Prague Guide for Norwegians

Note
To change from Czech Crowns (CZK, koruna, Kč) into Norwegian Crowns (NOK, kroner, kr), use the Currency Converter.
Airlines
Norwegian, ČSA, SAS, and sometimes Sterling have direct flights to Prague from Oslo (Norwegian also has it from Bergen and Trondheim). I like ČSA, but they rarely come with good offers, so Norwegian is the airline I most commonly use and can recommend.
Preparation
Bring a passport, a mobile phone with charger, some plastic for the ATM, non-smelly clothes, and toiletries. If you have time and inclination read about Prague and the Czech Republic beforehand. Go for the stuff you won’t discover on your own the first five minutes you get there (e.g. look for history, culture, architecture, current affairs). The Czech Republic uses all the normal standards for electicity, phone networks, etc. You can expect things just to work. Don’t bring stuff, you don’t need it. Unless you go to Prague in the winter where warm clothing is recommended. That way you don’t have to check in any luggage either and don’t have to wait for your luggage to come through. Check with Trafikanten for travel options to Gardermoen.

Ruzyně Airport
You will arrive at the Schengen part of the airport, this is the newest part of the airport, but is still pretty dull and by Czech standards exorbitantly expensive. When you get to the public part of the airport, head for the “Metro” booth and buy some tickets. You want a handful of the 26 CZK ones (more than enough opportunities to buy some later). The multi-day passes are unlikely to be cost-effective.
Money matters
If you don’t have Czech crowns go to the ATM first and get yourself some. It will ask you for innocuously sounding amounts like 4000 CZK. Don’t listen to it! It is optimised for giving the minimal number of bills. You will get two 2000 CZK bills and spend needless time changing into something more comfortable. Ask for 3800 CZK instead. You will still get a 2000 Crown bill to split later, but the remaining 1800 Crowns are money ready to use.
Leaving the airport
It took some time to decide how the transport to the airport should go, not that there were much money for it anyway. There will go trains to the airport towards the neighbouring town and the green metro line A will be extended to the airport. You just have to wait at a decade for the train to arrive and somewhat longer for the metro. We’ll see if there will be Schönefeld style walking to the stations when they arrive.
If you can’t wait that long
With tickets in hand you go out the main door out front to the bus stops and start looking for 119. It is some 50 meters to the right on the next aisle. In some scenarios you might want to take another bus like the express bus to Holešovice, but then you figure it out on your own. Just sit on the 119 until the last station, and go down the stairways with a green M in front of you, your ticket is still valid (it lasts for 60 or 90 minutes). I assume you are going to a place like Flora further down the green line, but in some cases you would transfer to another line. The colour-coded charts are easy to understand. If you need to switch to the yellow line, do so at Můstek, to the red line at Muzeum.
Hotel
I have generally stayed in the Žižkov district. My hotel of choice has been Prokopka, but can also recommend the bed&no breakfast U Hejtmana, Hotel Kafka (with neighbouring Bílý Lev as overflow), and the hostel Pension 15. For the complete backpacker experience you could try The Clown&Bard. The latter two are closer to Jiřího z Poděbrad, for the others you can pick Flora, taking two stops on the 5 tram if you are feeling lazy (ticket still good).
Annoyances
The city hasn’t fully reined in the taxi drivers, though they used to be even worse. Generally fixed rates at the airport at around 800 Crowns. Minibuses are at 400-500 Crowns, but you might get an opportunity deal if you pass by when they are leaving with empty seats. There are pickpockets at some places like in certain trams. If you expose your valuables at these places there is a non-neglible risk of not having them anymore. The ATM programmers.
Getting online
The Czech Trafikanten is vlak-bus.cz, you can find maps over Prague at mapy.cz. There are many free wireless nodes in Prague. The Prague 5 district has city-sponsored ones. If you are staying for longer you might consider getting a Czech SIM.
Prague Underground
In the center you will never be far from a metro line, it is the fastest way to get around, and it is very good method to avoid getting lost. Learn the name of your metro station (and the colour of the line). When in another metro station of the same colour look for the station name on the signs overhanging the platform, go to the (left/right) side where your station is relative to the one you are in. If the metro is of a different colour look for the crossing line of your colour. The train interval range from a couple minutes during day, to about ten minutes in the evening. The clock tells how long ago the last train left. You can get a minute early warning by the draft of the train, so if you are on the stairs down you can catch the train.
Prague above board
There is a slower, but much more extensive and tourism-friendly network of trams. The schedule show when the next tram leaves as well as how many minutes it takes to get there. Stops by metro stations are marked with an M and all trams pass at least a few. So if lost jump on a tram for a metro station, and then use the method above to get home fast. The arrows at the top of the signpost tells if the tram is turning off left or right, this is useful for opportunistic tram hopping (you want to go somewhere but don’t want to wait for your tram number).There are also buses for the outer parts of the city, but apart from the airport you are not likely to take one of them. By midnight the metro and the regular routes shut down and the system of night trams and buses take over. They are recognizable on the signpost for the dark blue colour and for having numbers starting with “5”. It can be handy to note the number(s) of your local night trams. The same tickets are used for night trams, there is no late night gouging.
