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Ninth Prague Adventure of Mr/s XYZ at ISHLT 2012:
The Best of Prague

Tereza Martinu, MD
Duke University Medical Center

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tereza martinu"Could you please stow away your tray-table and fasten your seatbelt?"

You wake up from your daydreaming and look up at the flight attendant. Hastily cleaning up your papers from your tray-table you reluctantly obey the airplane rules.

As soon as the flight attendant straps in for takeoff, you dig up your diary again to return to your project. You know the minute you touch ground at home, the duties and obligations of real life will return to weigh heavily on your shoulders. You remember the grant due in 5 days, the talk you need to prepare for your next conference, the data that needs to be analyzed which you have been neglecting for over a week now ... but you promptly suppress these thoughts and return to your Prague daydreaming. Your significant other mandated you with the task of exploring Prague so that you can plan your next trip there together. So you open to the new entry in your diary titled, "The Best of Prague". You start racking your brains....

[NOTE: A variety of private tours of Prague and the surrounding areas have been arranged for ISHLT delegates and their friends and families. These tours are listed below in GREEN—sign-up at our Annual Meeting Website under the TOURS heading.]

One absolutely cannot leave without visiting:

  • Your favorite walk around key landmarks following the King's Way from the Old Town square to Charles' Bridge, towards Malostranské Náměstí (square), Nerudova Street, and up the stairs to the castle.
  • Prague castle: St. Vitus Cathedral (right) with a view of the city from the spire and the Golden Lane.
    ISHLT Walking Tour: General City Tour (Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral, "Royal Route," Charles Bridge, Old Town City Hall, Astronomical Clock)

Other things to see in Prague, off the beaten path:

Quick tour of architectural styles through history:

Best one-day excursions from Prague:

Best castles:

For a good sampling of castles, Karlštejn Fortress, Hluboká Chateau, and Český Šternberk Castle make a nice compilation. For the castle aficionado, other gems include:

Best museums:

Best souvenirs to bring home:

  • Bohemian crystal (sold everywhere in tourist areas): Egermann is an interesting brand; Moser is a high-end luxury brand
  • Easter eggs called "kraslice" are ornate egg shells popular around Easter time
  • Wooden toys and wooden artwork
  • Puppets or marionettes: Puppet theater has a long history in entertainment in Prague. You can go see a show and puppets are for sale in all souvenir shops.
  • Czech porcelain: two traditional brands are Cibulák and Henrietta. A small factory shop is located in Perlová ulice, a short distance from Národní třída. A big store is located on Jugoslávská street, west of náměstí Míru.
  • Jewelry made with Czech garnets, Czech crystal, vltavín stone (Moldavite), and jantar (Amber): a factory shop with Czech garnet is located on Dlouhá třída (walking eastward from Old Town Square). One should check the store's certificate of authenticity prior to purchasing gems.
  • Alcohol: Classic Czech hard alcohols include becherovka (a herbal bitter made in Karlovy Vary), slivovice (plum brandy), meruňkovice (apricot brandy), borovička (Juniper brandy), and absinth (anise-flavored spirit)
  • Beer souvenirs such as T-shirts, hats, mugs or steins
  • Czech spa wafers (Lázeňské oplatky): best brand is Opavia; these are sold warm on Staroměstské náměstí (square)
  • Copy of artwork: most renowned painters include Alfons Mucha, Mikoláš Aleš, Josef Mánes, and Josef Lada (with cartoon-like pictures featured in children books)
  • Paintings of Prague landscape are sold all over old town.

In general, prices are better further out of Prague center but the selection may be better in the more touristic spots.

Family Activities:

In case you decide to bring your kids with you next time, you write down things that would likely entertain them.

Dos and Don'ts:

  • Don't wear jeans or shorts to the theater or concert hall. That may offend the locals who wear suits and dresses.
  • Don't use your credit card in sketchy places or small businesses. It's better to get cash (Czech koruna) from the bank or ATM for use in smaller shops, stands, and restaurants.
  • Do consider wearing a money belt or pouch. Prague is a generally safe city, except for a pretty high risk of pickpocketing. Keep your hand on your purse/bag zipper in crowded places.
  • Do beware of taxis: the general recommendation is to avoid these. Prague taxi drivers are notoriously and sadly on a mission to rip off unsuspecting tourists. If you need a taxi, call a reputable company (maybe have the hotel call one for you). Negotiating the price with the driver ahead of time is a good idea.
  • Public transport: now, this was an interesting learning experience for you. It makes a lot of sense to take public transport in Prague since it's cheap and gets you everywhere. However, there are some details to remember. One needs to buy a ticket ahead of time: either a short non-transfer ticket (called nepřestupný lístek) or a transfer ticket good for 90 minutes (called přestupný lístek). The other option is to get a one-day or a one-week pass. You need to stamp your ticket or pass at the entrance to the subway, bus or tramway and then you need to keep it until you are done riding. You may be asked to show your stamped ticket by a Czech-only-speaking undercover agent (wearing plain clothes).

You start laughing as you recall the day you almost assaulted the poor ticket agent, thinking he was a thief trying to rob you. Good thing some good-soul English-speaking local intervened and explained the situation to you. Your laughter attracted the attention of other plane passengers who are now staring at you from across the aisle. You refocus on your diary: the best food, the best pastries, the best beer ... you have your work cut out for the rest of your flight!

Disclosure Statement: The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose.