By Katie Ford
It’s been over two months since I moved to Prague, and almost exactly two months since I began working, but I’ve had almost no time to truly learn the city, learn any more Czech than I came with, or even meet a lot of people. Today, I decided that that was going to change. I realized when I was walking around with my students after they arrived last week that they were going to know more about Prague than I was, and I truly think that I should be the voice of experience, so I made plans to spend the day walking. I started by going to brunch with a new friend at a restaurant called Bohemian Bagels, which is apparently an expat-favorite, and I definitely understand why. Having a real brunch (with a mimosa) was one of the most comforting things I’ve done so far- even the waitstaff were expats, which I realize isn’t the point of cultural immersion, but it helps every once in a while! Afterwards, I took the tram up the hill to Prague Castle, and started working my way down through the city.
After walking around for a bit through the outdoor areas of the castle, I realized how much I remembered from the first time I visited Prague in 2011, which was really nice. I began walking down the hill, which was absolutely gorgeous. The views are spectacular, and the architecture is exactly the type that I love, imperfect, unique, and beautiful.
I wandered into several art galleries, considered buying crepes many times (I resisted), and eventually got down the hill near Charles Bridge. I found a couple of beautiful places along the Vltava River, and I sat along the riverbank for a long time just looking at Old Town across the way, and convincing myself that this where I live now. The weird thing (that I’ve found) about being an expat is that it’s really difficult to come to terms with the new place that you’re living in, especially if you’re moving from one foreign country to another. By the time I left Cardiff, I finally felt at home there, but it took a long time. Sitting at the river watching the tourists be in awe of the city made me realize two things: one, that I’m incredibly lucky to live here and to have more than just a weekend to experience this city, and two, that I have to give myself just as much time as I did in Cardiff to call this place home, maybe even more. Moving to a new city, much less and new country, takes a lot of energy and takes a toll on you emotionally. I know that I will love this city as if I’ve been here forever, but I can’t have expected that to happen in the first week (although the mulled wine all over the city at Christmas helped). Anyway, after my musings along the river, I continued walking across the river and over towards the university building where my office is located to take the metro home.
Today was one of the best days I’ve had in Prague so far. I feel like I was able to claim this city a bit, which is really exciting. I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so that days like this will be more comfortable in the future. I don’t know if I’ll ever be fluent in Czech, or if I’ll ever truly integrate into the Czech culture (no matter how hard I try), but I’ll continue to try my best. I already order coffee in Czech and wanted to die seeing the restaurant prices in the touristy areas near the Castle, so that’s a start, right?