Conscious trip to Prague!
One of us has recently had an utmost pleasure to visit the beautiful capital of Czech Republic. It surely took a while, given that I am from the south of Poland, and Prague has always been right around the corner… But it happened, finally, and I couldn’t help to take some notes for our regular eco travel section. Read on to find out how much, or little, sustainability there is in Prague!
Food around Prague
Let me share the first observation right here: Prague will not be your favourite spot if you are a strict vegan. I mean, you will get by, but you’ll have to seek out vegan alternatives - which might be problematic when travelling with someone else, who is not vegan. Even though the traditional Czech cuisine restaurants in Prague involve some vegetarian alternatives in their otherwise very meat-heavy menus, they still tend to include a lot of cheese (especially their marinated or pickled Camembert ). The alternatives to meat in Prague largely seemed to be cheese-based or generally diary-based. Therefore, for lack of a better possibility, I switched my diet to more vegetarian than vegan. Otherwise, the only thing I would be eating in most of the spots would be side dishes like salads or chips. This was only because I was not there alone, otherwise, I could go guilt-free vegan all the way! All that said - it doesn’t mean that there are no vegan restaurants in Prague!
Loving Hut, is a cute, basic vegan buffet (with a-la-carte option too), maybe without a specific fineness but definitely taking advantage of a wide range of veggies and cuisines - swaying just a little bit towards eastern Curry-rich stew situation (which obviously usually is a successful no-brainer). The a-la-carte menu offers dumplings, sushi and a variety of Asian dishes, but also Italian ones, sprinkled with sandwiches and wraps. All in all, it’s a good spot to go for a well-grounded lunch or dinner and get full on vegan goodness. Another vegan place, additionally taking allergens and intolerances quite seriously, is Maitrea, around Old Town of Prague. The restaurant, what is worth noticing, offers some traditional Czech dishes which otherwise would be unobtainable for a vegan in any regular restaurant - spicy goulash as well as the traditional Svíčková, thin slices of (traditionally) meat, served with sauce and slices of bread dumplings. If you guys are into raw food, My Raw Café is a must-go, especially for a rich and adorable breakfast menu with vegan eggs, beetroot hummus, smoothie bowls and all the otherwise rather fashionable brekky vibe. They also offer a small selection of cold soups and a raw pizza for lunch or selections of tapas or vegan cheeses. Essentially, everything that a vegan can potentially dream of.
When in Prague, it is also important to try a traditional local sweet called trdelnik. Even though the most common and widely available version is definitely not vegan (it’s basically a round “pipe” type of cake which can be plain or filled inside with ice cream and whipped cream, fruits and chocolate - a real bomb!), there is a place not far from the Hradčany Castle Town called U Kajetana, which, according to Happy Cow guide, is the only place that serves the dairy-free version of this popular dessert. We must admit, we did not make it there to try it, but it definitely looks worth the effort, maybe after skipping lunch first though.
All in all, Prague definitely does offer a lot of options for cruelty-free eating, but it does make you work a little bit extra hard to find them. The most obvious, traditional or even historical places are extremely meat-heavy and may cause a problem even for a more flexible pescatarian. But the city definitely makes up for it in atmosphere, peoples’ friendliness and overall feel of a very, very interesting city.
Getting to and around Prague
Quite naturally, being one of the capitals located in near-central part of Europe, Prague is quite easy to reach with a train or during a collected road trip. We reached it from Lisbon on a plane, as our time was very limited and we had to bring the travel time to the minimum. However, inside the city, taking the public transport is quite a pleasure. The tickets are very cheap and the thick web of metro, trams and busses allow you to travel the capital in a fast and efficient way. You can reach everywhere with public transport, especially since investing in a 2-day travel pass is really not much of a financial investment. But let us not forget about the power of our own feet! If the weather is nice, walking between and around Old Town, New Town or Hradčany (and crossing some of Prague’s countless bridges on the way) is a natural recommendation and true pleasure. Prague is absolutely charming and beautiful, and each street hides a gem; a quirky museum, an adorable café, a historical monument. It pays off to reach this sort of places, but you can rarely find them if you only rely on public transport.
