Thursday, August 11, 2011

Europe 2011 - Day 4 - Prague

Airport day! New city day! New country day!

Schiphol Airport is definitely one of my favourite airports I've been in as the feel of the airport has an air of relaxation that embodies the Dutch concept of 'gezellig'. The stores sell interesting products in an atmosphere where time doesn't seem to move with the modern architecture. As a culture steeped in a long history and culture of design, Schiphol's strong use of information design comes out very distinctly. As a student of design, I'm always excited in seeing examples of design that works and Schiphol really has some unique choices of colour, information hierarchy, and symbol design.

Today, we got to Schiphol airport in the morning to take our 1140 flight to Prague on KL1355. The flight wasn't too strenuous as it was only about 1.5 hours. Post-flight after arriving at Praha Airport, problems arose as my sister's luggage didn't arrive. (The good thing is at least it didn't get lost though, and KLM has said that the luggage will arrive tomorrow.)

We took a van taxi to our hotel (Imperial Hotel) in downtown Prague. After a short rest, we went for a lunch nearby at Kolkovna Celnice. All I have to say is that it was delicious. The pork knuckles are wicked. I've been looking for a good pork knuckle for a while now since the only place I have tried them are at German restaurants (not in Germany). The sausages are also delicious! The classic Czech cuisine of different types of porks, sausages, and meats paired with sauerkraut, red sauerkraut, potato dumplings, and breads are a truly distinct flavour of cultural cuisine. (It's a huge contrast with the lack of a truly Dutch cuisine.) Yes. I also have to admit, Czech beer is some of the best in the world. I got to try both of the more popular varieties of Pilsner Urquell, which tastes alright, and the Velkopopovicky Kozel Dark, which is truly awesome and is now my favourite beer.

After lunch, we walked around the old town area of Prague/Prag/Praha (take your pick at how you want to say it). Wow. That's all I have to say. I was taking photographs all afternoon long being truly amazed with the architecture. I'm truly glad that I took IAT 233 Spatial Design with Russell Taylor in the Spring because what I learned about in that course on Jan Gehl's teachings about creating cities for people helped me understand what makes Prague a truly wonderful city. The soft lively edges of the old architecture and unique curio stores, the cobblestone streets, numerous piazzas that are open that create visibility in the space, redirecting traffic so that the people are unimpeded, creating intimate space for people where they can just sit, stand, walk, and relax anywhere they want to.

Prague is a beautiful city with a deep cultural and historical heritage that has created an incredible space that fits into Jan Gehl's definition of a 'city designed for people'. Downtown Prague's Old Town is a perfect example of a pedestrianized city.

We just spent the whole day walking around old town and we didn't even finish seeing it all. For dinner, we decided on opting with classic Czech cuisine again. Pork knuckle, sausage and meat platter, beef goulash, sauerkrauts and of course, beer! Scrumptious! Though if we have it again tomorrow, we might start having problems getting sick of eating meat. =D

I am really understanding a lot about the Czech Republic as I haven't really studied anything about the country or the region before. It's really weird as the Czech has already accepted the Euro but it still continues to use the Czech Koruna as the primary form of currency (although the Euro is accepted in most places). The Czech language is really difficult to understand. I was already started to get a basic understanding of the Dutch language, and trying to decipher Czech has completely baffled me.

The cost of living seems to be a little lower here in Prague compared to the other European cities of London, Paris and Amsterdam. It's good to see lower prices for food. =P But I am also quite impressed at the lack of homeless people and shady individuals on the streets as opposed to Paris. It definitely creates a safer (feeling, at least) environment and that makes a huge impact at the psychological level.

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