Making my way downtown, walking fast, faces pass, and wait … am I still in New Town? Navigating a new city can be difficult, but understanding the layout of a city in a new country where there is a significant lack of street signs and everything is in Czech makes things a bit more interesting.
After a week in Prague I can finally recognize major landmarks and butcher the name of the closest tram stops to my apartment and school, but after that I am a wandering tourist lost in the streets. For the first few days I navigated the city with the help of my four roommates, but on my first day of class I was left to my own devices while returning home.
Much to my surprise, I found walking through the city alone to be liberating. Prague is a very safe city and I was able to wander around the streets without feeling like I had to constantly watch my back. I spent the afternoon walking up and down side streets looking for new cafes and pubs to try with my roommates.
I even stumbled upon the impressive German embassy in all it’s glory and secrecy.
While my exploring was cut short due to hunger and heat, (walking around in pants and a backpack on an 80 degree afternoon is not very comfortable) the knowledge that I could independently navigate the city excited me for the next few months of adventures.
The next obstacle to tackle is blending in, or rather not sticking out as a tourist. While I don’t wear a fanny pack or walk around with my nose in a map, I frequently worry that I look like a “stupid american tourist” to the Czech people.
Tourists are charged more, smiled at less and the target of many pickpockets. That’s not what I want. I want to become a cool european who effortlessly gets on off the tram at the correct stop and doesn’t get turned around on the way to Tesco.
While I know I cannot effortlessly assimilate into a full-blown local in the matter of days, I do hope to distinguish myself from the other Americans making their way through Prague. Possibly by not being the loudest person on the tram, never getting on a Segway and sneaking in a few Czech words when ordering my Pilsner Urquell and goulash with bread dumplings.