Name: Penny Nuttall
Host Institution: Charles University, Prague
Having been here for a few days now I think it’s about time I gave some initial opinions on this beautiful city. Unlike sleepy Aberystwyth, Prague it’s the capital of the Czech Republic and so it feels very vibrant and exciting. Aberystwyth may have fantastic seaside sun sets but Prague has quirky cobbled streets, amazing art nouveau architecture and something happening on every street corner! There is so much to say about Prague but here are just some brief first thoughts.
Prague is huge but compact: It’s a bit of a paradox I know, but Prague is simultaneously miniature and yet still gigantic. Prague is spilt in to zones; Prague 1 is the city centre, and the zones ripple out from there. I live in Prague 8 (a residential part of town), and it only takes me a 12 minute tram ride to get into the heart of Prague’s Old Town Square. As soon as you’re in zone one (the centre) you can walk everywhere you need in a matter of minutes. However, the centre itself is very compact and there are a lot of tiny passages, making it incredibly easy to get lost! If you travel further from the centre Prague transforms from a lively centre into a green and pleasant countryside kingdom. It’s clearly a very diverse region. There’s so much to see and do here; and most importantly for me there is history around every corner!
The public transport is amazing: Unlike Aberystwyth you don’t have to wait long for a bus, a metro or a tram. Yep that’s right, there’s not just buses and trains but also a really good tram and metro service running throughout the city. This was an added bonus for me in the first few days (with all the getting lost!). In peak times the metro runs every few minutes, and off peak it’s still every seven to eight minutes! Another massive perk of Prague’s public transport is the excellent night service they run, from 1am-6am, the metro is closed but there are night buses and trams which run fairly frequently so it’s a lot easier to get home from a night out than in the UK. And unlike in England, public transport actually arrives when it’s scheduled to! Yet it is still taking a little getting used to; for example, the tram I take from university to my dorm sometime times randomly terminates half way and it look me along time to spot the difference between that service and the one I actually want to be on.
It’s not as cold as I thought it was going to be: yet as I write this, it has actually just started to snow… so maybe I’ll be amending this comment in my next post! But generally it’s a lot warmer here than I was expecting. I had checked the weather forecast for the week before I moved to Prague and the temperatures were all below zero, yet now I’m here it’s around four on average. Yes, ok, four degrees is still fairly cold but it’s no colder than a winter in Aber, and running for Metros or jumping on and off trams gets you warm here!
It’s ok to smoke inside: Since 2007 it’s been against the law to smoke in the public places in the whole of the UK so this was a bit of a culture shock! Yet in the Czech Republic smoking is still allowed in many restaurants and bars. So whether you’re going out for drinks or even for dinner you’re likely to enter into a cloud of smoke. Apparently some places display a sticker on their door so you know it’s a smoke-free zone, but I am yet to discover this!
Erasmus is about the experience: Having met countless exchange students over the past week from all over the world, I can safely say people are here to have fun and studying comes after that! Erasmus is about experiencing new cultures, having fun, and learning new things. There are countless opportunities to meet Erasmus/Exchange students, and everyone I’ve met has been extremely friendly and really interested in learning about where I come from. However, I must stress, there is a lot of parties and clubs you can go to, but there’s also loads of other events to meet new people at such as chill out style meet ups, art clubs and Czech film club, so don’t be afraid to come if you’re not into drinking.