An outlet mall is an outlet mall … almost

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(Fair warning: If you’re expecting photos of Baroque churches, ornate castles or even tasty food, this isn’t the blog post for you. This is the real world.)

When the skies are gray and the wind is blowing and the streets of Old Town are clogged with tourists, what’s a good Sunday afternoon adventure?

Why, how about a trip to the outlet mall? Yes, Prague has one, though, for me to get there took a three-block hike to the Metro, a harrowing ride down the steepest and fastest escalator I’ve even ridden,* and a 20-minute ride on a packed train — at least packed for part of the trip.

By the end — and this is the last stop on this Metro line —, I was beginning to wonder if the stores would have any customers at all, as only one gray-haired woman who slept through the last four stops remain in my car. But I found plenty more about 100 meters further, waiting to pack the free shuttle that runs from the Metro to the Fashion Outlet.

BusThey piled onto the bus when it pulled up five minutes later, standing room only, as we headed off for the 10-minute trip to the stores. This is NOT the scenic part of the city, filled as it is with concrete and rusted metal factories and commercial building that look like they’re straight from the Soviet era.

WalkingInWhen the bus stopped, everyone piled off and headed to a mall that could have ALMOST come straight out of middle America. Ninety-four stores, including Nike’s, Tommy Hilfiger, Columbia, Claire’s and Levi’s, formed roughly a triangle around a huge parking lot. (Apparently not everyone came the way I did…)

So I was good on the stores I knew. The challenge became assessing places like Timeout and Lui Jo and Tom Tailor. That took checking out the clientele. Who was coming out of each store?  If the jeans on the females had more holes and tears than material, I skipped that store. If the shoppers carried purses that were large and clearly made of leather, I looked closer, but if it had lots of sparkles, I didn’t go further.

Music was another key — how loud, how new, how American? And displays were a clue. Tom Tailor seems like a cross between Tommy Hilfiger and Polo, and the distressed brick columns behind the check-out desk and stained oak shelves added to that feel.

In about an hour and a half, I had found trouser socks to go with my new boots (39 Kč = $1.63??!!) and sample-sized Estee Lauder moisturizer, a good deal but not that good, at the Cosmetics Comany Store. But I learned the shoes I’d come to find — Rieker and super comfortable but too large in the downtown store — were also too large at the outlet mall. And the Nike store (even without John, I had to go check) was sadly lacking in an Air Max with more than about two inches of “air” pockets, though those pictured at the top are selling for $84.

So I took my two small purchases and left on the packed bus, retracing my steps and heading back to a city that was colder and windier than when I had left three hours before. Hmmmm. That Columbia down coat I tried on might not be such a bad investment after all. Maybe I’ll have to come back….

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*Yes, worse than D.C.-Woodley Park-Zoo on the Red Line. And the Metro escalator I rode — Staroměstská — isn’t as bad as another in Prague. Náměstí Míru is 53 meters below the surface and Woodley Park is just a shade less that 47 meters, or 154 feet. And, yes, stats for Prague came from Wikipedia….

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