Let’s Go Exploring! Prague: Castles, Peacocks, and Human Skulls

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FIRECracker is Canada's youngest retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, CNBC, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC's On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.
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When I think of Prague, I think of three things:

1) Majestic castles. Obviously, since Prague Castle happens to be the BIGGEST ancient castle in the world,

2) Peacocks—who strut around the castle like they own the place, and

3) Piles and piles of skulls.

Now, we’re going to get to that last part in a bit, but first, let me tell you about Prague Castle.

After traipsing around Europe, we’d seen our fair share of castles, (like The Tower of London , Edinburgh castle or Neuschwanstein) but in terms of sheer size and peacock-density (“peacocity”, if you will), this one wins, hands-down.

And not only that, this one is also the most well-preserved, having been spared from most of WW2’s bombs, since Hitler had earmarked it for his retirement. No, seriously, he came to Prague, laid his stupid racist eyes on its majesty, and declared Prague Castle to be his future retirement home. Guess when your head is THAT big, the only rooms big enough for it are in the largest castle in the world.

“So what do you think?” Wanderer asked. We’d been strolling around the palace garden for what felt like hours, and we hadn’t even gotten to the castle yet.

“I don’t like the way those peacocks are looking at me,” I told Wanderer, as a muster of peacocks started swarming us. The leader was looking at me suspiciously, eyes narrowed, and making strange noises.

Now to those of you thinking that being paranoid at a bunch of peacocks is crazy, I counter with the following: Shut the Hell Up. Also, I had a LOT of breadcrumbs in my pockets (long story, actually not so long story, the café we ate lunch in offered free bread crumbs.) So long story short, after we cautiously executed a tactical retreat (i.e. ran away screaming from peacocks pecking at break crumbs in our pants), we finally scrambled up the hill to explore the rest of the castle.

Where we saw this:

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Photo credit: Steve Collis @ Flickr, license: CC BY 2.0

And this:

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And this:

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photo credit: Andrew Stawarz @ Flicker, license: by-nd 2.0

When I say this place is huge, I mean HUGE. It took us a several hours to explore the whole thing, and by that time we were done, we were using rock-paper-scissors to decide who was going to drag the other home. I guess that’s what happens when you’d walked the equivalent of 7 football fields, because that’s how big the castle grounds were.

We decided to refuel with one of Prague’s specialties:

“Pražská šunka”, or “Old Prague Ham”.

“890 Kroner, please”, the stall vendor told me, slapping down a hunk of Prague Ham the size of my entire head. I did the calculation quickly in my head. $50CAD?

“No, I don’t want an entire leg.” I said pointing to the sign that said “89KR”. “I want that.”

“89Kr for 100g. This 1 kg.”

“Then can I have 200g?”

“NO!” he yelled, glaring at me. “You pay 890Kr!”

I would later find out that this is what’s called the “Prague Ham Scam”. Apparently, vendors around The Old Town Square prey on naïve tourists by deliberately pricing everything in 100g portions, tricking people into paying $50 for a massive hunk instead of the $5 portion that’s advertised.

So once again, we bravely ran away screaming—from the Ham guy this time— and found ourselves having instead, a delicious Pork Hock for a reasonable $23 for 2 people in a nearby pub.

As it turns out, the “Prague Ham Scam” was the only rip-off we came across in Prague. Prices for everything else was ridiculously cheap.

From the pristine, modern, $50/night apartment, to the $12 meals, to the $10 long-distance bus ride out of the city, complete with leather seats, TV screens, and free hot beverages, Prague was an invertible Mustachian wonderland.

 

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Somehow the $10/person bus has fancy leather seats and TV screens?

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Despite looking just like Western Europe (fancy castles, swans, peacocks and all), Prague was surprisingly cheap. And after the terrifying prices in Switzerland and the UK, we were glad we finally found a place that didn’t scare us.

Until we found this:

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Photo credit: Pudelek (Marcin Szala) @ Wikipedia

Ladies and gents, let me introduce you to the Sedlec Ossuary, a.k.a. “Skull Church”. The only church in Eastern Europe made ENTIRELY of human bones!

You may recognize this as the WORST advertising tagline in history, and to that I would say you are ABSOLUTELY right. But DON’T worry children. The person who made the scary church out of skeletons is now also dead, and therefore HIMSELF a skeleton.

Wait, that doesn’t sound very comforting.

OK, whatever. I’m not good with kids. ANYHOO…

You see, once upon a time, there was this thing called the black plague. And that black plague killed millions and MILLIONS of people. So as a result, while people didn’t have a lot of food and water, what they DID have, in abundance, was decomposing bodies.

And in that environment, a simple, harmless, monk living in the Czech town of Kutna Hora had a dream.

And that dream was to build a huge fucking chandelier out of human bones!

 

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Also, a shield :

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Photo credit: Pudelek (Marcin Szala) @ Wikipedia

And a entire oven made of bones…because BONES ARE THE BEST!

