Monday, May 23, 2011

i'm sorry!

Dear blog friends! I'm sorry I completely neglected to finish up the Best of Prague series. I got sucked into junior year of college, then senior year, and then graduation -- and now being a real working adult. Ahh!

A few of my friends have referenced this blog for tips, and I definitely hope that it helped you in some way. If you have any specific questions, please don't hesitate to email me (helenofzuo@gmail.com). I'm happy to blab on and on about my stay in Prague, and am excited for your future trips to the beautiful city!

In the meantime, feel free to catch me at my lifestyle blog, Helen Hearts.

xoxo,
Helen

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Best of Prague, Part 2: Food & Drink!

With the Czech Republic's currency still on the krona (or crown), it is so cheap and sweet to eat out in Prague! 17 crowns to 1 US dollar was a great exchange rate for this poor student. Eating in Prague was such a huge pleasure and indulgence because, yes, beer is cheaper than water and also comfort food (pork stew, dumplings, hearty soups) happen to be everyday food.



FOOD you need to eat!
  • Goulash & Bread/Potato Dumplings. This is a traditional Czech dish, and is very savory, heavy, and delicious!
  • Smažený sýr or fried cheese. Don't forget the tartar sauce! I loved munching on a fried cheese sandwich from a street vendor after a night out ... tastes so good!
  • Fruit dumplings. This is a dessert you'll either love or hate.
  • Czech pancakes. Which are basically American crepes. Actually, maybe even better than American crepes!


Some very, very special DRINKS:
  • Pilsner Urquel -- the Czechs' favorite beer, brewed in Plzen, Czech Republic
  • Staropramen -- my favorite Czech beer, so light and tasty
  • A Radler -- a mix of beer and lemonade/sprite. I always order this. Always.
  • Becherovka -- A cinnamon-tasting liquor only manufactured in the Czech Republic, barely exported in the US. This one you'll either love or hate as well.


Knockout Restaurants/Cafes I'd recommend:

For Brunch/Lunch:
  • Cafe Zanzibar -- This was my favorite brunch place, with affordable prices and huge, delicious portions. I went here almost every week! I loved their avocado & chicken salad, grilled feta cheese & toast, and all of their egg combinations
  • Radoste -- Club/bar at night, amazing vegetarian brunch cafe on weekends. You must try their waffles and wraps
  • Bohemia Bagel -- the Westerner's hangout with Western-style food; comforting if you're in Prague for long and want a taste of home. Dig into their American cheesecakes, homemade soups, and yummy burgers
  • Au Groumand -- Cute cafe with lots of decadent desserts and gelato

  • Cafe Cafe -- Known more for its incredible Meatpacking District vibe (think fashion and glamour), skip the entree here but get lots of desserts, like chocolate cake. Mmm.
  • Country Life -- This one's for you vegans out there! Both a restaurant and a store, this place is the ultimate vegan buffet in Prague
For Dinner:
  • Las Adelitas -- Best Mexican food in Prague, hands down. Best service too (which is hard to find in Prague, unfortunately). Order anything, you can't go wrong. I recommend their mojitos and passion fruit margaritas too. They were so unbelievably tasty.
  • Prague Lokal -- Only 2 months old, this restaurant offers the best traditional Czech food you could ever find. (And I've eaten a lot to compare!) One of my Czech professors told me about it (and he lives in Prague), and he even said it was the best Czech food he'd ever tasted!
  • Pivovarsky Dum -- A tourist favorite. This place is named after beer ("pivo") because it has an incredibly large flavored beer selection (my favorite was banana) and some of its courses are even made with beer as an ingredient! Neato.

Me at Las Adelitas for Mexican Monday (my long-time tradition)!

There are plenty other restaurants in Old Town Square to choose from, but these ones happened to stick to me -- I had such great memories wining and dining in each! Please let me know if you have any specific questions about anything. Feel free to email or voice your question in a comment below!

Keep a look out! More "BEST of Prague" yet to come...


Part 3:
Day trips (for those on extended stay)!
Part 4:
Night life (Bars, Clubs, you name it.)
Part 5:
Czech specialties + souvenirs

Saturday, January 2, 2010

black and white cookie



Opposites attract in Budapest. Oh, the fun times we had. I miss Budapest.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best of Prague, Part 1: Attractions



As promised, here's the first part of my little guide to my little city. I hope it gets your hearts racing to Prague if you've never visited and helps recall sweet memories if you have. (It's been less than two weeks, and I miss it already!)

