After two days in the Czech Republic we’ve started to catch on to the Czech way of life. The first night our Czech buddies took us out to dinner and out of instinct I ordered water. Quickly I learned that beer is cheaper than water, so almost every meal is eaten with beer. Beer costs about 18 to 30 Czech Krowns, which is about 1 USD. Once beer is brought to the table it’s customary to cheers (na zdravi!) but never cross arms because it’s bad luck. Common Czech dishes are potato pancakes, cabbage, and dumplings. When eating in Czech restaurants you’ll also notice that you never receive the check without asking for it. Locals enjoy talking and drinking for hours and the servers don’t discourage it. Our first dinner lasted about 3 hours. For a quick yet filling bite you can always stop by Old Town Square to pick up a sausage for about $3, it’s a deal.
Of course food and drink etiquette was the first thing picked up, but our teachers and tour guide filled us in quick on other basics. To become oriented with the city we embarked on a tour by foot. Our tour guide Milos knew the history like the back of his hand but impressed us more with his unique perspective. The part of the tour that struck me was the Czech’s lack of flags. Milos told us that the Czech flag is only ever found on governmental buildings and being that Milos has been to 49 of the United States, he knows the stark difference between our abundance of flags. Don’t get me wrong the Czechs are proud of their country, and it’ll show when you talk to them. The lack of flags here is due to the cost associated with having them. On a side note, most Czechs speak at least English and Czech as English is a requirement in school.
Many Philadelphians belief our city is the most abundant with history, but I’ve learned that Prague is definitely more abundant in terms of history. As I mentioned in my previous blog, their culture dates back thousands of years beginning with the Celtic Tribe in 500 AD. The Czechs have endured oppression by Nazi Germany and later by the Communist party, but later freed themselves via the Velvet Revolution and also by breaking away from Czechoslovakia. The oppression has imprinted everything in their culture ranging from their music and beautiful architecture, to their ironic and commonly satiric yet tragic films. During our pre-trip course we read The Joke by Milan Kundera which gives one a good idea of what the country was like under communism. For all you history buffs, Prague and its neighboring cities (like Lidice) are the place for you.