Language, the missing part
Czech is easy, it is spoken the way it is written. It is the way it is written that will give you headaches. This is a vowels-optional language, the letters R and L can substitute for vowels. The vowels you do find are pronounced like in German or most other European languages. There really are only AEIOU, as long as you always pronounce the last two as ÅO you should be fine. Y is always pronounced I. The Czechs are not aware of the existence of other vowels. Single vowels are rare enough, there are not many diphtongs. Pronounce them as written, not vowel-shifted like a Norwegian. “autobus” is pronounced “aotåboss”, not “æutobuss”. Long vowels are marked with an accent (áéíóú), for perversity ú is in most cases written ů. If a vowel isn’t marked as long, it is always short. “pes” (dog) is pronounced “pess”, not “pes”.
Language, the consonants
C is always pronounced “ts”, the word “konec” (the end) is pronounced “kånnets”. CH is a frontal mouth-clearing sound quite like Swedish skär, less close to the more guttural sound in Scottish loch. It is not the same sound as German CH. The haček accent (čďňřšťž) denotes a soft version of the consonant, in Norwegian that would be done by sticking a “j” after it, e.g. český is pronounced tsjesski. Ě denotes that the consonant in front is soft. There is an implicit haček for the letters DNT in front of I, dík (thanks) is pronounced djik, while dýk (several daggers) is pronounced dik. Z (Ž) is voiced S (Š). Unlike in English that distinction matters. At the end of the word or in front of unvoiced consonants voiced vowels become unvoiced, while unvoiced consonants in front of voiced become voiced. That is why “piv” (lots of beer) is pronounced “piff”. The voiced/unvoiced pairs are B/P, DŽ/Č, D/T, V/F, G/K, H/CH, Z/S, Ž/Š.
Czech grammar
Grammar doesn’t matter in any other language and it doesn’t matter in Czech either. It is worth reading about, but not taking too seriously. If you are curious Czech uses a case system (different word endings) while some languages like Norwegian and English use word order. But this isn’t that important. Most of the time you can figure out if the boy is playing with the ball or if the ball is playing with the boy. It can be useful to know that adding an -L to the verb puts it in past tense (-LA if you want to be female). Of course there are irregular verbs (though Czechs would claim it isn’t so, they just have very many rules), and you can bend the words in numbers and persons and how polite you want to be. Whatever complexity you feel like adding, you can be sure Czech will provide it for you.
Prefixes and suffixes
This however is useful. Czech is a wonderfully constructive language. When you learn the stems like CHOD (walk), you will recognize vchod (entrance), východ (exit), chodba (corridor), průchod (passage), chodník (sidewalk). The prefix DO- is towards or into something, OD- is out of something. The suffixes tell what kind of thing it is, so –ARNA would be an enclosed space (e.g. kavárna, café, “káva” is coffee), while –IŠTĚ would be an open space (letiště, airport, “let” is flight). Grammar mutilates the word endings sometimes to the unrecognizable, so it can be useful to know some grammar to reconstruct the original meaning. Soon you will be constructing words, some which haven’t been discovered by the Czechs themselves yet. A Czech-English dictionary is useful too.
Listening
Czech has the same misfeature as German, the most important part of the sentence comes at the end. With a Norwegian or English speaker you can just listen to the first words of a sentence and then go back to what you are doing. In Czech you must pay some attention while the speaker drones on towards the end, and there are many way to elaborate with nothingness so that the end is nowhere in sight.
Climate
May and September are the ideal months, April is much like May in Oslo, October can be chilly, especially towards the end, but unlike Norway it doesn’t rain much. November and March are slightly better than Oslo, while December to February are like Oslo or colder. June and July can be sweaty, but after the occasional deluge lasting maybe 15-20 minutes the temperature is comfortable again. August is the month to leave Prague like the citizen do, it is hot and unpleasant and full of tourists.
Away from Prague
If you want to go to the rest of the country, the best option is generally by bus. It is as a rule faster, cheaper, more convenient than by train. Express buses are particularly fast and comfortable. The first problem is to find out which bus station to go to. The vlak-bus site makes this a lot easier (and you can check if train is an alternative at the same time). Not all Czech cities are attractive, but a lot of them are. It makes sense to stay in Prague the first time, and take the excursions the following times. Biking is another option, this also gives better chance to see Czech villages, castles and wilderness. For a relatively densely populated country, the Czech Republic has quite a bit of true wilderness, though cottage holidays by the carp pond is at least as prevalent.

Join the Conversation

  1. I hearOriginally posted by John Cowan:Czech is essentially Slovak as spoken by a German.Conversely, Slovak is essentially Czech as spoken by a Hungarian.

  2. I like the guide. As our excursion, I’m coming to Prague by the end of August this year :DI’m sure I’ll find many things you listed here useful ;)Cheers from Croatia.

Comment

Your email address will not be published.