The Meat Sweats (definition): The point at which — several hours into a protein-laden feast — you begin to sweat profusely, not due to excessive heat or fatique, but the sheer quantity of meat consumed. As in “I haven’t had the meat sweats that bad since my last visit to Prague.” More on this later, however….
Prague, Czech Republic:
After my cross-Europe train marathon, I finally hit the Czech Republic, met up with my brother, and began a four country whirlwind tour – working our way West – before my brother, David, has to unfortunately fly back home and join the ranks of the working world. And the first stop was the old city of Prague — the land of cheap beer and tourist haunts.
The city itself – largely untouched by the destruction that spread through Europe in World War II – has, for the last century, managed to resist most of the modern trends that have reshaped many nearby European cities and is still clinging to its historic character. Unfortunately, however, this also means that vast hordes of tourists will flock here to experience what a European city may have been like several centuries ago. And where there are tourists, there are tourists shops taking over significant chunks of the city, selling kitschy knick-knacks. Though the ”Old City” quarter has become a bit over-run, don’t let this deter you from a visit to Praha, as stepping only a few streets off of the main drag will net you a much more authentic Czech experience away from the crowds. And did I mention the cheap and plentiful Czech lagers being sold everywhere and the beautiful views?
And if you’re looking for the best view of the city, cross Charles Bridge heading West, head towards the Prague Castle, but then continue on to the left (Southwest of the Castle) and find the Monastic Brewery sitting on the side of the hill. Just outside of their main courtyard, there is a small restaurant with a handful of tables overlooking the entire town. Though it is a bit more expensive than similar restaurants in other locations, this is still Prague, which means it is still cheap compared to basically anywhere else in Western Europe — so splurge this once and enjoy the view!
Now when it comes to the cuisine in Prague, I’ve already alluded above to the type of cuisine you’ll likely find, but I can’t stress this enough: this is a meat-and-carbohydrate heavy diet. Virtually every meal includes a significant helping of beef, pork, or some similar variation of meat dolloped on the plate next to one of many variations of dumplings (of which a sizable portion also contains meat). In fact, the most “traditional” dish being served was a cow knuckle, which even I couldn’t attempt, as each serving is usually reserved for at least two people. I don’t think my body has ever craved a vegetable or piece of fruit more than it did after eating a few days of Czech cuisine, but these were tough to come by. If you were lucky, some menus offered a “Lighter Entrees” section, but these include the likes of pasta in cream sauces and fried potatoes (no joke). Here are a few example of the entrees you’re likely to encounter if you visit:
And we’ll end the Prague post on a positive note: a few beers with a great view:
After our time in Prague came to an end, we headed to the city that is the home of Sigmund Freud, the stomping grounds of musicians the likes of Beethoven, Brahms, and Mozart, and the departure point for many excursions into the surrounding “Sound of Music” hillsides. Unlike Prague, however, Vienna has fully adopted the changing trends of modern society, and you’re more likely to see Prada and Gucci stores lining the main drag and up-and-coming models sipping on espressos on their way to discos than the old world charms that once occupied the same spaces. Though the Rathhaus (the ring around the old city) and the Innere Stadt (the inner city itself) both come complete with historical buildings and sites aplenty, the atmosphere has definitely shifted over the last few decades.
When it comes to the food, however, the trend continues…
And continuing on with our whirlwind tour of the center of Europe, our next destination took us up a little further into the Alps to the city of Zurich. Though significantly smaller than the last few cities, Zurich still manages to project a strong and clear image of a sophisticated city shaped by the banking, insurance, and general finance type-folks who live and work here. Unfortunately, however, this also has resulted in one of the most expensive cities that I’ve ever set foot in (though I haven’t yet been to Monaco). Regardless, if you’re in the market for a watch, a swiss army knife, or any variety of handmade cuckoo clocks, this is the city for you.
And eventhough our time in Switzerland was all too brief, I still managed to swing in to try one of the local specialties: beef liver and rosti (potatoes):
After Switzerland, we’re finally settling down for a few days in one place: Paris, France. I’m quite looking forward to returning to the City of Lights again, so I should have a few more posts coming out in the next few days. Until then, Na Zdravia from Prague and Prost from Vienna and Zurich!