My son is planning to spend a semester abroad in Prague. I have been googleing around to find out about the city and the Chech republic in general. Anyone have any knowledge, information, opinion about it?
Tomcat lives in the Czech Republic. I’m sure he will be able to help.
Did someone mention my name?
I have to run, but I’ll be back tomorrow, probably. Until then, you can go to www.praguepost.com and give me a list of ?'s I did a semester here in CZ back in 1994 where I met my future wife. We moved here after getting married in Colorado in 1997- love it! Great place, safe and TONS of stuff to do.
Dobri Den Tomkocka!
Mam czesky mangelka taky, nebo mam domaci na Londyn - proto ja nemluvish moc Czech (a ja ne mam slovnik na prace, promin).
Prague is a fine, fine city as long as you avoid the English louts going there for cheap beer. Am planning to buy a flat there soon (to rent perhaps, Tomcat - interested?.. know anyone…??)
Back for a little.
Prague is the cultural center of Europe, IMHO. There is simply TOO much to do here…Theatre, concerts, rock shows, raves…you name it, we got it.
There are plenty of students all year around studying everything under the sun. The main university, Charles University, has faculties in medicine, arts, economics, etc…and they are mostly first rate programs. You of course hear grumblings about certain aspects of some programs, but all-in-all, they are well worth it.
The city is also at the heart of Europe, which means that you can get to many other cities for a weekend trip easily: Bratislava, Budapest, Vienna, Saltzberg, Dresden, Munich, Krakow, etc…And if you are a bit more wealthy, airplane flights (roundtrip) are pretty cheap too: London $200, Istanbul $200, Barcelona $250, the list goes on and on. when I was on my study abroad, for Thanksgiving week I went to Istanbul while other people hit Spain, Egypt, Latvia, Sicily…
Safety wise, it is fine. You have to watch out for pickpockets diligently, but violent crimes never happen (except for the drunk Brits that come over for soccer or bachelor parties who decide that picking a fight is the cool thing to do on a vacation abroad)(sorry to you fellow Brit dopers, but they are the only people I have seen start fights in my 6 years here).
The only thing that over-protective parents will have to deal with is the fact that 18 year old Suzie can go out to any dance club and drink to her hearts content with Italians until 6 am…on a Tuesday. It is a tourist town, and they cater to that exclusively. So if you don’t trust your child to make good decisions when faced with hedonistic choices, either you have to let go or don’t ask questions you don’t want to hear the answers to.
I really gotta go home…anything else? I’ll answer tomorrow.
flapcats Where are you buying this place? What’s it like? I’ll be in London Mar. 24-28 for a hedge fund conference, maybe we can get a drink one night.
Thanks for the info Tcat. What you touched on was really what I wanted to know. Is it safe? Is there stuff to do? How hard is it to travel elsewhere in Europe. As far as his social life, I never ask because I don’t even want to know. He of course won’t have a car so the drinking aspect doesn’t really worry me. I’ll warn him about the pickpockets.
How are the prices for stuff? Is food expensive? How about intracity transportation and entertainment things? He will be staying in a renovated dorm building that people who have been there describe as a five star hotel, but considering the dorm rooms at his college it would be difficult not to be impressed I guess.
Oh yeah, also do they speak much English there? My son will get a crash course in need to know slavic, I guess stuff like “I have to puke, where is the bathroom?” and “I am hopelessly lost, how do I get back to where I am staying.” Also, my big fear is that he will get arrested for something, not even going to surmise what. I assume that that doesn’t happen frequently, or you have to do something really bad, if it is a city catering to the tourist crowd.
Yep, generally safe and easy access to anywhere. There is an incredible amount of stuff to do. The trains here are great, and weekend trips are easy to plan.
Prices: Generally inexpensive for food, etc. but not as cheap as they were because of the weak dollar. Still, a plate of Goulash and a beer will cost $2.00-$2.50. Beer, mmmmm…I said the magical word…Beer…This deserves its own paragraph.
Beer is simply awesome here. You’ve had your Pilsner Urquells and your Budvar, but there are plenty other beers to be had and they are all fresh and extremely cheap: a half-liter (c. 16oz.) of the world’s best beer will cost you $0.50-$0.80 in most places. In the rural communites, even less. Beer is easily cheaper than Coca-Cola at any restaurant. In fact, a good way to judge a restaurant from its menu is the price of its beer- if it’s $1.00-$1.50, then that is an expensive restaurant, if it is $2, that is a restaurant that you only go to when the parents visit.
Other expenses: entertainment. Dance clubs are free or only a few dollars. A special DJ might set you back $5 for a rave, and normal concerts will be around $10. A classical music show can go up to $20, but normally you can get a seat for less than half of that (and the classical music here is second to none). They have opened a rash of BIG MODERN movie theaters with stadium seats, and 90% of the movies are in their original language and subtitled in Czech- $5/ticket. You can go to quaint local theaters for $1-$2 (and they rotate through older movies there too - Pulp Fiction on the big screen!). Ballet and opera exist, but I only went to one show 9 years ago and almost puked- not my thing. Jazz clubs are everywhere! Great places, great music.
