Part III: The final things I will miss


4. Prague at Night.  After the sun goes down, the crowds may be there but they fade into the shadows. Lamp posts cast shadows on cobblestones, statues of saints are black outlines on not-quite-so-black skies. Noise is muted on Charles Bridge as a lone violin replaces the accordions and the one-man-cymbal-and-drum band. Suddenly what was hustling and noisy is rather mystical.

Ducks3. Farmers’ markets. Yes, Kent has one, but it’s not as big, and it’s not as diverse. I will miss ladies in colorful aprons, making crepes and filling them with Nutella or caramel or savory tidbits like sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese (my favorite!). I will miss spring rolls, frying in big woks, and cider — hard or not — or burčák, that young first-grapes-of-the-season wine the locals make. I will miss huge crates of tomatoes and potatoes and kale. I will miss fresh eggs and lines to buy them stretching across the fronts of the next four stalls. I will miss the man who sells fowl — and always runs out of the ducks first. And I’ll miss the families with wagons and carts and shopping bags and baskets, filling up on groceries for the week to come while sipping a drink or feeding a toddler a kolache.

2. Constant recreating. Prague is old, no doubt about it. But it cherishes the history and tidies up the present. Sidewalks that are missing bricks one week are reset the next. Buildings are hosed down, repainted, refreshed. Historic buildings are frequently cloaked in scaffolding and net so workers can restore sections of them. The Loreta, a pilgrimage site with a cloister, stable and house said to be like that of Jesus’ mother, Mary, built in 1626, had workmen cleaning between tiles with tiny brushes no bigger than a child’s toothbrush.

1. The diversity of it all. People, languages, architecture, food — it is all somewhere in Prague. I will miss turning the corner to avoid seemingly hundreds of tourists in front of the Astronomical Clock in Old Town and finding myself on a quiet cobblestone street with only one elderly man walking along with a paper under his arm.

The class I taught had 18 students representing nine different countries. I will miss discussions about how media covers refugees (or should they be considered migrants?) with those from Belaruse, Russia, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, plus four exchange students from the U.S. Everyone had a different view, and each listened to the others respectfully.

I’ll miss the contrast between the Vyšehrad, home of the Bohemian king in the 11th century, now a quiet park with few tourists, and Prague Castle, a few miles away, packed with tour groups learning about the past and current rulers who have lived there. They couldn’t be more different, and they couldn’t be more telling of the variety this city offers.

The view from the wall remaining around part of Vyšehrad Citadel makes it clear why early rulers chose this spot for a castle.

The view from the wall remaining around part of Vyšehrad Citadel makes it clear why early rulers chose this spot for a castle.



Part II: More top things I will miss

PetrinWallTwo months is a long time to spend in another country. But Prague — along with pretty much everyone I met — was good to me. Numbers 10, 9 and 8 were posted yesterday. Now here are four more things I will miss now that I’m back in Ohio.

7. Walking everywhere. I’m not sure I could safely walk to my office in Franklin Hall if I wanted to. The Google map tells me it’s an hour and 22 minutes and experience warns me some of that is without sidewalks and up and down hills.

But the trek to Anglo-American University from my apartment was 13 minutes — a bit longer if I chose to battle the crowds and go across scenic Karlův most (Charles Bridge).

PetrinTowerBetter yet, as my Fitbit will attest, I walked almost everywhere — and that included, on a regular basis, Tesco for just about anything, the Post Office, the Bakeshop and all except one restaurant (Sakura sushi, a tram ride away). All this walking led to an average of almost 20,000 steps a day, with one mega day of 30,000+ steps that included Prague Castle, the Strahov Monastery and Petřín Hill (right) (130 meters above the river — and the funicular was being repaired). That meant a walk of almost 12 miles along cobblestone streets, through a basilica built in 920, peaking in on a library started in 1143, visiting a lookout built in 1892 to mimic the Eiffel Tower, then heading down a steep hill that ends at the Vlatava River.

6. Vetrnik. The Czech Republic may be known for Prague ham and terdlniki, both slowly browning on spits with tourists lined up to get them. But there are better delicacies, especially vetrnik. And the best, according to Taste of Prague, are the vetrnik at Cafe Savoy. It’s hard to describe just how exquisite these are: a choux pastry much like a delicate cream puff with vanilla cream, caramel-flavored whipped cream and a caramel glaze. Cafe Savoy is virtually at the foot of Petřín Hill so the vetrnik pictured below — the mini size because they also come about four times this big — were a much-deserved award for a day of walking.Vetrnik

5. Amazing Architecture. Why didn’t I ever take a college course in architecture, just so I could know the difference between Baroque and Gothic, Art Nouveau and Renaissance? The good news is Prague has them all, and, even though I couldn’t always identify their category, I could appreciate their beauty. The only problem — the shots become a photographic exercise in parallax with walls tilting in. But at least they do so gracefully. This is a random sampling of some that caught my eye — and the kinds of structures I don’t see in Kent, Ohio.

Part I: Top things I will miss


Now that I’ve been home two weeks, I’ve unpacked, washed clothes and thought about my two months in Prague. It’s time to spell out the Top 10 Things I Will Miss about that city. Then I’ll deal with the Top 10 Things I Will Not Miss and finally Lessons Learned from my travels. In between I may stick in a few visuals I love but didn’t post and some other random thoughts. But for now, here’s what I know I will miss…in no particular order (because every time I try to rank them, I change my mind!).

IMG_413610. Public transportation. It was a standing joke with my friend Olena, one of the students who visited Kent State in 2014. She was amazed how limited our system is in Kent, Ohio, and I was more than a little concerned about getting around on trams, buses and the metro in Prague.

Silly me. Once I had that průkaz (card) that allowed me to ride anything and everything, I was set. Prague’s system is clean, efficient, easy-to-understand and on time. I took it to the zoo, the ice cream festival, the airport, the outlet mall and any place I couldn’t walk in a half hour. The next stop always flashed on a digital sign on the tram or subway, letting me know where I was. And while I couldn’t exactly translate all the words from the digital voice on the subway, I was pretty sure it meant, “Please step away from the doors. The train is about to start.”

St. George's Basilica, founded about 920 by Prince Vratislav I, is austere compared to ornate St. Vitus nearby.

St. George’s Basilica, founded about 920 by Prince Vratislav I, is austere compared to nearby St. Vitus.

9. History everywhere. There’s nothing like a trip to just about any place in Europe to make someone from the United States feel like a child when it comes to history. Prague has the mixed blessing of not being destroyed by bombs in World War II — because the Nazis were just allowed to walk right in, thanks to the Munich Pact.

That had many bad results, but it did save places like St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague Castle, a site that started with Romanesque rotunda in 925, which became a basilica in 1060, and then a Gothic cathedral in 1344, which was finally finished in 1929. Or St. George’s Basilica, the oldest surviving church building in Prague Castle, dating back to 920 (above).

8. Music of all kinds. Whether it’s the blind accordion player on Charles Bridge or a string concert in a Gothic cathedral, Prague has music everywhere. Much of it is free, though tossing a 50 Kč-coin into an open violin case is expected from anyone who stops to listen. Unfortunately, actual concerts rarely allow photography, so this is a sampling of what is simply in the streets (or on Charles Bridge).

The rest of the Top 10 will follow shortly.