Tea is a great unifier. It’s a comfort and a problem-solver; it’s enjoyed all over the world with perhaps a greater fervour than coffee. For travellers, taking tea is a way of absorbing local culture, but it can also be a much-needed break in an otherwise packed schedule. The fashion designer Waris Ahluwalia once said, ‘I like the pause that tea allows.’ He’s not the only one.
Today I’m looking back at a not-so-recent trip to the Czech Republic (my memory was jogged by a friend who’s travelling there this summer) and remembering that brilliant pause, at a traditional tea house in Prague.
There’s nothing like the joy of finding a great pre-loved book – set me up in a branch of Oxfam or a car boot sale and I’m happy as a sandboy, browsing through the goods. I also find they make great souvenirs when I’m travelling (not so much souvenirs for other people, as not everyone appreciates a dog-eared Penguin classic when they were hoping for a nice fridge magnet). Over the last few years I’ve been on quite a few bookish adventures, and these are some of the best…
Keeping up to date with travel trends can be a tricky business, but putting reps from most of the world’s countries in one big London exhibition space definitely cuts out the middleman. This week I headed to World Travel Market, a huge trade event at the ExCel Centre, and squeezed in amongst 50,000 professionals, press and government ministers to find out the latest industry insight. Here are my main takeaways for the year…
Being a tour guide in Prague is a risky business
At a city tourism seminar, the CEO of walking tour company SANDEMANs New Europe spoke out about the difficulties and dangers of operating in Prague. “There’s a lot of street violence,” Chris Sandeman told the audience. “Other companies have even beaten up our staff and put them in hospital.” Chris explained that all tours in Prague 1 (the most historic zone) can only start at two specific locations to comply with city and government guidelines. It’s not hard to imagine how this must heighten tension between different groups competing for their livelihoods.
“This place gives me the creeps,” said the American tourist next to me. “It’s so ghoulish. Don’t you agree?”
Let’s just say I didn’t. The Sedlec Ossuary, situated an hour’s train ride from Prague in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kutna Hora, was one of my main reasons for visiting the Czech Republic. This is the world-famous resting place for some 40,000 bodies, arranged artistically by a wood carver, at the orders of a local family back in 1870.
This autumn I embarked on my first totally solo trip, taking on the Czech capital of Prague for three nights of intensive sightseeing. These are some of the little moments that proved I was right to go it alone; the times when I knew it was okay not to be part of a group or, as the copywriting cliché goes, ‘with that special someone’ (highly unlikely, as a man has never treated me to a city break, though two have taken me on dates to Burger King… but I digress).
You know Prague is perfect for solo travellers when you can…
Two museums separated by the Atlantic Ocean tackle similar issues, but from opposing viewpoints. Prague’s Velvet Revolution may be decades old, yet the relief at being free from communism is still palpable on a visit to the city, most notably in the Museum of Communism, where the reality of Czechoslovakian life from 1948-1989 is laid bare.
In contrast, Havana has been under the revolutionary eye of Fidel Castro (and, lately, his brother Raul) for decades, and its Museo de la Revolución is filled with artefacts described in chillingly stylistic communist prose, featuring phrases like ‘his courageous will’ and ‘an unbeatable soldier’. Having visited each museum in the last two months, I couldn’t help but compare these two attractions.
Calavera (Span. feminine noun) = skull. A travel blog with a love of culture, dark tourism and the unconventional.