Sunday, July 11, 2010

Prague: My, What A Nice Iron Curtain You Had!

Prague was my first stop behind the iron curtain. If I were a local and had to decide between the old communist regime or the new tourist regime... well, it would be a tough call.

Kidding, of course. Tourism is probably less oppressive than communism.

Prague is a sea of tourists. I didn't meet a single local while I was there. On some streets, the crowds were so thick that it was hard to walk. The old quarter, which is a tourist hub and meant to be a main attraction, was hard to enjoy.

From the river and the surrounding mountains, though, the city was spectacular. I climbed to the top of their Eiffel Tower knockoff to get the best view.

It wasn't hard to imagine the place under communist rule. The imposing TV Tower on the horizon was a chilling monument to the days when they used it to jam Radio Free Europe broadcasts.

I also found these creepy baby sculptures hiding in a park which I assume were making some statement about communism. They made me want to run away screaming.

I spent my evenings seeing shows in the city. The first night was a concert at the Municipal House... an underwhelming recital of chamber music and ballet in a magnificent concert hall.

The second and third nights were "black light theater" performances. These naturally caught my eye because they are dance and special effect shows with minimal dialogue... exactly the sort of crap I love. One in particular was great: Lanterna Magica. They did an amazing dance show behind a translucent video screen, interacting with the video, disappearing behind it, and at times even dancing with it.

I suppose I should mention the proper sightseeing that I did. I saw the castle. I walked Old Town. I saw the apartment-sized Communism museum and read through every poorly translated paragraph. And I saw the Jewish quarter, which I am sad to say felt as commercialized as everything else in the city. The cemetery was the most powerful of the Jewish sites, where you can really feel how crowded the Jewish ghetto was by counting the piled-up graves on top of graves.

I had a nice rendezvous with Paul Belin, a future classmate of mine who has been living in Prague for eight years. It was nice to have a friend in town, because it was otherwise quite difficult to meet anyone.

I had several delicious plates of goulash, cabbage, potatoes, and various permutations thereof.

At the end of three days, I'd had quite enough of Prague. Although I know the city has a lot of history and is quite beautiful, it was too hard to find my way away from the crowds.

Besides, everything I wanted Prague to be was just an overnight train ride away in Budapest.

Location:Prague, Czech Republic


  1. Boo, I loved Prague. I miss goulash!

    (Hi! I just got home today.)

  2. Me too .. I loved the bridge and the old castle. I was only there though for 24 hours so we did it quick. Found some great local wine in a cellar that we ate dinner in, can't find it anywhere but there, it was amazing vino! Carry on my friend .. K

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