I know I must be sounding horribly negative about Prague and it might seem like the entire trip was a flop. It wasn't. I saw some beautiful architecture (pictures to come), operas, ballet, art and had some great interactions with people while I was there, some really funny (more later). There was just something underlying that nagged at me the entire time.
I guess I am more used to going to countries where I was the "poor" one. Countries that have a very high standard of living. And the ones that don't, the people there seemed content and happy -- Slovenia for example. But in Prague I didn't detect that simple happiness.
How would you like to live in a country/city that is known as "cheap" (starting to be less now as cost of living has increased exponentially), when it is just chalk full of culture, history, intact architecture? And who do you suppose would be attracted to "cheap"?
Young people looking to have a good time. So you get groups of students (and some adults) drinking their faces off (short weekend jaunts are popular due to low cost flights) and subsequent evidence of them throwing up. Every morning you see teams of people (retirement age) cleaning Wenceslas Square. They march down in rows of 4.
It seems so disrespectful but isn't that what you get in Latin America? Think of all the places people on a budget like to go for extended periods of time? Right? How do you think locals feel seeing all that and seeing what has become of their cherished city?
As an adult, I can no longer just think of my own fun and enjoyment. That's why I haven't been able to go to the many of the popular winter destinations for Canadians ie. Cuba, Dominican etc and feel OK with being "the big guy" cordoned off in a compound. I can't ignore what's going on around me, how people who call Prague home live.
You just have to go to some supermarkets to find out. I hadn't planned on having to do a lot of cooking as Prague isn't an expensive city for dining out. Once I sorted out my food reactions, I had to.
I must have gone to at least 5 supermarkets all over Prague districts 1 - 3 and the common denominator was lack of choice. I wasn't expecting what I was used to at home. I wasn't even expecting to find organic choices, but there was one in the core. Still it was the least amount of choice I've ever seen for a major city.
The store may seem large but half of it is alcohol and cleaning products. There was more processed food than I would have expected. Their deli sections were neat. Everything was already sliced and placed in stacks. In all my wandering, I only bumped into 2 butcher shops.
What was surprising was I hardly saw anyone buy meat when pork was The meat there. Barely anyone bought fruit either. But I saw people buy potatoes, lots of them and cabbage and cheese. The quality of the meat wasn't so good.
Only saw seafood for sale at a couple of specialty stores and even then, we are talking about handfuls of shrimp and fish available. The meat, fruit and veggie aisles could fit in my kitchen. Though people may be buying their fruit from the numerous neighbourhood "convenience" stores.
You could tell who the foreigners were by what was being bought. We were the ones buying the other types of fruit, veggies and meat -- Not just apples, potatoes and organ meats.
Half a head of cabbage cost 8 Kc vs A small container of cremini mushrooms 39 Kc, a small container of raspberries 49 Kc, four pork loin chops 139 Kc. When you do the currency conversion, I would not say what I bought cost a lot of money. It was certainly cheaper than at home but for there, you don't see people buying it. And the lack of choice reflected it.
And it is mostly tourists and young people who were spending money at Starbucks, McDonalds, Paul. I think I shocked the young lady (judging from her face) at Paul by the amount I bought (about 300 Kc worth, 5 items) -- It was during the first 2 days when I was feeling like crap and what did I lean to? My weakness, French pastries...I only ate 1/4 - 1/3rd of each (allergies) but nonetheless, emotional eating + indulgence + food wastage = not my proudest moment.