I’ve been back in Prague for less than a month, but I’m already starting to experience a sense of familiarity with Prague and Czech culture. In fact, I felt oddly nostalgic about the time I spent here two months ago. I find myself walking around thinking “Aww my burrito place!” and “Look at that [hilarious idiosyncratic thing]!” I don’t know what that says about me, but from the perspective of an outsider trying to live here, it says a lot to me about Prague.
In no particular order, here’s a list of things that are #SoPrague:
Pop culture references that are 20 years old. Remember Beverly Hills 90210? Remember how the characters used to hang out at the Peach Pit all the time? Well, you can relive those glorious times in Prague’s own Peach Pit. There’s a sign over the door that says “Beverly Hills” just to drive that reference right on home. There’s no subtlety in Czech culture.
Getting yelled at for something that you didn’t even know you were doing wrong. The other day, I walked into a public bathroom and having just finished a beer that I was enjoying outside, I tossed it in the garbage bin inside the bathroom. The bathroom attendant was really pissed about that. I still don’t know why, though she tried her best to inform me by yelling in Czech. Oops? Dobrý den!
Non-stop 90’s music everywhere you go. And I don’t only mean the big players, like Whitney Houston or Nirvana. I mean real deep cuts, like “Your Woman” by White Town or “Cherry Cola” by Savage Garden. Do you remember those songs? Because Prague does.
Packed festivals celebrating absolutely anything in the middle of the day. No one here works. People go listen to mariachis and eat Argentinian steaks at 2 pm on a Wednesday. They love celebrating other cultures, even if they get it right only like 40% of the time. I went to a Latin food festival over the summer where they were serving actual “arroz con mango.”
People doing no work at all. The Czechs will keep you waiting for three weeks to prepare a document that requires only the copying and pasting of personal information and clicking “Print.” You could go in person to a bank or the utility company’s office, and they’ll hand you a flyer and tell you to call the help line. It’s kind of impressive how little they give a fuck about anything.
Fireworks. I don’t know what it is about this city, but there are fireworks somewhere in Prague at least twice a week.
Food that looks great but tastes like a bizarro Czech version. The Czechs cook like they’ve only ever heard descriptions of other foods, but have never actually tasted it. So eating out here is a little hit or miss. You may find yourself questioning why your alfredo pasta tastes like mayonnaise. Or why your ketchup has cinnamon in it. Sometimes I just wanna march into the kitchen and grab the cook by his sweaty Def Leppard t-shirt and ask him, “Who hurt you? Why are you like this?”
Old and new living in peaceful harmony. Prague is over 1,000 years old. I know you’re busy freaking out about your impending 30th birthday, but deal with that for a second. Imagine being Prague’s age… and get over yourself. The striking architecture that has been around for centuries shares a home with the marvels of modern living. The sleek and stylish metro coexists with the same rickety trams they’ve been using for decades. It’s a gorgeous contradictory mess.
Drinking drinking drinking. A few weeks ago, I drove into the Czech Republic with some friends from Germany. We stopped at the very first rest stop on the other side of the border, and there were people drinking outside their cars. At a rest stop. The drinking culture here is intense which means alcohol is popular, cheap, and ubiquitous. What the Czechs lack in culinary finesse, they make up for in bartending skills.
Bars named after authors. Prague loves its writers, and writers love their booze. So Prague sweetly celebrates their work by naming bars after them. Hemingway, Bukowski, James Joyce, and of course Franz Kafka (who is the patron saint of Prague authors). Whoever your favorite author is, you can probably find a cute cocktail bar in Prague that bears their name.
Coffee shops. I guess when you drink this much, you need something to help you get out of bed in the morning. So there are more coffee shops within a one mile radius here than there are in all of Seattle. If you ask a Czech child what they want to be when they grow up, 2 in 5 are going to tell you they want to open their own craft coffee house.
Obnoxious church bells. Prague, What the fuck is this. This goes on for 5 minutes straight three times a day. Why?
Beautiful sunsets. The sunsets here look like they’re painted on the sky every night by Renaissance artists. Really, though…