So folks, for the last one for now in my series of gateway countries, I’m heading to East Europe to a place that so many people are going these days, the Czech Republic. I could have named a few countries I liked more than the Czech Republic, and I was on the cusp of going with Slovenia for this one, but I am just giving the best gateway to Eastern Europe to the Czech Republic for a couple of reasons.
The biggest one is that there are a lot of backpackers there, which isn’t always a plus but when you consider that most other East European countries don’t have nearly as much information in English and other languages, there’s no better place to start exploring East Europe than Prague. It has everything, and the prices are still not at Western European standards. Plus there are a number of decent hostels in Prague where you can connect and plan.
Also, the Czech Republic is positioned sort of centrally in Europe and is thusly a great place to start if you want to head eastwards to Slovakia and Hungary, or north to Poland. It’s perfect for that first taste of East Europe!
Prague is an amazing, somewhat gothic city with amazing churches, palaces, and the astronomical clock which everybody likes to photograph cos it looks kinda cool (but let’s be honest, isn’t up to all that much!) There are plenty of restaurants, and a beer doesn’t set you back an outrageous amount, and the place is made for partying if that’s your bag.
As for location, well, Prague is great that there are a number of easy day trips you can do from Prague, so it works well as a home base in the Czech Republic too. Perhaps two of the most common day trips from Prague are to Karlory Vary and Kutna Hora. Kalory Vary is a beautiful little town full of hot saunas and spas, babbling brooks and it’s much quieter than Prague.
Kutna Hora, on the other hand, sees a constant stream of tourists because under an amazing church there is a sort of cellar which has been decorated in human bones. At the Sedlec Ossuary there are bones decorating the walls, in cabinets and hanging from the roof as chandeliers. It’s certainly a very unique place! There’s a charming town square and a wonderful cathedral on a hill which is full-on gothic in design. St Barbara’s Cathedral is not to be missed! It’s a brilliant day trip, and the only downside is that you certainly won’t be the only one doing it.
I haven’t ventured much past the places mentioned, but I did get to Olomouc in the eastern part of the country. It’s a city full of atmosphere and not a lot of westerners. There was a hostel there run by Australians a decade ago when I visited, but I couldn’t find it web searching recently. It’s got a great square, an astronomical clock of its own, numerous cobblestone streets and a bar inside an aeroplane which is pretty cool too. Less English written and spoken about town, but you’ll get by and I thought it was a great place to stop for 2-3 nights.
And – the Czech Republic is still cheaper than West Europe, well connected which stunning cities and towns. Not a lot of fuss for the backpacker new to the region and plenty to see and do. I’m not much of a partier these days, but I was in 1999 (relatively!) and spent the night out partying to 80s tunes that culminated in ‘The Final Countdown’. The perfect way to end any night out. Oh, did I mention that night I also drank Absinth for the first and last time? Prague is a great place to get drunk!
And for now, ‘Gateway Countries’ is disappearing somewhat as next Friday will see the return of the podcast! I hope to have a special guest talking about the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which is not far away at all! So do tune in for that! May the journey never end!