Top Ten Favorite Local Attractions:
  • Old Town Square

    From wherever you're staying, take the metro to Staroměstská, which means "Old Town" in Czech. Congrats, you've reached the heart of Prague! Go ahead and explore the square. Pick up a hot dog and hot wine (in winter), and take pictures of the Astronomical Clock, Minute House (where Franz Kafka once lived), Jan Hus monument, and Tyn Church. Wander through a portal off the square and get a little lost. Visit the fruit markets and souvenir shops. All roads lead back to Old Town, so fear not, my friends! Check out this 360 degree view of Old Town and get pumped.
  • Prague Castle

    You can't visit Prague and not see this gorgeous landmark! In good weather, hike up the hill (and enjoy the many interesting shops along the way) or take the tram to Pražský hrad. If you visit the Castle during the day, you can enter the St. Vitus Cathedral (and for free too)! It was modeled after the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, and is absolutely breathtaking inside. While you're up at the Castle, make sure you visit the the Wallenstein Gardens only a few steps away. This royal garden hosts live peacocks in the summer and boasts beautiful fountains, an aviary, and an impressive limestone wall. (See my photos of the Wallenstein Gardens and St. Vitus Cathedral!)
  • Old Jewish Cemetery

    Close to Old Town Square, you can easily walk to this massive cemetery that contains 12 levels of graves, where 100,000+ Prague Jews have rested for centuries. It's an incredible sight and piece of history, even if you're not Jewish!
  • Vysehrad Castle

    This one's for all the history buffs. Bohemia's earliest royals lived in Vysehrad in the 14th century, and while the Castle is not the most impressive of castles, the nearby Vysehrad cemetery (where all the most famous Czechs are laid to rest) is definitely a top 10 sight to see. (Scroll down for my pictures.)
  • The Dancing Building

    Take the metro to Karlovo Namesti, and you will easily find this new building, completed in 1996. The Dancing Building is so fascinating, because it is probably the most modern piece of architecture in Prague! Czech civilians actually dislike it, because it's so out of place; still, I think it's a cool thing to see, and in a beautiful part of Prague's New Town. (Check out my Dancing Building pictures.) After you've taken your fill of photos, look for the Vltava River to your right and walk over to a bridge to admire the view. If it's a nice day, make a 180 and walk away from the building, following the river on your left and taking in all the pretty buildings on your right. Keep walking along the river. You'll love it, I promise. And you'll most likely run into the...
  • Charles Bridge

    This bridge connects Old Town to New Town, and it is extremely busy, filled with tourists and street vendors. Right now the Karlov Must (Czech for Charles Bridge... duh!) is undergoing some (not so pretty) construction, but you can definitely still walk across. I'd recommend early in the morning or late at night, so you don't get pushed around by the crowds!
  • The Lennon Wall

    For Beatles fans, this is a must. Regardless, this homage to John Lennon is a sight for the eyes. Oh, and while you're there, just a few steps away is a teeny Love Lock bridge. You'll love it if you're a sentimental romantic like me. Never heard of one before? You have now.
  • Zizkov TV Tower

    Okay, fine, I didn't actually go up to the top. (Why does every city have one of these things anyway? Berlin, Paris, New York... it's like a global "mine's bigger than yours" mentality.) But the David Cerny "crawling baby" statues on the tower are pretty rad. Creepy, yes. But cool. I liked them.
  • Wenceslas Square

    The Times Square of Prague? Something like that. If you want to get your shopping on, walk down this lively boulevard from the Mustek metro station all the way to the end, where the National Museum stands. Gawk at the gorgeous buildings that are now owned by the likes of McDonald's or Zara. Then get a fried cheese sandwich at a food stand. Just tell 'em, "Smažený sýr, prosim!" ("Fried cheese, please!") And don't forget the tartar sauce. Continue walking toward the...
  • Museums

    Okay, new Prague wanderers. Prepare yourself for the city of art and architecture. If you're already in Wenceslas Square, go ahead to the National Museum at the end of the boulevard. (Or take the metro to Muzeum if you're short on time.) Climb up the steps and take in the full, glorious view of Wenceslas Square. Do a victory dance, Rocky-style. Then... visit some more galleries! Other great museums include the Cubist museum (free on Wednesdays!), the Franz Kafka museum, and cool galleries like the Salvador Dali exhibition and the Alphonse Mucha exhibition.
  • Keep a look out! More "BEST of Prague" yet to come...