The only inconvenience, in our opinion, was getting from and to the airport, and it was also mainly because of the limited timeframe. We needed to take Uber in both cases, upon arrival because of the rather late time, and upon departure simply because we wanted to take a little bit more advantage of the city and getting public transport to the airport meant spending over twice the time to arrive there. The trip ended up being rather long anyway, because of countless road works and constructions on the highway, which ultimately made it impossible to travel through it and the driver needed to take longer, alternative routes. Therefore, our advice here would be - whichever means of transport you choose to make it to your plane, make sure to give yourself a little extra time to reach Vaclav Havel Airport. Nothing tragic, just a little tip.
Ethical shopping in Prague
For local brands and handmade clothing, jewellery and a selection of ethical cosmetics, head to 100Class Concept Store. As stated on the website, the store was created against short, passing trends, to offer options for durable and carefully-made products. The shop takes good advantage of a large group of local designers which are very active in Czech Republic. In general, tendency to promote small designers from Eastern Europe is largely prevalent in this beautiful capital, which we were very happy to see. We even managed, and were very happy to notice boutiques of some less-known Polish designers in Prague!
Located in Prague 2, there is also NILA - a store representing many very-well-known brands located on the ethical side, such as Dedicated, Kowtow, Knowledge Cotton Apparel or People Tree, among, of course, some less known designers. Otherwise, if you love hemp (and this is why you should), head straight to Bohempia, located a few blocks away, for clothes and shoes made of this awesome fabric. We also stumbled across Freshlabels store, which is not actually a sustainable or ethical store, but it carries a nice selection of reusable bottles, zero-waste cosmetics along some most mainstream brands as well.
We must admit, the shopping (even the actual interest in shopping) was at the end of the to-do list in Prague, as the city has so much to offer, plus - we did not even need to shop for anything. We just couldn’t be bothered by a shopping spree when more and more engaging attractions awaited. However, the options are definitely there, and don’t even get us started on the fruits and vegetables markets (that quickly become zero-waste if you don’t forget your reusables), which are a standard in Eastern Europe - and Prague is no exception.
how does Prague cope?
Prague is, all things aside, still a very touristy city. We visited it during an October weekend, which theoretically should be expected to be less crowded and already off-season. Nothing more inaccurate - it was crawling with tourists. Obviously, with masses of tourists come waves of waste - both material and those counted in used energy. However, Prague seems to be dealing with waste pretty well, and it might be partly because of their strict recycling policy. Right when we arrived in our AirBnb, we were notified where the waste containers were and how to segregate our trash. It was emphasised a couple of times that recycling is very important and the host could get fined if was caught “cheating”. Therefore, the city looks very clean and well-tended, in spite of crowds keeping it at siege.
And by crowds I really do mean crowds - and mind that I lived in Beijing for nearly 3 years. Some of the main attractions are impossible to enter, unless one wishes to wait in 3 consecutive lines (general line, ticket office line and actual attraction line), each of them taking minimum half an hour. It is, after all, a relatively small city. With this amount of tourists and guided groups, each of them consisting of 20-30 people, there is naturally nothing else we can expect. But it definitely decreases the pleasure of exploring the city in a calm, individual way. On the other hand, it pushes to seek alternative and less-known attractions and hidden gems, which can be even more satisfying at the end - this is what happened in our case.
All in all, Prague seems to be dealing with seasonal over-population pretty well, with the waste management, frequent road close-offs to dedicate them for pedestrians and some really cool solutions to make pedestrian movements more fluid (like marking crossings to indicate how the pedestrians should walk in order not to cross paths with those coming from the opposite sides - seems banal, but works miracles). It is a charming place with lots to offer, and even more hidden secrets to be discovered when you un-glue your eyes from this one obvious Lonely Planet guide book / site.