Prague 2010

There are no fat people here, apart from the tourists.

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Nearly all the women wear dresses and skirts. Short hemlines and exposed flesh seem popular whilst completely avoiding that teen-whore look that is prevalent where we come from. No, they dress like women and look sexy without looking cheap. Long legged too. And this may seem odd but they seem very un-self-conscious. There is a feeling of openness around this. The men dress well except for the homeless of which few are visible.The place is packed with tourists and English speaking ones are definitely in the minority. It’s hard to pick out the languages being spoken but I’d guess that most of them are what I would have called Eastern European. Some German and some French. Very few noticeable Americans. I am told that the Russians like this place.We are staying in Old Prague and it is very, very old. The facades of the buildings are maintained.

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I’ve seen a few that are being rebuilt on the inside while maintaining the original look of the building.

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This gives the streets a coherent look everywhere you go.

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You do not see a row of old buildings with some modern thing shoved in the middle of them. It is something that I wished architects in NZ (and elsewhere) would learn. In some ways you could say that the Christchurch earthquakes have been the great rain that washed all the scum from the face of the earth. My only fear is that they will simply re-create another mess to replace the one we lost. Don’t get me started!There are lots of buildings with ornate detail

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and I like the street names

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and some not without irony

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We walk all day, it is around 20 degrees and after Dubai it is so refreshing and liberating. There is a definite positive energy to Prague, you can feel it everywhere. It is covered in graffiti like all western cities but the old stuff is not sprayed which I find interesting. It means that the young people with the spray cans feel part of this culture.Tour parties abound, some with what seems like hundreds of members. All it would take is for one of them to start doing the conga and the whole city would join in and within minutes millions of people would be going "Ay Yi Conga" to the rhythm of shuffle-shuffle-shuffle-kick.There are trams and a metro but I think this is another city that you could live in and never own a car because the public transport is so good.

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I talked to the hotel owner and asked about the communist days and she told me that there were not so many hotels in those days so they were always full. I asked who stayed there and she said mainly Russians and other Eastern Block countries and lots of Italians. Italians? I asked, yes she said Italians they came every summer year after year. Since the wall came down the Italians stopped coming and now it is the English she says looking at me a bit sideways.In the Old Town Square there is a festival of Czech Culture with displays of traditional dancing and folk music.

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One night walking away from Old Town Square

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we passed two bars side by side, The English Pub and The Irish Bar, I wonder how that went as the beer flowed?

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we come across a bizarre display of the what appeared to be car that SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich was riding in when he was assassinated by Czech Resistance fighters along with display boards of all the gory details. On the surface it is simple story of heroism but like all war stuff when you get inside it is a strange story indeed, you can read the CIA version here.

There is a famous bridge that has statues along its length but it is absolutely crowded

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the statues are all christian and slightly depressing

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and completely in contrast with the festival atmosphere on the bridge. The view from the bridge is fantastic

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We stumble across an exhibition of modern art

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in one room we come across an installation that is nothing more than surreal hard core porn using seedy old men and odd looking women! One of the most interesting but unintended was a fibreglass single sided effigy which was put on a window sill and seen from across the courtyard but when you got behind it it did that optical leap where you see it right side out instead of inside out

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But soon I lose interest in the exhibits and get more interested in the building itself which is in what appears to be an advanced state of decay.

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From a room at the top of the building we get to look out over more statues all of which have bizarre metal things on their heads

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I couldn’t work out if it was to keep the pigeons off or some more esoteric function?There is a stair case where hangs the Jesus gymnast effigy shown earlier. The stairs run around the wall and seem incredibly flimsy

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and after the earthquake experiences I found that my heart rate increases and my legs are incredibly resistant to take me up or down them. In the end I have to run from landing to landing. Phew!All up Prague was immensely enjoyable, the city is incredibly well preserved and interesting, we felt safe, people were friendly and helpful, English was not widely spoken except in younger people but you can get by. Most people seemed reasonably honest and very few would accept payment in anything other than cash. If you relied on a credit card you’d not get far here. The food was really good everywhere we ate and pretty cheap compared to anywhere in Western Europe. The overall impression was that tourists are appreciated.