Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Praha 3

After finally sleeping for about 12 hr I started feeling like my curious self again.  Buildings still looked run down in places but I didn't feel overly negative about it.  What a relief!  It still took another day before I felt like taking pictures. 

During the day there were many side streets in the old town, new town, lesser town that were deserted.  You don't even see activity within housing units.  At night, residential areas were darker and quieter than I've experienced before (no outside front door lights but I did have a live video intercom system) and people walked quickly with their heads turned down.  Street signs weren't plentiful.  And I stayed in a what is supposed to be a "trendy" location/neighbourhood.

Of course there are rich people everywhere but I didn't get the general impression of wealth from Prague.  Architecturally, you can tell that in its heyday, this was one grand city.  I've never seen such wide old town roads, made of hand laid stones.  And the main square was built at such a scale, you can imagine the royal processions that used to take place there.  The city has done a great job preserving the buildings in and around the old town. 

Present day Prague is a city of contrasts.  At the ever popular Wenceslas Square you will find your tacky souvenir shops, groups of foreign guys ready to party, all day police presence, numerous Thai massage parlors (with crazy guys in costumes trying to drum up business) and at night, prostitutes. 

Contrasted that with a surprising high density of cultural events and theatres.  You could seriously go see opera, ballet, symphony, concerts every night of the week.  And it was widely supported.  This was by far the biggest surprise for me.  I spent 3 lovely evenings at the State Opera House.

Every Czech person I had a chance to talk to was genuinely interested to know if I liked their city as they are fiercely proud of theirs.  Nationalism is prevalent.  Perhaps it wasn't a coincidence that upon landing, the Czech Airlines plane I took from Amsterdam immediately started playing Smetana's Vltava (The Moldau).  I told them I'm still trying to find my way around and it has been interesting so far. 

You will notice that fur is widely worn.  Young people were pretty practical in their choice of clothing.  I didn't see many people who coloured their hair or had on strong makeup.  Black and grey is the colour of choice.  Older people dressed in a dignified way.  I knew I was fitting in when the guys outside the tourist restaurants didn't shout out at me while waving their menus. 

A few days after my "detox", I broke down and bought a sausage (almost 3 pm, hadn't had lunch, tired of being pummelled by sleet the past 4 hr, starving!) from a stall at the old town square and couldn't sleep that night.  So the hypothesis was proven. 


  1. I'm enjoying your Praha series. I visited the beautiful city way back in '89, just before the wall came down (I was there in August) and it is STILL one of the most beautiful cities I've ever visited. I can image the changes that came speeding in - probably quite overwhelming and a huge adjustment after 30+ years of communism - so I'm a bit sad to hear your observations. Although I think Prague became quite a draw for foreigners for a period in the 90's- particularly those wanting to teach ESL - perhaps the lustre has faded a bit and they've moved on somewhere new. Regardless, it's still on my bucket list to revisit. I can't get the cobblestone streets, the red roofs and the Charles Bridge out of my mind. I had some fabulous ice cream just off the main square and bought some beautiful Czech crystal glasses as well.

  2. I didn't mean to make you sad! Prague in the core is gorgeous and I was pleasantly surprised with how easy those stones were to walk on. From what I gathered, since the curtain fell, quality of life dropped for most and with prices in Prague 1 climbing so high, people are moving out to Prague 7 and beyond. Those who are really struggling are living in those soviet era depressing buildings (ie. Prague 17)which are rent controlled. I got the impression that current day "freedom" isn't really freedom when there isn't the steady income that used to come during Communist rule. Seeing all those new stores and restaurants pop up but you cannot afford to shop or eat there...and seeing all those foreigners come into your city buying and living it up...tough to witness.

    1. ps. Sorry to hear about your security breach. I often think I am too trusting with online information and even though I've had unauthorized charges show up on credit cards over the years, I'm still buying stuff online.