Trip Start May 05, 2008
Trip End May 09, 2009

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Flag of Czech Republic  ,
Saturday, August 2, 2008

Prague is a lovely city: a gem which combines wonderfully preserved Germanic Gothic architecture with beautifully ornate buildings from the late 19th century. All in all it feels like a reminder of times when building a city meant trying to create something beautiful (as opposed to so many places nowadays for which practicality and saving money are the primary concerns). The city and the country have opened up dramatically since the fall of communism in 1989. I am actually the second member of my family to visit this fairytale city: my father was here exactly 40 years ago. When he was here, the city was invaded by Russian tanks stifling the Spring Revolution in 1968. Nowadays the city is being invaded again, this time around by tourists. In many ways, it is the victim of its own success and its own beauty (and the cheap price of beer!). The place has the feel of a giant amusement park, with hundreds of souvenir shops selling mostly tacky souvenirs but also beautiful Bohemian crystal and Art Noveau items, to the hordes of tourists snapping pictures at every turn. In retrospect we probably would have enjoyed visiting the city outside of the busy summer season.
We had a good time here though. We stayed in a student residence, which was not exactly stellar, but it had two redeeming qualities: the price and the location. We wandered around the city taking in the beauty of the wonderfully preserved buildings and stopping every once in a while to enjoy the Czech beer. Speaking of which, its price could be indicative of the tourist invasion and the way in which this has skewed prices: a half liter of beer costs 8-10 crowns in the supermarket (about 50c), but goes up to 70-100 in tourist areas. We had the feel that there are two separate economies in this city: one for the tourists which makes the city just as expensive as any city in Western Europe, and one for the locals. We took advantage of the second economy and managed to have a really good time without breaking the bank. The only challenge was navigating the intricacies of the Czech language which is about as easy and familiar to us as Zulu, and made us reminisce about how easy it was to function in German speaking countries (though we don´t really speak German!). For instance a double room is ´dvouluzkovy pokoj´ and what time is it is `Kolik je hodin´   Anyway, Na shledanou (Good Bye) from the Czech Republic.
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