The first time I saw Prague I was 12 years old, watching Mission Impossible with a blanket at the ready to cover my eyes during especially scary scenes. My grandmother always indulged me with movies I may have been to young to see, starting with Jurassic Park. They became a sleepover staple between the two of us since I was about 6, along with ice cream sandwiches and the promise of a midnight swim, though my tired eyes never seemed to make it that late.
By 12 the bombs and gunfire were nothing I hadn’t seen before, and the blanket stayed wrapped around the two of us. I watched Tom Cruise navigate the streets of old Prague, sidestepping through Kampa Island and realizing he’d lost it all amidst the fog wrapped around the Charles Bridge. I was captivated.
To me, Prague has always been the mysterious, artistic, and bohemian diamond of eastern Europe. I imagined myself walking along the river nearly consumed by fog, drinking with artists in smoky bars and writing about the adventures I would surely have there.
I got the chance to visit Prague not once but twice this fall, before it got too cold but still in time to experience the darkness of her early winter nights. The city is by all means enchanting around Christmas time, the cobblestone streets filled with families, smells of mulled wine and high spirits despite the chill in the air. Perhaps the mulled wine has something to do with that…
Yes, the city itself is a charmer, but I wasn’t head over heels. I couldn’t figure out my feelings towards the city.
At first I thought maybe it was the cold, as the spoiled madrileña that I now fancy myself was missing the Spanish sun. Then again, I mused, maybe it’s the people…the Czechs aren’t nearly as vibrant as the peoples of my beloved Mediterranean cultures. The food perhaps? Sausages, goulash, potatoes and beer are great and all, but I’d almost always prefer fresh fish, produce and great local wine.
I didn’t arrive at the conclusion until I returned to Prague a month later, just after Christmas: maybe, the problem was me.
I had become so used to falling in love with a place (the sap that I am) without trying at all. In places like Spain, Italy, France or even Morocco, I don’t have to try hard to find what it is that makes them special.
Prague is clearly a stunner, maybe more beautiful than any place I’ve ever been, but I think I had lost my adventurous spirit after so much travel. My first weekend there was spent wandering the streets, bar crawling and segway-ing around the city instead of looking for the bohemian and mysterious side that had always called to me.
I had a wonderful time with fantastic company, but I was purely not in love.
Listening to an Irish musician playing his guitar in front of the Lennon wall, I had an epiphany: the secret to Prague is just that; love.
It has long been a city that promotes equality, progress and good vibes. It has long been a hub for artists and musicians looking for inspiration and good company.
Sure, it gets very cold in Prague and night falls at 4 pm in the winter months, but that’s why the pubs are packed with groups of friends and families drinking beer after beer and indulging in comfort food to warm themselves from the inside out. Sure, the people aren’t as immediately charming as the Spanish, but their kindness will make you feel welcome and reassured.
I had so many expectations about Prague that I forgot to go out and make them a reality. It wasn’t until I studied the demands for peace and love on the Lennon wall, watched a Czech girl scribble in her journal in the sun along the river and stifled my shame of not knowing a word of the language to chat with locals that I understood what I lacked was love.
As the Beatles said, it is all you need, and that is especially true in this city. Once I reminded myself to look beyond the physical beauty of the city and open my heart to the subtleties of the people and culture, the love came right back to me.
I suppose that’s how it usually works, isn’t it? Sometimes, once you get comfortable in a place, be it Spain or New York or rural Kansas, you’ve got to go somewhere uncomfortable to remind you of the importance of an open heart and adventurous soul.
Prague is now a very special place for me, and I can’t wait to go back for more inspiration. If that next trip happens to be in the toasty summer months, though, I would not mind. Not one bit.
The more I read and hear about central/eastern Europe—Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Croatia—the more I want to set out and explore it for the first time. I loved the angle you took about personal growth in one of the most touristy cities in Europe; great job!
Thanks, Trevor! I really want to see more as well. My friend Jessica has an awesome post on Budapest and Prague that you should check out if you’re thinking of planning some trips: http://www.curiositytravels.org/battle-of-the-beautiful-cities-prague-vs-budapest/ 🙂
Prague sounds really lovely! I really like you first image too, with an interesting filter, for some reason I am attracted to big skies at the moment.
It is! Thank you :), no filter on that photo though, just clarified colors. Prague gets this eerie, foggy light to it just after sunset. Incredible!
I love the colours. Very cool that the colours are natural.
I absolutely love your writing style and can’t wait to read more of your posts! I went to Prague in November and fell in love immediately. (Speaking of which…. I still need to write that blog post… eek!) Before I moved to Spain I had never really given Eastern Europe a second thought because I was so fixated on Italy, France, England, and Spain. But my trip to Prague opened my eyes to the beauty of the Czech Republic. I can’t wait for my next trip. I’ve heard that Budapest is beautiful as well. PS. Your pictures are stunning as well.
Thanks so much for the kind words, Jen! Haha, I’m about 19 posts behind where I should be…no worries. Budapest is definitely next on the eastern Europe itinerary! 🙂 x
Beautiful photos! This makes me so excited to go to Prague in April!
Thank you, Courtney! Hope it’s nice and warm for ya 🙂 x
Thank you! x
Beautiful! Maybe it’s because I’m so so exhausted and emotional as it is, but I felt a tiny tear almost well up haha. I loved reading this and I can totally relate about this feeling while traveling. Also, gorgeous photos! *Swoon*
Thank you, thank you sweet gal! I say the same about your last post…gave me chills!
Beautiful Pictures! I have always wanted to go to Prague. Not sure why but I just know it is a place I really want to visit.
Thank you! I hope you get there soon 🙂
Most of my “must visit” cities come from movies I’ve watched, I understand perfectly what it like to fall completely in love with a place before you even get there, you get inside the film, you fall in love with the colours, the music, what ever is thrown to your face and you expect to see exactly that when you get there, sometime you see it… others… you don’t (like your fist trip) or other times, if you are like me, you start mixing your experience with what you’ve see until you forget if you actually seen that part of the city or you watched it in a movie .
Love the photos and your writing style, I will keep an eye for future posts.
Exactly! Thanks so much, Jules! x
These photos are so, so gorgeous! Prague has always been one of my favorite cities, since the first time I went there as a child and felt that I had stepped into a story book. You captured it beautifully!
I guess the same feeling you had about Prague applies to all Central Europe — you have to dig a little bit deeper to appreciate these places, but when you do it´s absolutely worth it. Your pictures of the city are one of the most eye-catching I´ve seen so far.. Stunning!
Thanks so much, Jay!