Friday, August 14, 2015

Vegan Travel: Prague, Czech Republic

One of the things about being a research scientist is that you travel A LOT. This is perhaps not that well known, but it ends up being a ridiculous amount of travel for team meetings, proposal reviews, conferences, workshops and (for some) field research. These trips are where tons of great science gets initiated. But I'd say you really have to love to travel if you want to be in research or academia. Luckily I do!

Being vegan at the homestead is easy: you know where you love to eat out, and you mainly cook delicious foods at home. It's a bit challenging to eat when you're not at home. I always manage it one way or another, but Prague had some particularly unexpected gems that I wanted to share.

The best resource in Prague & Cesky Krumlov was the prevalence of bioshops. These are essentially health food stores, and always have the word "Bio" in the name somewhere, so they are easy to identify. The one I found in Krumlov had gluten-free crackers, and tins of seasoned tofu pate that became a wonderful picnic lunch. And Prague had several locations of Country Life with packaged vegan options and takeaway buffet style food; one also had a real cafe attached. Very delicious foods!

My favorite travel experiences always involve random wanderings. I love blending into a cityscape, alone, just observing daily life in a different culture and picking my way around neighborhood streets. One of these kinds of journeys in Prague one day led me to a small island over by the Little Quarter, upon which a street fair was taking place. As it turned out, it was a family fair led by (as I could discern) a children's camp group. But it did have a little stand with the word "VEGAN" pasted across the front, so I stopped and inquired. I can't recall the name of the shop or find it online now, but they had just started up and were trying to advertise. I bought a cone of the best soft-serve ice cream I've ever had. They took out a hockey puck of almond-based vanilla ice cream, asked me which mixers I wanted to add in (I chose raspberries and blueberries) and then put it all into a machine which churned it up into a delicious purple-colored ice cream treat, which wasn't overly sweet and creamy as could be.

Next, as I was winding my way through a neighborhood towards the main castle area of Prague, I looked up a steep street and saw a "Vegan Restaurant" sign just up the way. It was LoVeg, which was simply a lovely place. It's a stone's throw from the castle, at the top of a building with a small outside patio overlooking the rooftops and the most delicious vegan food. I was able to try a traditional Czech dish - Svickova: 'meat' pieces in a sauce with bread dumplings on the side. A small piece of raw berry pie was the perfect finish. Here are some pictures of this amazing place.

Upstairs seating: an adorable space!

Outdoor patio among the rooftops

I also found a nice, cheap buffet style vegetarian place that had many locations around Prague called Dhaba Beas; they had lots of vegan options. And on my last day in Prague I tried a Loving Hut, a dependable international vegan chain restaurant; each one is surprisingly unique as far as menu options. On my side trip to Cesky Krumlov, I found a veggie restaurant (the only one) called Laibon. There were plenty of vegan options to try, so I ate here both nights of my trip. The staff was so very, very nice which was a welcome change, and they even made me special rice pudding with coconut milk instead of cow milk. There was an outdoor patio overlooking the river under the castle, complete with a neighborhood cat that snuggled with me at my table one evening. The restaurant is a true haven for vegetarian and vegan travelers to find in such a rural place!
My kitty friend hanging out while I ate

Vegan food on a summer evening by the river

I don't think of my dietary preferences as a hindrance to traveling. Particularly since they lead me to find wonderful hidden nooks where I can meet others that share my lifestyle choices and experience delicious nourishing foods that keep me energized and healthy during my travels. Vegan food is everywhere, and only getting more so with each passing year. On my way through the Frankfurt airport going home, I passed multiple airport food kiosks that had signs with "vegan!" and "veggie organic!!" on them. As I was running for my connecting flight, I couldn't stop to investigate, but was shocked just to see the V word plastered multiple places in any airport. The tide is turning, friends. Happy vegan travels!

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