    Part 2: Food, Drink and Restaurant recommendations
    Part 3:
    Day trips (for those on extended stay)!
    Part 4:
    Night life (Bars, Clubs, you name it.)
    Part 5:
    Czech specialties + souvenirs

Saturday, December 19, 2009

back home + postcards



After lots of sleep and Chinese food and reading some of the Glamour and Lucky magazines I'd missed at home... I'm finally unpacking. Which means distributing the presents to my family! (So happy to find them in good shape.) My little sister already hung up all the postcards I'd collected for her from each city. She's so much like me in that way :)

... Okay, back to unpacking! Phew!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

home tomorrow



I'm really in shock. How is it possible that I'll be back home tomorrow? That I have a flight to catch in 10 hours????? Tonight, I emailed my last final paper, had my last dinner at Zanzibar with friends, drank my last Czech beer, said goodbye to my friends from other schools...

I remember when living here felt so hard and even this charming little city couldn't rid me of my homesickness. And yes, I'm excited to see my family, my own comfy bed, the rest of my wardrobe... but I just can't imagine how my life would have turned out without Prague, without being in the city where I've learned to love new people, new cultural experiences, and even the many indescribable little ways that I've changed.

In a few days, I'm going to make an extensive list of my favorite Prague memories, in addition to my recommendations on Prague to-do's. I think once it sinks in that I'm actually back in the States (i.e. maybe in two weeks!), I'll be able to calmly write about this experience like a mature adult, rather than the emotional-and-procrastinating-on-packing girl that I am at the moment.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2 more days... and snow!


View from outside my window

It's been so, so cold for the past week. Literally 20 degrees (Fahrenheit!). And I'm inside eating mushroom soup with the heat cranked all the way up. So toasty :)

But I'm stuck with papers and lots of work, ugh. I need to get everything done by 6:30pm because Isabel, Anna, and I are going to the ballet! Swan Lake, here we come! It's actually nice that we have snow to enjoy (from inside) right now... it's like a wintry preview of the performance. Snowflakes are like little ballerinas themselves, gliding through the air and landing oh-so gracefully. Don't ya think?

----
Update! Here's my post on Swan Lake + pretty pictures!

Monday, December 14, 2009

3 more days

The sun sets so early now in Prague. Pitch dark by 4pm...


I have two papers and one final to go. But I have a Swan Lake performance (I love ballet!) to watch and a good-bye party to enjoy before I leave. I can't believe that by Friday, I'll be back home in the 'burbs of Philadelphia, eating Chinese food and resting in my own bed. It might even feel like these three months never existed, all the emotional and physical challenges and growths. The best thing about home is that nothing ever changes, but I certainly have, I think. Just a little bit.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

6 more days

Six more days in Prague (and my emotions are all over the place). So I thought it fitting to jot down six random events in my life from the past week:
  1. Went to McDonald's (for first time in Prague!) and got a gigantic burger with jalapeno peppers. It was divine.
  2. Yesterday, I celebrated my first Hanukkah and helped make latkes! My hands smelled like potatoes the rest of the night. I had so much food, I wanted to undo a pant button. (But I was wearing long underwear, so no buttons to unbutton!)
  3. Visited my special Mexican place for the 52131th time! Mexican Mondays have become Mexican+Mojitos+Margaritas+Adorable Waiters Monday-Wednesdays-and-sometimes-Sundays.



  4. Went to an NYU Photo Expo and admired the artistic works of my dear friends. Found out my friend Will had modeled in some photos completely naked, but for a tube sock. I almost died cracking up.
  5. Went out dancing with the girls. LOVE clubs in Europe, because it's not considered snobby if you don't want to dance with any greasy men (who unfortunately love to sneak up on you from behind) and jam out solo.
  6. Friends and I bought tickets to Swan Lake for this Wednesday, and I am SO. EXCITED. (!!!)
Okay, I better continue with writing my papers/studying for finals. Isabel just walked in on me crying from this especially touching blog post. It's just the PMS, I swearrrr!

Friday, December 11, 2009

gifts for dad



It's usually really hard for me to find gifts for my Dad. I think all guys get really sick of receiving clothes and watches and whatnot after awhile. (Whereas for girls, it's the complete opposite!) So I'm being creative this year and giving him an assortment of fun things, including a literal "taste of Prague." I bought him a bottle of Pilsner Urquel and Staropramen, the two best beers in the Czech Republic, and Beckerovka, the most delicious Czech liquor. Of course, I had to get one of those manly beer goblets too.

