When I first got to Prague, I thought it was so cool that we were going to school in the city center and we got to live in a residential neighborhood, because I got to immerse myself in two different parts of the city. But what I learned this weekend on a walk into the depths of Prague 2, is that the way we live, or at least I do, in Machova, is not representative of the way an average Prague citizen does. While I know that Vinohrady is more of an upscale neighborhood, what I didn’t realize until this past-weekend is how much I was fooling myself into thinking I was living like a local.
After visiting Switzerland over Fall Break and seeing how early their stores closed and that nothing is open on Sunday, I felt extremely lucky to be in Prague this semester because everything is still open on Sunday. However, on my walk through the undiscovered parts of Prague 2, on my way to Vysehrad, I found that most stores and cafes there are actually closed on Sunday, as the neighborhood seemed eerily quiet, even the main road I was walking along, completely unlike Francouzka in Vinohrady.
Funny enough, I didn’t even mean to have such a cultural adventure. My mom and brother were visiting me over the weekend and I was trying to figure out what to do for their last day in Prague when I remembered the Honest Guide video about Vysehrad. I decided instead of taking public transport there, to show my family the Grotto in the park where we had the picnic during orientation week and from there walk to Vysehrad. It was actually quite a nice walk despite the fog and the cold, but once we made it to Vysehrad, I thought of an ironic analogy. Vysehrad is to Prague Castle what the Vysehrad area and neighboring Nusle area are to Vinohrady.
While Vysehrad may not look as glamorous and definitely doesn’t attract as many tourists as Prague Castle, it still has its charm and benefits. The church is absolutely gorgeous on the outside, just like St. Vitus in the Prague Castle complex, and the views are also very nice, giving you a broad spectrum of the city but from a direction you’ve probably never seen before. There’s also some cafes, a pre-school, a cemetery with famous people, and some other things you can see as you walk through the complex, in addition to a very nice park. In the same way, while the buildings in the Vysehrad and Nusle areas may look a little more run down and the shops aren’t as clean and pretty as the ones closer to old town in Prague 2, it’s nice to explore and somewhat experience what a neighborhood for a more average Czech person is like.
I highly recommend a trip to Vysehrad, and even if you don’t want to walk, there are tram stops nearby as well as a subway stop. Still, I recommend walking there from Machova, or if you live in Osadni, take the tram to somewhere in Prague 1 or 2 and walk from there. The experience was one I haven’t gotten anywhere else and while my hands were numb and the view could’ve been better considering how foggy it was that day, it was refreshing to see a different side of Prague. Even when I was heading to the tram stop, I passed a dilapidated old train station and then on the tram, did not encounter a single tourist, both of which tend to be uncommon in Prague. The upkeep the city does in Old Town is wonderful because the buildings and the city itself look very nice and clean, but the contrast is so distract to neighborhoods just a 15 minute tram ride away, which really shows how focused Prague has become on tourism in the last 30 years. Obviously, we all have work to do, and we travel on the weekend, but before we leave Prague in a few weeks, even if it’s not a trip to Vysehrad, I recommend venturing out and exploring a neighborhood you don’t have any specific reason to go to. If you feel so inclined, we at NYU Prague Now! would love to hear about your adventure, so if you’d like to write up something short, we’d really appreciate and of course, stay safe!