Děkujeme, Praha

February 14, 2008

Well, I’m back from Prague and it was great. The first thing to note, given who I am, is that the city is extremely cheap, even in the center, where you would expect all the shops to cater to tourists and be expensive. You would be correct in your first assumption; everywhere you look there are postcards, t-shirts, little bottles of alcohol, and other various trinkets for tourists to buy. However, even these aren’t that expensive. I would say this is a result of competition and an apparent lack of collusion among shopkeepers in Prague, but I am highly unsatisfied by this explanation, economically. For one thing, I doubt that most shoppers even go to different stores and comparison-shop to know if they are being offered the going rate for an item. So basically, the prices on items in Prague are a mystery to me, but I was glad to have them.*

Food and drink were also cheap and good in the city. I paid the equivalent of about 4-5 euro per dish in the restaurants I went to, which were generally pretty nice restaurants. I don’t know how much I was supposed to be tipping; in Vienna the standard tip is between zero and €0.20, in the US it’s 15-20% of the check, so I generally tried to compromise and give 10%. I don’t know, the Czechs may hate me. Or they may love me. Beer is insanely cheap. Between 29-35 for a half-liter seemed to be the standard in bars at the center, which is like €1.20. This compares with around €3 in Vienna.

Enough about prices. I did have the same problem in Prague that I had in Poland, which was that I couldn’t really get more than a glimpse of the culture, as I speak no Czech (a language similar to Polish, but not similar enough to be useful to me) and spent most of my time in extremely tourist-dominated areas. The city is beautiful, that is for sure. They must have extremely strict laws on what you can do to buildings within a certain radius of the city center, because they are all extremely similar and traditional-looking. Even the Mandarin Oriental, which has a location in Prague, is unrecognizable as a fancy hotel from the outside, which must be because they’re not allowed to make the standard fancifying changes.

Couchsurfing (specifically, our host via couchsurfing) came through again with a great place right in the center of Prague. We were staying with a fellow American named Jason who moved to Prague to work online as a professional poker player. Pretty cool. Anyway, that was good, he was able to recommend some good restaurants and bars and we went out a few times.

*Beauty of the free market: you don’t have to understand it to benefit from it.

 Update: Photos now available.


2 Responses to “Děkujeme, Praha”

  1. Thomas Says:

    Cheap, beautiful, excessively touristy…yeah that’s pretty much what I made of Prague as well. Now that you’ve been, you can listen to Smetna’s “Moldau” and dream of the cityscape and the mighty river.

    go here for some classical music action:

    I hear the rest of the Czech republic is much cheaper than Prague and that a lot of professional types commute into the city because they find it exorbitantly expensive to actually live there. Humorous!

  2. […] proved to be rather more interesting than I noticed last time, though I enjoyed my previous trip there as well. On our first full day my Dad decided we should take a guided tour, so we went to the […]

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