I walked up the stairs to the penthouse at Mosaic House, opened the terrace door, and the uncharacteristically fall-like breeze hit my face. With it, came an onslaught of memories. Smells. Sounds. People. Dancing. Moments. That's what life is made of, after all. It's a series of moments beautifully and sometimes chaotically, yet always meaningfully, assembled to make each of us who we are. I live for these moments.
It's REWIND time. Ready?! I'm thrust back into a different time and space...five and a half years ago. This place was a whole different world. A concrete mess full of dust and scaffolding that would soon have a magic wand placed upon it and - voilà - turn into the sparkly structure that now stands here.
The last time I was up on this roof it was late May 2010. Our crew had been working towards the opening of this unlikely hostel/hotel fusion called Mosaic House for what seemed like an eternity. There was no such thing as a 9-5...this was our baby and we were creating something from nothing. It was exhilarating and exhausting all at the same time. The sun was shining down on us as we enjoyed a Pilsner, the solar panels of this impressively designed eco property just above us. Soaking it all in. Espresso and pivo (that's Czech for beer), fueling our bodies.
And now, FAST FORWARD five years. I feel like I'm living in an alternate universe and I love it as much as I loved the place I was in five years back. In fact, as I was sitting with Gilles, one of the managers here at Mosaic House whom I worked with back in the day...I thought that my time here in Prague was the pinnacle of my career; that I wouldn't find a better gig for me and my personality. Of course, I'd find out soon enough that this wasn't the case. It wasn't necessarily an easy path, but each stop on the journey purposefully built upon the last and led to the next. And they were all equally beautiful and saturated with learning opportunities.
I write this as I sit on the terrace of Penthouse West. I'm definitely a wiser woman than I was five years ago, and I'm certainly a better version of me. At the core, though, my spirit remains the same: fiery, curious, free, effervescent, open. That's me. The big difference now is that my work now is so intertwined with my personal passions and interests that I'm able to really BE me. It also allows me to travel around Europe and freely experience its people and places, as well as come back to Prague—a place I will always consider a "home" in my journey. It's where my brother and sister-in-law live and many of my friends still live. So Christmas in Prague is special. It's real. And this year, my family joined us here. What a joy and a blessing.
Last year my life looked a lot different. It was my first year with the U.S. Ski Team and I was still trying to figure it all out. I was slowly (more quickly than most, but definitely slow for myself) trying to patch up the pieces of my broken personal life. Though I was with my brother, sister-in-law and friends, I was lonely. A piece of my soul was missing. I traveled to Krumlov, my favorite place in the world, for Christmas day and I was alone. I was sad. But today, I'm happy. I'm strong. I feel free. Truly free to float around this big ol' globe with wild abandon...like I was meant to do.
So what does Christmas in Prague look like for me? Here are a few of my favorite things, some old and some new.
STAY | at Mosaic House. If you're able, I recommend "splurging" (it's still a lot less than most luxe spots) and snagging a penthouse room. The soft way the light pours in early in the morning and the view of the castle are two of many reasons to splurge. The view is wild up here. At night, sit out on the terrace with a glass of red wine and you'll understand why travelers are captivated by Prague's romance. The shower is divine. The decor is tastefully minimalist. The building was also retrofitted to work as a green property...greywater recycling, solar panels, the whole sha-bang. It's a quiet little oasis and I feel like the princess from "The Princess and the Pea." Though its concept has changed from five years ago, much like me, it remains who it was at the core. It's still something unique. Special.
BUZZZZZZ | Over the years, I've witnessed the cafe culture in Prague get better and better. A few of the classic favorites are Cafe Ebel, Mama Coffee Cafe and Globe Bookstore. I'm sure there are many more, but these are classic mainstays that have been around for a while. Also worth checking out is Dobrá Čajovna. Their tea is to die for and their shisha is still my favorite on this planet. Try to snag the loft in the back room and just hang out and chill for a while. It's well worth it.
GRUB | Modry Zub is still one of my favorite spots to grub. It's Thai, and it's even spicy...which is not easy to find in Prague. There's this spot over by Manes gallery and the river, it's an Indian/Lebanese/Pakistani restaurant with a green facade called Karavanseraj, also known as Klubu cestovatelů. Their food is excellent and their shisha isn't too shabby either. Also, U Fleků, just a two minute walk from Mosaic House, is a famous restaurant dating back to the 1400's. It's pretty touristy, but it's worth it for the ambiance. There are people from all over the world there, and they play traditional music, brew their own beer, and slivovice. Also nearby and worth checking out is Švejk Restaurant U Karla, right next to U Fleků. They serve up excellent traditional Czech meals, but they're also non-smoking and have a gluten-free menu.
STRAY | Prague is a city for wandering souls. The little nooks and crannies are always full of surprises and the cobblestone streets and the sights they lead to are endlessly magical and mysterious. Whether it be checking out your favorite design shop (one of mine is Julius Fashion Shop near Národní třída) or candy shop (check out Captain Candy). Swing by the Christmas markets in Old Town Square and grab yourself a trdelník, a traditional Slovak cake and sweet pastry. Yum. Walk across Charles Bridge and meander in Mala Strana (aka "Lesser Town") on the castle side, my favorite place to wander. Navigate through the small alleyways and swing by the Lover's Lock bridge and make your mark on the Lennon Wall.
GET CRAY | There are a number of bars, music venues, and nightclubs you can go to, but when I'm in town I stick to my favorites, like locally-owned and operated Groove Bar (they also own Bar Nota). It's a stone's throw from Mosaic House and it's always filled to the brim with young Czech hipsters and good music. I've danced on that bar and served a beer or two there, so it's near and dear to my heart. Shout-out to owners Martin and Jakub who are still crushing it with their good looks and charming smiles. Well done, boys.
Of course, you can always swing by La Loca Music Bar and Lounge downstairs in Mosaic House. Make sure to pay special attention to the mosaics upon entry, and on either side of the stage. They're a part of the historically maintained aspect of the hotel, and they represent the balance between art and science.
That's all for now. Shout if you have specific questions about things to do or see in Prague. I'm full of them!
Travel mindfully and Merry Christmas,