Transport- easily the best transport I have ever used. A student pass will set him back $12/month and he can get anywhere in the city within 30 minutes, just about. Plus the downtown areas are generally sealed off from cars, so you pretty much walk everywhere you go.
Police? I don’t think I have ever been stopped here. I don’t even carry ID. But then again, I don’t do many illegal things here…Unless there is an extreme amount of stupidity going on, there should be no worries.
English is spoken everywhere. Most waiters speak it, many locals do too. Plus, there are thousands of expats here, so you can generally always find someone to answer your questions.
Lastly, you can pick up a mobile phone here for under $100 and charge it up with coupons bought at cigarette stores. Then when he leaves, he can sell it back to the store for $30 or so. So, phone plus average usage will run around $30/month. A little expensive, but then he can always be in touch.
I’ll second this. I’m not a big beer drinker, but even I loved the dark beer in Prague. Which, BTW, is cheaper than the cappuccinos.
There I’ll have to differ with you. I made the mistake of going to one of those concerts where the periwigged musicians sell the tickets on the street corner. Worst concert I’ve ever heard. My friends and I were in hysterics, it was so bad.
Alas, the Opera wasn’t playing anything when we were there, or I might have had a better basis for comparison. But London and Berlin still have better classical music.
One thing you have to say for the Russians – they built some impressive Metro stations. Lots of marble.
Hi jr8, I’d have to say that I think you got the exception, not the rule, on your classical show. Now, I am not an authority, but my partner is: Huge classical fan, has travelled the world and attended hundreds of shows (including many in London- he lived there for awhile after graduating from Cambridge). His opinion is that the average Czech musician will compare to the pros from other countries…they just pumped so much money into musical education during the commie years. He has had season tickets for years now to 2 or 3 venues and goes almost every week. Plus, there are his friends and family who are also classical nuts and one who was a concert pianist before he got his finger lopped off in a car door (shocking way to force a career change, eh?)…they have all backed the opinion that they witnessed some incredible music.
Now, I, for one, am not one to judge. I went to a show and almost fell asleep. Then again, I like Marilyn Manson and Linkin Park, so…not too surprising, eh? But going off of the numerous accolades, I would have to say that you unfortunately got ripped off by a tourist-trap show. Next time, stick to the Rudolfinum or Obecny Dum performances of the Czech Philharmonic. Especially in the Spring when they have a bunch of visiting hotshots - conductors, violinists, etc…I hear those are good shows because they are different than your standard Beethoven’s 9th recital.
I lived in Prauge for about two years between 1996 and 1998, worked at Jo’s Bar and a tattoo shop in Mala Strana, on Nerudova near the Castle. Any chance we knew each other?
(Ano, uz jsem americky pravnik!)
Naw, I doubt it. But we definitely know the same people that owned the ex-pat joints (Glen, Little Glen, Matthew, Tracy, Chris, Tim). I never really socialized much, we moved here broke (US student loans on Koruna paychecks) so I started working ASAP and have been pulling 6 day weeks for the past 5.5 years, face buried into a computer screen. I’m a Prague 6 boy mainly, I only migrate downtown for the occasional bagel and binge-drinking night. Someday I’m sure I’ll have a heck of a mid-life crisis for missing out on all of the fun, but I figure I can make up for it then.
Man, you know what? I don’t think I’ve been to Jo’s Bar since 1994…I always hit U Maleho Glena or U Koucoru or that Latino place when in Mala Strana. Jo’s never did it for me for some reason (Maybe that has to do with my Colorado roots- I am a Mexican food snob- HEY! There is a fast food Mexican place here now! Picante’s near Kotva. A new expat rolled into town and opened it up, and you know what? It’s pretty darn good. Has a salsa bar with 4 fresh-made salsas and sliced jalapenos- spoon on all you want.).
Well, come on back for a visit when the firm let’s you take a vacation. What area of law are you practicing?
I’m a law clerk for a U.S. District Judge right now, but my term ends next August. I was hoping to take a month or so off and head back to Prague for a visit if I can. I’ll post if I do make the trip, we can meet up and throw back a few.
If you frequent U Maleho Glena, you might have run into my friend Pat, he played classical guitar there and elsewhere for a while. Big guy, dreadlocks, lots of tattoos, loud, usually very funny. He’s in NZ recording with Jaz Coleman now.
Good Mexican fast food in Prague? Shocking!
dauerbach - I wouldn’t worry too much about him getting arrested over there. Tourism is extremely important to the local economy, and I doubt they’d make too much of a stink about folks getting a bit drunk and rowdy.
But here’s a bit of advice: have a day (or two) a week when you can call him. Just “touch base” regularly at a specific time and it will most certainly put your mind at ease.
That being said, he’ll probably have the greatest time of his life. “Study Abroad” is less about studying, and more about experience - one I’m sure he will cherish and remember for years to come.
I want to thank everyone for their information. Honestly, I know nothing about Europe and had no idea what kind of a city Prague is. You have put my mind at ease. I am sure he will have a great time.