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How does a city make a first impression?

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Prague just doesn’t do it for me, and I can’t really explain why. Part of me doesn’t want to admit that in fear of offending someone reading this, especially since everyone I know absolutely raves about it. My first time traveling here fell at the end of a very long trip, so I chalked up my dis-enchantment to my own fatigue and lack of interest in touring yet another European city. So now that this is my second time here, I told myself I had obviously missed something before, and I was certain to enjoy it this time. But somehow I’m still left underwhelmed. I have no logical reason why I don’t care for it either, which got me thinking: when we travel, what it is that actually creates our impression of a new place?

Cities, towns, villages, countryside, and even campgrounds all leave us with a certain taste in our mouth. It’s strange actually, because even though we talk about them as if they have personality characteristics, isn’t a city inanimate? Unlike meeting a new person for the first time, a city can’t accidentally offend you, annoy you, or devilishly charm you. Or can it?

Similar to judging people too quickly, I believe that we also judge places in the world too quickly. It takes effort and time to discover the ‘personality traits’ of a city such as walking through different neighbourhoods, sampling local food, and discovering hidden natural beauties. Yet after touring a new place for a few short days, we somehow feel experienced enough to deem a location recommendable or not to others despite the fact that our reviews are almost entirely based on our own unique circumstances. For example, I heard wonderful things about Amsterdam, but when we travelled there it poured rain the whole time and Dave got food poisoning, so I have zero fond memories of it. Is that Amsterdam’s fault? Not at all! But my experience in this city certainly left a foul taste in my mouth.

We also like to easily pass judgements about the local people of the places we visit. Just because you had a few grumpy waitresses, doesn’t mean that all Czech people are unfriendly, but it’s much easier to get annoyed and group the whole country together and call them snobs.

I also think the order in which you visit a place on your trip has a lot to do with how much you enjoy it. The first place can be awesome because you’re energized and excited to be traveling, whereas later on your patience can run thin for rough train rides and bad food.

So with all of this in mind, I remind you to take everyone’s impression of places in the world with a grain of salt, including your own. Try not to let a few rotten days ruin your faith in an entire country, or worse, a whole continent. I know I wouldn’t be happy if someone was talking smack about my beloved city of Toronto, based on something uncontrollable like bad weather (which never happens…). Also be aware of how vocal you are about your opinions when it comes to travel locations. Your trash can and will be someone else’s treasure.

So here are some beautiful pictures of Prague! I cannot deny that the architecture really is beautiful. I must just be crazy (or cranky). Perhaps you will find your hidden travel-treasure here.

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