Best Treat: Trdelnik
The trdelník, or after its brand name Trdlo, is a traditional Czech pastry comprised of dough that is rolled around a cylindrical stick (the Trdlo, made of wood or metal) and placed over hot coals where it spins until it is almost done. It is then rolled in sugar and again set over the coals until the outside is crispy. The result: a crispy-on-the-outside-doughy-on-the-inside pastry that tastes like some churro-cinnamon roll hybrid, only so much better.
J and I shared one at the Easter Festival since we wanted to try the many, many other food specialties, but on its own it is decidedly a one-person treat that should not be missed.
Best Meal: U Parašutistů on Resslova
U Parašutistů is the home of potato pancakes and gratinated camembert that melt in your mouth as well as delicious stuffed jalapeños, and a pot of three kinds of meat, onions, peppers and roast potatoes called the Parachutist’s Pot. We also had local beer and a waitress who celebrated with a dance and the performance of playing an air guitar (it was amazing) when she got the foreign card reader to work (this was one of the few places that took a card so we chose to save our koruna). The place is dim, rather small, and the patrons do stare at you when you enter (some with smiles on their faces), but the ambience is friendly, the servings are huge, the prices are more than reasonable, and the food is excellent.
As the night wore on more and more locals came into the restaurant (and some were turned away due to a lack of tables, so try to get there early if you’re planning on dinner) and the space filled with laughter, boisterous tales, and smoke.
Helpful Hint: The service is like most other places in Prague, so if you’re in a rush this is not the place for you (but why rush when you’re eating food this good?). Also, smoking is common in the local eateries, but don’t let that deter you from trying at least a few while you’re in the city – you can almost always sit outside or take the food with you to the park, or if you’re not super sensitive to it you can just enjoy the atmosphere and wash your clothes when you get back to your hotel/hostel/room.
Best Walk: Along the Vltava River
We walked along the Vltava and trekked back and forth across different bridges every day we were in Prague out of necessity, but we enjoyed it immensely. We stayed on one side of the city, near Dancing House, and crossed through over the bridges to get to the castle, the gardens, and Lennon Wall on Kampa Island, among other things. The section near Charles Bridge can get quite busy, especially when a performance at the Klementinum has just let out. We crossed this bridge only once, as it is full of peddlers and tourists, much preferring the smaller, less-traveled bridges with views of Charles Bridge.
Walking the city led to unexpected discoveries such as a gelato shop that seemed to be in an alley, a serene dog park, a traditional wedding outside of a pink-doored chapel, and dozens of other miniature events that led to my overall love of Prague. The best time to walk the river is at sunset when the domes and steeples are illuminated and the river shimmers below with a Czech preso in hand.
Best Views: From Prague Castle
The hike up to the castle (and it is a hike – all uphill and with hundreds of steps) pays off tenfold with its views alone. We got there before the castle opened for tours but there was still a bit of a crowd, so know you’ll have to be patient and considerate when taking photos.
Red roofs, white chimneys, sea foam domes, and pink blossoms stretch for miles from the castle in nearly all directions. It is stunning to see how the city winds itself around its landscape rather than just barreling through it; where the roofs end the grassy slopes and mountains begin. You can make out the dozens of chapels and monuments as well as Charles Bridge all from one point on the castle’s grounds. We went on a chilly, but near-perfect day with blue skies, dewy greenery, and a soft sunlight that begged to be photographed against the old city.
Helpful Hint: Take a professional camera and don’t forget the long lens.
Check back next week for Prague: Part 3.
-M. Ray Hall