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The sign says “Don’t Touch.” OF COURSE I’M NOT GOING TO TOUCH IT!!! EWWWW!

So yeah. Needless to say, we didn’t eat lunch or dinner for the rest of the week.

YAY PRAGUE!

Cost Breakdown (in CAD dollars, per couple):

Category Cost/couple/day (CAD) Thoughts
Accommodations $53.75 We stayed 4 nights in a super nice, clean, modern studio apartment right near downtown. Surprisingly, this sweet price point was actually pretty normal for Prague! I was so used to $80-100/night prices for Europe, this was a shock for me.
Food $26 Eating out and groceries were actually LESS expensive than Toronto! This was the point where I realized Eastern Europe is just as good as Western Europe without the hefty price tag.
Attractions $9 Walking around the castle ground was completely free! We could've paid for the 3 day pass to explore the museums inside the castle, but we were pretty museum-ed out at this point so didn't bother. So the only costs were the entrance fee to the Bone Church ($10 each) and tips for the free-walking tour ($8 each). Over 4 days, that's only $9/day/couple.
Transportation $15 We were able to walk around for the most part, so the only transportation costs were the bus from Munich to Prague, the train tickets to Kutna Hora (a small town outside Prague) and the bus trip out to Vienna. What impressed me the most was the $10/person bus ticket out of Prague to Vienna, on a bus called 'Student Agency Bus'. So of course, I lowered my expectations, thinking this is going to be a bare-bones, plastic seats, and broken air-con bus filled with backpackers. Boy were we wrong! Not only did the bus have fancy leather seats, TVs with free movies, it even came with an attendant, offering your hot beverages throughout the trip! I will never doubt student buses again…PROTIP: For the best value, we used GoEuro (not an affiliate link) to find transportation. "
Total: $103.75

RATING: 5/5 SKULL CHURCHES

Prague was the first Eastern European city we visited and we were pleasantly surprised at how far your money stretches here. And the best part? You get the quality without the hefty price tag. Of all the European cities we went to, Prague had the BEST value.

However, parts of it may not be suitable for all but the most heavy metal of children.

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31 thoughts on “Let’s Go Exploring! Prague: Castles, Peacocks, and Human Skulls”

  1. Prague is a really cool place. You haven’t mentioned the really good, and also really cheap beer you can have there 🙂 There are also some very nice smaller towns in Czech Republic like Karlovy Vary. Are you staying in the county for a while or you move onwards?

    1. Yeah, the beer was definitely cheap and good. And we were only there for 4 days, so sadly did not get the chance to check out the smaller towns. Will put Karlovy Vary on the list for the future.

  2. We loved Prague, especially the Ossuary. Very fun place, and that clock they have in the main square is unreal. Crazy story behind it, too…they blinded the guy who made it for them, so he couldn’t make one for any other city. 🙂

    1. The tour guide told us the clock story too…I found it a bit fishy. I was like really? Couldn’t you have just written up a nice non-compete clause? 😛

  3. Hey guys,

    Thanks for the cost breakdown. Is it possible that you also include your flight costs from one location/country to another?

    Cheers!!

    1. We actually didn’t fly into Prague. We took the bus from Munich. Since we’re doing long- term travelling, it made more sense for us to fly into London from Toronto, then bus around or take short haul RyanAir flights. The bus into Prague was only $15/person.

      But if you’re flying to Prague from North America, your best bet is to do some “travel hacking”, by signing up for credit cards and collecting the sign-on bonuses. Once you have enough frequent flyer miles, you can essentially fly for free (only paying the taxes). I wrote an article about it here:
      http://www.millennial-revolution.com/freedom/how-to-fly-for-free-using-aeroplan-miles/

  4. Small town former Yugoslavia is pretty nice too, particularly Croatia. Places like Dubrovnik can be pretty spendy (although reasonably cheap as a place to get married!), but some other places (eg: Split, Hvar, Korcula) can be a bit more reasonable. Montenegro is also supposed to be nice.

    1. Your vacation had a lot more waitstaff and a lot less plague skulls. Clearly, we have very different vacationing styles. 🙂

      And yes, we should definitely meet up there one day! You can show us your favourite restaurants, and we will try not to ruin your appetite (too hard) with our plague stories.

  5. I am new on your newsletter…Was wondering if you guys had visited Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn, St. Petersburg? We plan to go there in Summer 2017.. so writing you have would be greatly appreciated! Thanks! I really enjoyed your newsletter and will follow your investment workshop!

    1. Sadly, we haven’t visited those places yet. But sounds like you have awesome trip ahead of you! Especially the Hermitage in St.Petersburg…one of the places on my bucket list.

      And thanks for the kind words and welcome to the workshop!

