I will never be one of those ‘been there done that’ kind of travelers. I have never gone anywhere just to say I have been there. I will often go back to the same places over and over again because I didn’t get enough the first time. I don’t want to just go somewhere, I want an adventure, an experience and something that will forever live in my memories.
When traveling I love to see the countryside and small villages and towns, but I also want to experience the major city of any country I visit. I especially like to rent an apartment in an old part of the city for about a week and then thoroughly explore the city and discover all its secrets. I want to dig into every nook and cranny, explore antique shops, specialty shops and the local market. I want to take in every nuance, flavour and delight of the city.
Several years ago we visited the Czech Republic for the first time. We took trains out and about and explored thoroughly and then spent a week in an old neighborhood of Prague as I knew there was plenty enough in the city to keep us busy for a week. As what quite often happens when we stay in an old neighborhood, is that most of the neighborhood is made up of elderly people. That is not a problem except when you are places like Prague where most of the elderly population does not speak English!
This is not so noticeable in the touristy area of the cities or when you are around anyone under 30 as most of Europe’s under 30 population speaks English. I have never let a language barrier get in the way of enjoying a new adventure and we were fine for most of the time. We visited the local market, small cafes and shops in the neighborhood we were staying in, using a lot of hand gestures and the few words of Czech that we had picked up along the way. Everyone was so helpful and made us feel welcome and at home everywhere we went. We found a café we liked to visit, but only one person there spoke any English and it was quite limited, but we go along just fine!
Prague is a beautiful city with amazing architecture and is known as the ‘City of a Hundred Spires’. I will go to any city that has a rich architectural heritage and a history to match it! We of course went to Charles Bridge which stands astride the Vltava River. I had long wanted to see it and I was not disappointed in any way! The winding course of the Vltava is crossed by many bridges each with spectacularly changing vistas with most of them having the backdrop of Castle Hradčany or Prague Castle which dominates the left-bank side of the city.
I loved how the narrow streets, little taverns and restaurants of the old part of the city contrasted with Wenceslas Square and its modern buildings, and then again with the 18th Century Baroque Palaces in all their splendour! One of my favourites in the city is the Old Town Hall with the famous Prague Astronomical Clock. I also loved the Church of Saint Nicholas, a beautiful Baroque Church.
We thoroughly enjoyed everything the city had to offer and then on the last day, made our way back to our apartment for our final night. We were feeling a little sad and also quite reflective, so I thought I would just go up to a corner shop and find some cheese, bread, meats and a bottle of wine to have on our last night in the city. When I walked into the shop, the owner greeted me and helped me with my purchases. In all the time we were in the city, I had finally found someone with a good understanding of English and we had a great conversation. The most interesting thing though, was that he was Chinese! He was born and raised in China and had come to Prague as an adult.
As I am always curious to know how people get to where there are and also why his English was so good. He explained that as a young man he moved to London to take a business course. He had always meant to go back to China, but never returned except for visits. He did quite well in London, but he never felt like he fit in. He took a trip to Prague and found out that the corner store he liked to visit was for sale, so he bought it and never looked back!
This is why I love to travel and go out of my way for wonderful experiences just like this. I was staying in the largest city in the Czech Republic and the only person I met who spoke good English was a Chinese man!