[Part 3.1] When in Prague, Visit Most Náměstí*

After receiving multiple mildly confusing directions about where and how to purchase public transport passes, I decided to seek the answer from my neighborhood (international chain's) barista. In return, I'd have bought some semblance of breakfast. Shout out to Starbucks for being my emotional-support brand partner - who would have thought, right? I boldly stood in a queue of 2 rehearsing my order and my query, in that order. Clearly the 15 minute walk and the 5 minute wait weren't enough. I blurted out my order in a strange Indian accented English - one not natural to me - and used my fingers to reiterate it all.

I decided to let anxiety have this one, I would make do with the WiFi instead. In mission mode, I found a corner table and spread out my map, notebook, and pen. In mission mode, I procrastinated and called my mother to catch up. When that WhatsApp call met its usual end in an inconsistent Indian internet connection, I couldn't evade it any longer. Prague is walking-friendly. I was, however, also determined to conquer the public transportation system. 

Fueled with coffee and a chocolate muffin, once again, I boldly set out to stand in a queue of 1 this time. I ordered a bottle of water and was about chicken out once again when I quickly mumbled my question instead. Luckily and surprisingly, the other barista heard this and directed me to the store nearby. In this instance, like most others, this was a tobacconist newsagent. She was the first person to understand the exact kind of pass I required (a 3-day pass, valid across every mode of ).


After de-boarding incorrectly and too soon, I walked across the Karlovo náměstí* and on to the Dancing House. To be perfectly honest, I don’t understand why it’s on the tourist map; an architecture student’s map, perhaps. And so, I joined the other handful of tourists in staring at it, while being mildly puzzled and wondering if there was more to this. Absent philosophical epiphany notwithstanding, we paid our respects for a few minutes from across the road. A few of us, including me, tried to photograph it and then went our separate ways.


It was a very sunny day and the time was close to noon. I decided to get my staple iced tea bottle (staple for a total of one day at that point). The convenience store or “mini market” was right next door. And these are very interesting spaces. Run predominantly by Asians (a reddit thread indicates they’re Vietnamese), they’re stocked primarily with alcohol and weed in different forms - chocolates, lolly pops (I saw a couple of items with something about Amsterdam which I guess was supposed to indicate authenticity/quality) - and some other normal stuff. Prices vary across different outlets though. I recall seeing a group of teenagers who were visiting from the US and were having their minds particularly blown while looking at this abundance of alcohol and weed, along with no questioning of age.

I walked across the Jiráskuv Most*, exchanged a sheepish smile with another solo traveller as we both tried to nail our selfies with the castle in the background. Perhaps I was channelling Kangna Ranaut/Queen as she walked away from her former fiancé in Amsterdam towards her friends at the rock show (except I had to play my own background music). Circumstantial details aside, I was definitely channeling the independence, the confidence, the liberation … till I realised I had walked close to a couple of kilometres in the wrong direction. On my walk back, there seemed to have emerged multiple other solo travellers and their quest for taking a selfie. I tipped my hat to them, so to speak, and started toward my original destination.

  As I rerouted, I saw a seemingly first world (high income country) phenomenon. While it was a very hot day, those temperatures were incomparable with summer back home. A sprinkler truck passed me by. At first I wondered if it was their own Swacch Czechia Abhiyaan. A local saw me enchanted and exclaimed to me, "hot day!". A 2006 article tells me that these trucks begin their work if the temperature hits 25 degrees Celsius for three days in a row. And I grew up believing 25 degrees was pleasant weather.  
To digest a surprisingly heavy lunch, I decided to walk to Old Town Square where I was to to meet friends from my hostel... (to be continued) 

Armed with my iced tea, I came across Krannerova kašna (thank you, Google Maps and my memory). This is "a fountain and neo-gothic monument to Francis I Emperor" which I didn't know at the time. To me, it seemed like a park where uncles take their post lunch siesta before heading to work  (there was empirical evidence). More mistaken than me was an older American lady, a fellow traveler, who presumed I could read Czech and proceeded to ask me to explain the description on the board.

While pondering how I could mistaken for a European, I passed the National Theatre, FAMU, old and young couples lazing on benches by the river, one Hemingway Bar, Bikram Yoga and finally Rock Café, next to which lay Café Louvre. I had planned to have lunch at Café Louvre, which was frequented by the likes of Franz Kafka and Albert Einstein in the early half of the twentieth century. Too bourgeoisie for the communist regime, it was closed between 1948 and 1992. It was posh, pink, and Parisian. The menu had up to two whole vegetarian options, so I could absolutely go to town with it. I ordered a cold coffee and a Waldorf salad. The service was slow but it felt like a slow afternoon and I didn’t quite mind. Strangely, it exuded non-busy Indian Coffee House (Chandigarh) vibes. 

*In Czech, náměstí means square and most means bridge. Karlovo usually means Charles. Figuring this out helps make sense when you're navigating. 


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