Do you think he'll like them?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

9 more days!



I cannot believe I'm leaving for the States in nine days! It's just been such a whirlwind! I'm excited to come home for Christmas, but leaving Prague is a lot like leaving the adorable abandoned puppy you took home with you, even though it chews up all of your shoes and poops all over the floor. (Okay, bad analogy, but you get my point.)

I'll admit I've experienced lots of ups and an equal amount of downs here -- it's always tough to live in a new city, especially on a different continent. (Really, Central Europe and the US are so incredibly different.) I think I've finally truly realized how I've taken a lot of things in my life in the States for granted, like smiles from strangers (Czechs are very reserved) and an American sense of social justice. I guess it's true that traveling makes you appreciate your home that much more.

But the more I explore Prague, the more beautiful it looks to me. I'm still in love with its architecture, delicious pastries, and incredible history. I even got used to wearing high heels on the cobblestone! (Remember my booties?) I know that when I leave, I'll take a life's worth of memories with me... and I can't wait to share with you all soon. :)

Italian vacation!


I completely forgot to link over my post on my week in Italy on my inspiration blog, Helen Hearts! Well, here you go, my friends. Click away! And check out my Italy photos on flickr, if you like.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

french skirt!



Oh, this vintage red satin skirt with flapper-esque fringe? I picked it up in Paris for 1 euro! Excited that I finally wore it out this weekend. :)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fall Break Cont'd: London

My last day of Fall Break, I visited my best friend Anuja. It was like going back home. I was exhausted and just wanted to nap and talk and drink cappuccinos. No more backpacking and touring around for me. It was Halloween, but we had Indian food for lunch and were sooo full (Indian food always does that to me!), we opted out of going to her boyfriend's Halloween party (isn't she the best friend ever?) and stayed inside and caught up on each other's lives. That's what a real vacation's about. Don't you think? Being completely relaxed.


View from Anuja's apartment in King's Cross


This architecture is very British to me!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fall Break Cont'd: PARIS



Oh my goodness, don't even get me started about how much Paris absolutely dazzled me. It reminded me of when I first visited New York. Something just clicked. The energies of these cities are so similar and familiar, I felt right at home. While I love Prague, it isn't really a true metropolitan-- you know what I mean? Perhaps not, but you'll see when you visit. :) I guess I'm really a big city gal after all...




My two days in Paris were an absolute whirlwind. My friend Kate dragged me off to all the touristy places that I would usually never go to. (Good thing, because I could sit in a cafe for hours on end!) We walked across the bridges over the Seine River to visit the Louvre, the Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, took a stroll down the Champs-Élysées, and ohh and ahhed at the Eiffel Tower light show at night.





And of course, I had to go off to some "me" things. We walked around the Pompidou, the most incredibly architecturally modern art museum (too bad we didn't have time to go inside), ate raspberry macaroons at La Duree, the most famous dessert shop in Paris, and then, Kate and I parted ways so I could do some serious vintage shopping.




My friend Beverly, who is au pairing in Paris currently, wrote up the most incredibly helpful guide -- she knew exactly what I wanted! Yummy brunch places and SHOPPING! I scouted out the whole section of Marais, which is known for its gay and Jewish community... and vintage markets! All I had to do is follow some stylish girls and, lo-and-behold, I found a whole line of vintage/thrift stores for my viewing (and purchasing) pleasure.

My favorite shop is Free 'P' Star, which literally had girls packed to the walls because of its 1-euro scarves, fabulous vintage purses, and billions of dresses and jackets thrown around all over the place. It was truly like a grandmother's attic and treasure chest. Thank goodness I love "the hunt" in thrift shopping, because boy was it claustrophobic in there! A downside though is the total lack of dressing rooms. I mean, there is barely enough room to pull something on! I bought a skirt that is a bit too small and a cardigan that is too big in the shoulders, but c'est la vie, I still love them! And I absolutely adore my three scarves -- I had to really discipline myself not to purchase more. (My scarf collection is outrageous already.)

As always see my flickr here for more Paris pictures. Wish I could've stayed longer than 2 days! :(

PS: Free 'P' Star's business cards are so risque. Ooh la la!