They say that Prague is a beautiful city and of course it is. It has more painted facades, medieval architecture and ornate buildings packed into a small space than anywhere else I have yet seen. It dazzles, and dazzling leaves you not quite recalling what you have seen.
It is architectural overload. Each building competes for your attention. Every time I go out to “get a feel” for Prague I have failed.
The church in the market square was built in the 1400’s. Even at that stage space was at a premium so it was built behind some existing houses. I expected some space between the church and the houses but there was none. The front of the church is built on to the back of the existing buildings. The result is that you can only see the upper bit of the church front. The lower bit simply does not exist.
It is not only buildings that get in each others way. There are more people here than you can shake a stick at (and I have been tempted). It is a pick pockets heaven. In the popular places you have difficulty moving. You can’t get through the market square at night. you have to go round it. At the best of times 50% of the people walking around are lost. People from Prague work here but most have to live outside the city as the price of housing has rocketed. The implication of all this tourism is not good. Whensless Square, for example, known as the place where Dubcek gave his speeches in the spring of1968, where the Russian tanks rolled in in August 1968 and where Jan Palach set himself on fire as a protest a few weeks later is a battleground again. M&S competes with C&A. Starbucks have more than a handful of coffee shops and McDonnell’s seems to be everywhere. Tesco’s have supermarkets. Same goods, different language on the tins. You will be pleased to know that the “Tesco Value” brand translates well. Stripes are stripes in any language.
So I went looking for Prague. I went on a walking tour to looking for buildings, I went to the Prague Ballet to look for culture. I went to the Old Town Square looking for history. I went across the Charles Bridge looking for the river the river. I went looking for Prague. I found Tourists.
With apologies to Paul Therux.
Coming next. “Touchy feely” Prague