Travel black book: Treasures of Kafka

Travel black book: Treasures of Kafka

Who: Dolores Tay, 39, global director of marketing of Catalunya Group, which owns Catalunya, a contemporary Spanish restaurant in Collyer Quay

Favourite destination: Prague, Czech Republic

Why: It is the birth city of Franz Kafka, one of my favourite writers. Interestingly, he was born to a German-speaking Jewish family so, despite his Austro-Hungarian lineage, he wrote all his works in German, not Czech.

I've been to Prague twice. The first time was a surprise. In 2013, my husband and I were driving from Italy to Switzerland and Germany.

After a long drive in the snow, we arrived in front of a Four Seasons hotel at almost 3am. I was too sleepy to check in, so I let my husband take care of the administrative stuff.

Even after a long bath in the hotel's luxurious bathroom, I was still clueless about my exact location until my husband asked, "Do you know where we are right now?"

I looked at the hotel notepad on the table, saw the address and realised I was in Prague. It was an unforgettable surprise.

Favourite hotel

The Four Seasons Hotel (Veleslavinova 1098/2a, 110 00 Praha 1-Stare Mesto; tel: +420-221-427-000; www.fourseasons.com/prague). It is centrally located in the heart of Prague, along the Vltava River and a short walk from the famous Charles Bridge which leads to Lesser Town, the historic area on the left bank of the river.

From the hotel, the view of the Vltava and Prague Castle at sunrise and sunset is breathtaking. I find the service at the Four Seasons excellent - warm, responsive and I had no issues communicating in English.

Rooms start from €280 (S$448) a night.

Favourite restaurant

Great seafood is hard to come by in Prague, but I remember having the yummiest oysters at Zdenek's Oyster Bar (Mala Stupartska 636/5, 110 00 Praha 1; tel: +420-725-946- 250; oysterbar.cz). As a fan of seafood, it was nice to have a taste of the freshest oysters from different regions of France and Ireland served together on one platter.

The oysters cost 175 (S$10) to 225 Czech korunas a piece.

Favourite museum

The Franz Kafka Museum (Cihelna 2b, 118 00 Praha 1; tel: +420-257-535-507; www.kafkamuseum.cz). Located in the Lesser Town, it is a two-level treasure trove of Kafka information. Artefacts include original manuscripts, drawings, letters, first-edition prints, furniture and photographs.

Favourite tourist site

No trip to Prague is complete without a visit to the Prague Castle (119 08 Prague 1; tel: +420-224-373-368; www.hrad.cz). Of all the many castles I have been to in Europe, this is my favourite. It is a Unesco World Heritage Site founded in the 9th century and consists of many chapels and buildings on the 45ha castle grounds.

St Vitus Cathedral (www.katedralasvatehovita.cz), within Prague Castle, is the country's single most important Roman Catholic architectural icon and was founded in 930AD. It contains the tombs of Bohemian kings and Holy Roman emperors, and is the seat of the Archbishop of Prague.

The cathedral's Gothic architecture, with gargoyles, demons and statues with mostly tortured expressions, is awe-inspiring.

Favourite retail therapy

When in Prague, buy local. There are many art stores, antique shops, crystal merchants and souvenir stores in the Old Town Square and Lesser Town.

If you don't mind a little haggling, you can take your chances at the pop-up stalls on the two bridges. Many artists tout their wares there, including water-colour paintings of the Prague landscape.

Beware of some of the rustic antique shops in the Old Town, however, because I have been warned that the goods there are often fake and overpriced.

Instead, I go to Antique V. Andrle (Platnerska 6 110 00 Prague 1; tel: +420-222-311-625; www.antiqueandrle.cz), next to the Four Seasons Hotel. It has been there for more than 20 years and is well-connected to antique dealerships in Europe.

If you have time to look around, Prague has many hidden treasures in the homelier stores. Just bargain, bargain, bargain.

Favourite bookshop

Shakespeare A Synove, which means Shakespeare and Sons (U Luzickeho seminare 10 118 00 Praha 1, Mala strana; tel: +420-257- 531-894; shakes.cz). It is a quaint little bookstore that sells used and new English and Czech books and journals. It is conveniently located in the Lesser Town, a stone's throw from Charles Bridge.

Best place to watch the sunset

The Tower of Charles Bridge is the best spot for a bird's-eye view of Old Town and Lesser Town and it is gorgeous at sunset.

Must do

December is magical because the entire city is illuminated with Christmas lights. The food, the atmosphere and the Christmas markets make celebrating the festival in Europe special.

You can get Prague sausages, called Prazska Klobasa, while walking around town. They are big, fat links of deliciously greasy sausages in different flavours such as pork, garlic and chicken, but I love the spicy versions. You can have them with fried onions and mustard or plain in a toasted hot dog roll. It's delicious and costs about €2 each.

I also always stop at stalls selling Prague Ham, otherwise known as Prazka Sunka, in Old Town Square. The ham is brine-cured and smoked over open fire - very succulent and best enjoyed with Czech beer. When ordering, mention how many grams of ham you would like to have or the vendors might try to give you extra food and rip you off. Compare the vendors for prices (around 89 Czech korunas per 100g).

My most memorable moment

Taking a nice stroll through the old historical streets to soak in the atmosphere and having tea at Cafe Lourve (Narodni 22, Praha 1, 110 00; tel: +420-224-930-949; www.cafelouvre.cz/en), a place which Kafka and Albert Einstein used to frequent.

Best advice

As charming as the city is, Prague is notorious for pickpockets. Be careful and keep an eye on your belongings.

vlydia@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Jan 4, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.

More about

czech republic
Purchase this article for republication.

BRANDINSIDER

SPONSORED

Most Read

Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.