I have been to Prague before, as part of a 6 week trip in 2012. At the time, I was coming off but not fully recovered from a dash of heatstroke, as well as an overnight train from Amsterdam where I slept 4 hours at most. I had three days in the city, one of which I spent in bed, the second I spent doing very little and the third seeing everything.
On this trip I have five days (four and a half, technically) in the city. Although I could wander around Prague and gawk at the amazing architecture lurking around every corner all day, I decided to (after some research) schedule in three day-trips, leaving me with one and a half day in the city.
January is the coldest month in Prague, according to my research, so that’s going to affect what I pack. One of the planned day-trips is a 12 km hike (if the weather is poor or too cold, it won’t happen) an excursion that requires gear I normally wouldn’t bring on a regular short city trip (removable traction cleats with gripping). Luckily for me, Sweden is plenty cold around this time of year, so I should be prepared for it.
Because I’ve been to Prague before, I’ve not done much research about what to see – but I always make sure to figure out how to get from the airport (or other arrival point) to my accommodation and finding the closest grocery store to it. (That was a dream to find in Prague, as there was a Tesco Express 10 minutes away and a 24-hour Tesco just 20 minutes away. Perhaps not the most cultural Czech experience, but hey, food!)
That’s not to say I don’t have a list of things I’m going to search out while I wander not-so-aimlessly around the city – though I’ve seen most (if not all) of the things on my list before, I’ve never seen them in the winter time. And 2012 was a few years ago now; though I have photos, I want to experience the beauty of the city with my own eyes again.
I always make a list of everything that interests me in the area, and the fact that I’ve been before simply means that I can find “out of the way” things to do, that I might not have had the time to do before, instead of doing the things on my list. (But I always have a list to refer to, so I only miss things I might want to do by choice.) I arrive on a Friday, which I plan on spending at a Farmers Market and visiting second hand shops. I might even join a Sandeman Prague Tour if I feel up to it. I also have a (small) list of events happening in Prague that I might join.
Since I have been to Prague before, my research was mostly focused on finding interesting day-trips, and then figuring out how to get there and back. Now that I think about it, my lack of research in preparation for this trip is totally at odds with how I normally go about planning a trip.
Český Krumlov was at the top of my list – in fact, I’ve wanted to visit the town since I was in Prague 2012 and met another traveller who’d just come from there. For Český Krumlov I only really had to figure out how to get there (bus) and trying to judge how long I’d need in the city (I bought the tickets while still in Sweden). I also found the only (listed) vegetarian restaurant; which just happened to be very close to the tourist information office – once I saw that, I left it be, figuring I’d just find my way there and make the day up as I went along – it will be a change for me!
Karlštejn was harder. Not only is this a side-trip I’m still not sure I’m able to go on (because of the 12 km hike I need good weather for it) but because of the lack of information available. Through the Couchsurfing community I got some great help on how to get back from the monastery and some advice on what to stop for in the area to look at. I could still go to Karlštejn and visit the castle and town regardless of weather, but my interest in the town is the monastery and the hike there.
Dívčí Kámen Castle was a late addition, and I can’t remember how I stumbled upon it (probably through looking up something about Český Krumlov). This will be the shortest of my day-trips, but one I’m really looking forward to. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. The biggest problem was figuring out which trains to take, but even that was relatively easy.
This trip is going to be something of a slow start; I can’t help but feel like I’m cheating a bit by travelling to a city I’ve already been to – like it shouldn’t count towards my 12 cities in 12 months goal. But of course that’s ridiculous – I want to go there, and that’s all that matters.