Absinthe. Honestly, this was the main reason I went to Prague. Everything about it has long tickled my curiosity - the legend of the Green Fairy, its bohemian posse and of course, the fact that it was vilified for so long, banned for almost a century. Being Indian teaches you a thing or two about taboos - only the best things in life are made subject to them. So I knew instinctively that the elusive Green Fairy was a worthy goal to seek…
The path that led to her was, to say the least, eventful. We took shots in the beginning - euphoric, invincible nights that led to rather painful mornings. A typical rookie (but FUN) mistake apparently! On our last night in Prague, at Hemingway’s, a rustic local find, we were finally introduced to the true fairy, in all her delicate glory. Once we had picked our poison from the 200+ absinthe varieties on offer, the bartender carefully, with ritualistic enthusiasm prepared our final meeting. First came a beautifully crafted absinthe fountain from which flowed not the liquid suggested by its name, but confusingly, iced water. Underneath each of the four taps was set up a goblet of green liquid, upon which rested an ‘absinthe spoon’ with a single sugar cube placed on top of it. Drip by drip, the water melted the sugar and seeped into the goblet through the spoon. Then, miraculously, the green liquid turned into a cloudy potion, each sip warming rather than burning, each sip taking me to a drowsy, floaty, content place rather than manic exuberance.
Prague itself is an interesting, picturesque little city. It has a rich history, tied intricately to that of the rest of the continent. Twice the city has been capital to the Holy Roman Empire, prospering most notably during the reign of Charles IV in the 14th century. His lasting legacies, the Charles Bridge and the gothic St. Vitus Cathedral within the Prague Castle are now unmistakable symbols of the city.
The city also had much cultural and political significance within the Austro-Hungarian empire, during the long reign of the Hapsburg dynasty over the region. Its long past is reflected beautifully amongst the city’s architecture - a prime example of baroque interspersed with gothic styles. In fact, Hollywood seems to have tapped into its quintessential ‘European-ness’ too, Prague having become a major filming location in recent times (presumably its low prices adding an extra recession appeal).
The boat tours that leave from the Charles Bridge are an excellent way to take in the sites - especially if you are as hungover as we were on day 2! Lasting about two hours, over the Vltava river that flows through the city, it was an afternoon well spent, with a free beer and our tour guide throwing in quirky facts amidst quips about the government (clearly a global phenomenon!). For a less hungover day perhaps, try the Sandemans free walking tour which covers the old town, the Jewish Quarter and the Lennon Wall.
The Prague Castle, one of the largest in Europe, is of course not to be missed. It sits atop a hill, overlooking the city, majestic and fairy-tale like. Walk up the winding cobbled stone lanes leading up to it; they are lined with what used to be workshops for writers, poets, artists of all kinds, and now house charming little handicraft shops. You might also encounter a bust of Winston Churchill stoutly guarding what is now the British Embassy, but was once home to Mozart on his many visits to Prague, the city that first recognised his musical genius and welcomed him when Vienna did not.
St. Vitus Cathedral
Petrin Hill has Prague’s very own Eiffel tower too, one that although not as tall, is in fact higher than proud Paris’ and offers spectacular views over the city - worth every one of the 299 steps you have to climb to get to the top.
Of course, no trip is ever complete without beer. And luckily Prague has LOTS to offer, absolutely delicious to the taste yet incredibly light on your wallet. That, combined with some excellent company, made Prague one of my favourite holidays, one that’s definitely going on the throwback to the good times list!