Review of Moleskine City Notebooks: Prague

I am proud to admit membership in the tribe of Moleskine (pronounced “mol-a-skeen-a”). I’ve been using the pocket-sized black notebooks for years, gathering them up and hoarding them before their popularity recently surged; they are portable and fit perfectly in your pocket, their hard (but not too hard) covers give enough support to write anywhere, the sewn-in ribbon allows you to easily find your place, the memo pocket in the back holds odds and ends, and the elastic band binds everything nice and shut for traveling. I use them to jot down story notes, write first drafts, and make hasty sketches; it’s perfect for the Vagabonder on the move.

They’ve also now gotten more explicitly into the travel game with Moleskine City Notebooks (originally blogged here by Justin). 2006 saw notebooks covering European cities: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Dublin, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Prague, Rome and Vienna; 2007 is for North American cities: Boston, New York, Washington, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Montreal, and Seattle; and 2008 will cover Asia, with notebooks for Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore (yay!), Taipei, and Tokyo.

Moleskine kindly mailed me a “review copy” of the Prague notebook, and here are my thoughts:

The features contained within include a key map with an overall layout of the city as well as a map of the Metro system and list of stations, up to 36 pages of zone maps with an alphabetical street index, a 96-page tabbed archive, up to 76 blank pages, 32 removable tear-away sheets for exchanging info with travel companions, 3 bookmark ribbons, and 12 translucent sticky sheets to overlay onto the various maps for notes and route-tracing.

One notable thing about the text in the maps and indices is that almost all of it is in Czech. This makes a certain amount of obvious sense, as Prague is a city of Czech-speakers, but when one is trying to find the Charles Bridge or Old Town (both of which are labeled in English in many guidebooks to the city), one must go to a third party text to see what these names translate to in Czech. A few of the major landmarks are labeled in English (such as Prague Castle, the National Theatre, and the Church of Saints Peter and Paul), but one will need to either rely on a tour guide, a guidebook, or a friendly stranger to discover the many other sights the city has to offer.

The maps were all provided by Lonely Planet, and are beautifully reproduced in the notebook, but missing are any other contributions from that wonderful guidebook company. To be fair, Moleskine has marketed the City Notebooks as “The first guidebook you write yourself”; however, it would have been nice to have been given a handful of facts, especially if one is a first-time visitor the city. The tabbed archive section — which is reserved for notes about places, recipes, bars, adventures, shopping, books, &c., and has room for blank tabs you can label yourself — would have been ideal to place at least one tidbit of information in each category. Full price for these notebooks is US$27.95, which is a bit steep when you’ll have to kick in for a regular guidebook as well.

The maps are by far the big draw of the City Notebooks, as well as the plastic overlays. Since I’ve never been to Prague, I found a Kafka-themed walking tour of the city online, and traced the route on the sticky sheets; blue pen showed up, but the ink didn’t like the surface nearly as much as when I used pencil. And the great thing about them is that if you want to reuse the sheets or reposition them, it’s incredibly easy to erase your graphite marks and peel off the sheet.

So, if you like Moleskine notebooks, and you like to travel, the City Notebooks are a decent marriage between the two. Just realize that you’ll have to do some extra research before you arrive, since pertinent tour information is not given within. Personally, I’m eager for the Singapore City Notebook, since I’ve now lived here for six weeks and am a bit more comfortable getting around; still, it’s a big city, and the maps would be especially handy in pocket-sized format.

Posted by | Comments (2)  | May 16, 2007
Category: Travel Writing

2 Responses to “Review of Moleskine City Notebooks: Prague”

  1. stan Says:

    Hi Jason! Do you know if the Singapore city notebook is currently available?
    I can”t find it!

  2. Jason Erik Lundberg Says:

    Hi Stan,

    By amazing coincidence, I just sent Moleskine Asia an email about this. The Tokyo and Kyoto notebooks have just been released, but no news about the Singapore one yet. I’m anxious to see it as well. 🙂