amazon through the links on this page. Thank you!)
The Coronavirus pandemic grounded planes and closed borders for most of 2020, but we all hope to be be able to travel – or at least begin to travel again – in 2021. Prague is hoping for the return of visitors from Europe for a greater part of 2021 than was possible this year, and we hope that Americans will be able to enter the EU again, too! I already have a few clients from the U.S. who have booked tours for next year. So if travel is on your mind for the New Year, here are some gift ideas for you.
Greetings from Prague as we move into the Holiday Season!
Another Spike in the Autumn
In Prague and throughout the Czech Republic, we had another outbreak of the Coronavirus when children returned to school (and locals returned from their summer travels elsewhere in Europe). This caused the government to again enact strict measures to contain the virus, with eventually everything closed except for grocery stores, pharmacies and medical facilities. This time around we even had a curfew imposed from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., and unlike the first shutdown in March, ALL shops were closed on Sundays.
I mentioned in my last blog post that I’ve been using my free time - resulting from (sadly) the lack of tourists - to travel around the Czech Republic. My first stop was Hluboka Chateau, next was the fairy tale-like town of Český Krumlov.
Český Krumlov is one of my favorite places – not just in the Czech Republic, but in the world. In fact, though it had been more than a decade since my last visit, I realized that this was my 11th visit to the town, and with the exception of one business trip, all were for pleasure. It’s a great weekend escape from Prague.
Located in Southern Bohemia near the Austrian border, you’ll notice an Austrian feel in Český Krumlov (Krumlau in German). With a castle that sits atop a bluff overlooking a hairpin turn in the Vltava river, sloping medieval rooftops and a Rumpelstiltskin tower, this medieval town is dripping with charm. And the views from the castle are simply stunning. No matter where you’re perched on it, each view offers a picture-perfect photo op – or plein air site for the artists among you.
There are many places in the Czech Republic beyond Prague that are well worth a visit. And due to the Coronavirus and related travel restrictions, I don't have a lot of tour clients at the moment, unfortunately. But that means I have a lot more time on my hands in the summer than I usually do, so once we eased restrictions earlier this month, I hit the road!
While Prague continues to open up from its strict Coronavirus lockdown, it still has not fully opened to foreign travel – for either visitors coming in or Czechs wishing to go abroad. So for the first time since the days of communism, really, locals are having their city to themselves.
In efforts to promote domestic travel & tourism, hotels & tourists sites are offering all manner of discounts & coupons, with some luxury brands that previously catered almost solely to foreigners, such as the Four Seasons, offering special packages to suit a local budget. The government has also issued coupons for hotels to give to guests that provide reduced entry into various sites.
If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I’ve been documenting the Czech Republic’s response to the Coronavirus outbreak. You will also know that the results have been pretty good, and that continues to be the case.
For more on the steps that have been taken since the beginning of the outbreak, see my earlier blog posts:
March 4, 2020
March 9, 2020
March 12, 2020
March 13, 2020
March 16, 2020
March 20, 2020
March 23, 2020
March 31, 2020
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.
Prague is almost synonymous with music. Next month, the internationally-renowned Prague Spring International Music Festival will begin, with classical concerts of all kinds being performed by soloists and orchestras from across the globe. Music fans from all over the globe will also descend on Prague, as the city takes on a festive spring atmosphere.
Prague Proms is another great musical event. This year, Branford Marsalis, the famous jazz musician, will perform a classical repertoire. The Czechs love jazz, too, even though it was forced underground - both literally and figuratively - during the communist years. Today, Prague's jazz cellars still remain, but many musicians have come out into the light, too, performing regularly on the Charles Bridge and on Old Town Square.
One of the most famous films about music, "Amadeus," was filmed here in the gray communist days. And the subject of the film, the composer Mozart, spent much time in Prague. In fact, the world premier of his opera, "Don Giovanni" took place here in the Estates Theater in 1787. Originally a private theater, this intimate space served as the Vienna Opera in "Amadeus." Mozart himself conducted the house orchestra at the Estates at his "Don Giovanni" premier, and in the same year, he played the organ at St. Nicholas Church in Mala Strana.
The Czech Republic has also produced many famous composers, such as Antonin Dvorak and Bedrich Smetana. The Dvorak and Smetana museums in Prague, respectively, are worth visiting. The Czech Philharmonic Opera, currently conducted by Jiri Belohlavek, is top quality.
In addition to great composers and performers, you can still find shops around town where old masters craft violins and other instruments by hand, though these are sadly fading away.
So, if you are a music lover, you will love Prague. And even if you can't be here during one of the big music festivals, there are concerts daily at many churches, libraries and other smaller venues around town. We offer Concierge Services to help you find great concerts and buy tickets. If you're coming to Prague and want to treat your ears, contact Exclusive Prague Tours and we can surely find something special for you to enjo
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.