A square in Prague
Sorry for the crazy delay in getting the Europe posts up. I had some Internet woes last week, which have happily been rectified.
What's more fun than going to Europe? Telling stories about your trip, of course!
So, after receiving some last-minute time off from work, I decided that there was no better way to celebrate than to head over to Prague and Paris for a week of touristing. My journey began with a commute to Montreal, and then I hopped on an Air France jumbo jet and headed across the ocean. First stop: Paris passport control, second stop: Prague!
After carefully reviewing the Lonely Planet Prague City Guide, and neurotically reading hotel reviews on Trip Advisor, I decided to place my bets on the Ehrlich Hotel in the Zizkov neighourhood for my four-day stay in Prague. As a gal traveling Europe alone, I wanted to be extra sure I was avoiding the sketch.
My hotel was incredible -- picture Toronto's Drake hotel, but less hipster and much cheaper. But Zizkov definitely was a mistake. I chose this hood based on the fact that it was the least touristy district of Prague, which certainly makes it a very charming place, but a little tricky for someone with extremely limited Czech. Every errand -- from ordering food to buying metro tickets became an exercise in not getting yelled at by frustrated shop people. When in doubt, nem-loo-veem ches-ki (the phonetic spelling of "I don't speak Czech") can save one's ass in a pinch. But still, the local pubs boasting homemade dumplings and Pilsner Urquell sounded like a great time in the guidebook, but in reality, they are not such a welcoming place for solo foreign women. Bummer, to be sure.
But, all was not lost. I got a kick out of the lovely eccentricities of Zizkov, including my local Bowling & Thai Massage destination and the ubiquitous Non-Stop bars. Still not sure what that means, but I'm guessing it's got something to do with 24-hours of good times.
Castles and Casinos
To my eye, the charm of Prague lies in the mix between old and new. In Wenceslas Square, the site of many a demonstration during the fall of communism, beautiful historic architecture shares the same address as the leaders of capitalism: Starbucks, Gap and McDonalds.
In a perfect exercise in contrast, the Museum of Communism (a must-see!) is sandwiched in between a casino and a McDonald's. Go figure.
Museum of Communism
It's been 20 years since the Velvet Revolution in Prague, and it was very interesting to see the country in transition. As the fifth most-visited country in Europe these days, it seems to be adjusting quite nicely.
What you're really here for
Okay, enough tourist talk--This isn't a travel blog. Let's get into the fashion.
I found the fashion in Prague quite disappointing. Hate to say it, but it's true. After wandering the city for three days, it wasn't until my last day that I found anything fashion-related of interest. I had been dreaming of quirky vintage shops, but in reality, every vintage store I visited carried what seemed to be cast-offs from North American Goodwill stores.
I picked up an antique watch for a very reasonable price in Stare Mesto, the fashion mecca of Prague (the home of Gucci, Louis Vuitton and many other luxury brands), and I was all aglow over my purchase until three hours later when the watch stopped working. It hasn't ticked the time ever since. I wear it as jewelry now--what can you do?
Prague does have a thriving fashion scene though, this I know for sure. I just didn't have the good fortune of finding it in my express visit.
Some names to watch:
Just what you'd picture if I told you that they designed the perfect Prague spring jacket.
Cocktail dresses with just the right amount of draping and asymetry.
A modern take on the shift dress.
Think pastel mini dresses.
Cocktail dresses with a focus on the waist.
And, for regular updates on the Prague art & design scene, check out the Czech blog Design Guide.