  6. “a muster of peacocks” – please tell me you had to google what a group of peacocks is called and that wasn’t part of your common knowledge. 🙂

    Prague looks awesome. I’m thinking we’ll do at least a week there since the weather is wonderful in summer and it’s beautiful yet cheap.

    What did you think of the food in Prague? Jeremy from GCC mentioned the city wasn’t as spectacular as expected because “you get tired of pork knuckles and dumplings after a while”. I assume there’s the standard pizza/kebabs/deli kind of places too right?

    1. I loved Prague! And agree you can get really tired of pork, but I did stay in a great apartment (with a full kitchen) opposite a pizza place. The restaurant highlight for me was the Strahov Monastic Brewery, but for the beer more than the food.

      I was amazed at how easy the subway and tram network were to navigate. Only had trouble buying tickets once, I didn’t have change to buy a ticket from the machine. The woman at the newspaper stand was all ready for me when I tried to buy a chocolate bar for change – just pulled out her book of tickets instead!

      I didn’t get a chance to get to Sedlec Ossuary – but I hope to go back to Prague soon!

      I also got nailed on the ham scam – I didn’t know it even had a name! But since the guy only charged me for 200 g I just ended up paying for it.

      1. Oh, you got off easy with the Ham Scam. I had to search for days, trying to find a vendor who would sell me less than 600g-1kg of Ham. When I finally found one, I tried it and thought “OMG, THAT’S IT?” Way too hyped.

    2. Yeah, I totally googled the shit out of that word. No way I could’ve remembered it off the top of my head…I’m not THAT weird.

      Anyhoo…I actually liked the food in Prague a lot. And no, it’s just not pork knuckles and dumplings. They actually had quite a few cheap Asian restaurants (Chinese, Viet, Indian, etc). I was SO relieved to get a bowl of Pho for $6-7 CAD instead of the usual $10 Euro +. I was ready to give up on cheap Chinese food in Europe until we found Prague.

      Not sure about the pizza though. I’m REALLY not a pizza kind of gal so I never notice those things.

      1. Good to hear. We can survive on Asian food for a week or two if necessary 🙂 Interspersed with the occasional pork knuckle and dumpling meal. And beer. And more beer. When I was randomly google streetview surfing around Prague (you guys do that, too, right?) the first restaurant I saw was a cheapo vietnamese restaurant and yeah I think it was like $5 USD / $7 CAD.

        No pizza? I love it myself, and that’s one of those “comfort foods” that seems to translate well almost anywhere in the world (and I assume proximity to Italy helps the translation in Prague’s case). We ate a lot of pizza in Mexico (it’s cheap, good, and kids will eat it though caution: “salami” doesn’t mean what you think it means – it probably means bologna; sausage/salchicha probably means hot dogs, so YMMV on delicious pizza in Mexico). Don’t think we had any pizza in Canada since the groceries and non-pizza restaurants were so cheap.

  7. I hate to say this because my wife and I are in the minority but Prague gave us the creeps. I think it had a lot to do with the weather, it rained non-stop while we were there in May, and the homeless man that tried to attack our tour guide during a torrential downpour. But it was not our favorite stop in Europe. I’ve never heard anyone else talk poorly of Prague so my wife and I will probably need to stop back by. Thanks for sharing the awesome pics.

    1. Wow, it rained non-stop?! That sucks. Usually that only happens in the UK.

      Sorry, you had a bad experience with Prague. Sometimes that happens and it’s just random.

      1. Definitely make it to Krakow if you can. Very cool city.

        If you’re there, make sure to try the Chimney Cake (little stand by the big park) and the Russian Pierogis at Pirozki U Vicenta.

        The Schindler’s museum is maybe the best/most moving museum I’ve ever been to, and while very sad, I would recommend making the trip to Auschwitz.

    1. Yup, that bone church is freaky as all HELL, but SO COOL!

      And yes, I would go back. There’s something about it that just feels like home. Maybe it’s the friendly people. Maybe it’s the cheap beer. Or maybe I just can’t pass up a good deal, but whatever it is, I definitely think of it as a place I could easily spend a few months living in. And the fact that it’s in Europe and close to so many countries that I want to visit is a bonus too.

  8. Thanks for this write-up. I was in Prague back in August and loved it, this made me wish I could go back. I recognized a few places from your pictures that I also visited… Another great city in Europe that I found to be even cheaper is Budapest (Hungary). It’s a great town…lots of European charm and some amazing pubs. Definitely would recommend! If you ever end up there, I’d be glad to give you a nice list of suggestions.

    1. Yes, Budapest is awesome as well. Didn’t find it cheaper than Prague but was a great deal nonetheless. That’s coming up in my future post 🙂

  9. We were just in Prague for our honeymoon and damn it was awesome! We saw a lot of the stuff you guys saw as well! Did you get the chance to eat the duck there? I have a friend who lives there now and said we absolutely had to have a duck leg and man was he right! I cannot agree more that the place was cheap for Europe!

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