October 2004


Praha III: Highs and Lows

Friday morning I woke up late – well, late for me. I was out of bed at 8, but not really wanting to do anything since my haircut was scheduled for 9. I managed to restrain myself by watching morning Czech TV and looking out the window. I walked down to the salon and got there a few minutes early. I was immediately getting my hair washed and then was asked the critical question: how much off?the girl suggested using either broken English or German one centimeter and I agreed. I wasn’t able to explain exactly what I wanted, and this seemed fine. When I was done, I knew that the haircut was going to cost 150 Czech Crowns (CZK), and I had decided to give one of the largest tips I have ever given for a haircut- percentage wise. 33%, for a grand total of 200 Crowns- or for the currency impaired amongst us: 6,38€ (about $7.50 or so).

This has to be the least expensive hair cut that I have had since my Mother stopped cutting my hair-certainly the least expensive since moving to Europe! (Did I ever confess exactly how much the one in England cost? Or the one in Rotterdam, for that matter?)

After the haircut, I returned to my room, where I grabbed a quick shower, got dressed, and headed to breakfast. From there I headed to the mythical birthplace of Prague. It is atop a hill, and I followed Lonely Planet’s suggestion of the strenuous climb to the top, which was rather pretty but ended up at the furthest possible point from the information office, so I ended up walking all the way across the fortress to get a map and then wandered my way back to where I started looking at various sites.

It was here I got one of my great Prague surprises, for I decided to peak over the wall, and when I did, I discovered that I was looking out over a very wide and very deep valley-so deep that a highway (and metro, for that matter), didn’t bother to descend into it, but passed above many little houses. It also helped explain why in my four days and three nights in Prague, I can only recall having seen one bicycle. Prague is not a city for biking.

V is also home to a cemetery with many notable Czechs, as well as a memorial called Slavon a “pantheon” with 50 individuals and a motto, which translated means “Though dead, they still speak.”

From there my Friday was rather mundane. I made my way down and out of the fortress, passed by a Cubist apartment building, and downtown where I first quickly explored a local Tesco, enjoyed lunch at Café-Café and then went into the Sex Machines Museum, where I watched 1920s Spanish porn, saw gigantic dildos, and pondered what kind of parents would want to attach a ring to their son’s penis so that whenever the poor kid has an erection a bell would ring in the living room.

From there it was to the Museum of Communism, which Lonely Planet noted was a “varied collection of – well, stuff.” It was an exceptionally accurate description of a museum trapped between a McDonald’s and a casino. I found the museum very moving and found myself amazed at the incredible waste of energy, talent, and people that were chewed up by communist rule. Just the granite for Stalin’s statue alone (which was blown up a couple years later) was mind boggling.

I came to the conclusion that any government that intentionally lies to its citizens, suppresses freedom of the press, and intimidates its citizens for disagreeing with governmental policy cannot be good.

Suddenly it dawned on me that I was describing my current government, not just the Communist Czech government.

Friday evening was occupied by people watching and dinner in downtown Prague, where I quickly realized that during the day it is nearly impossible to avoid getting hit up to go see a concert and at night every male is assumed to be interested in going seeing strippers – of the female variety. All I can say is that if male strip clubs geared for men were as aggressive as strip clubs aimed at straight males, people would be horribly offended and take action to stop it.

I didn’t go out, I stayed in and fell asleep relatively early-principally because I wanted to hit up a few more museums Saturday and for some reason that meant to me getting up early-despite it being the weekend.

Saturday started with shower and breakfast before I headed out for the public transportation museum. It’s basically a large tram depot with lots of old trams, buses, and related materials. Fortunately it came with an English language pamphlet which covered all the vehicles, but none of the other displays. For those of you into transportation, this museum is fun-although only open on Saturday and Sunday (plus holidays).

I timed it well from there: I walked down from the museum to the castle and arrived half an hour before the glorious changing of the guard at noon. Thanks to my early arrival, I had a prime viewing spot of all the action, and, despite the rain, thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Once it was done, I wandered through the castle, down the steps and into town, where I found a late lunch and the Torture Museum. The Torture Museum had a few other tourists in it, mostly from Britain, and was an amusing waste of half an hour.

Wandering through town I eventually found myself on the Metro, which I took all the way to the last stop on the C-Line, Haje. Haje is located in the middle of a huge communist-era housing development, which consisted of lots of very large apartment blocks. I found myself both depressed and impressed at the same time. Depressed that the housing solution offered up by communists were these incredibly boring and large apartment blocks, and impressed that lots of people still live here-and that several of the buildings were being redone to look better.

I then took the Metro back to the museum of Prague history. I have but one thing to say about this museum: Go. But go just before you leave town-making sure you go up to the 2nd floor where you will find this incredible diorama of Prague made between 1826 and 1834. It’s incredible, and I found myself walking the tiny streets imagining what it was like to live in Prague back then. Eventually I looked at the rest of the museum and then caught a bus back to my hotel. It was raining and I needed a break.

2 comments to Praha III: Highs and Lows

  • (laughing at your comment:)Suddenly it dawned on me that I was describing my current government, not just the Communist Czech government.

    now i know what they mean by “freedom isn’t free”. feh.

    xo jen

  • Jen! Thanks for stopping by!

    Freedom is *never* free — the Czechs were “free” to visit the world… but bureaucracy prevented them from doing so… I need to post a link to a cute book I bought in Prague about an American living in Prague for 30 years.