Fading grace

Trip Start Apr 08, 2007
Trip End Oct 01, 2007

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Flag of Czech Republic  ,
Wednesday, April 18, 2007

We've had a fairly busy past couple days here in Golden Prague. I must say though that the place has changed quite a bit since I was last here. Obviously the glory period of the early-to-mid 90s when Prague was fresh, exciting and relatively undiscovered are long gone. It's been somewhat of a shock to see how much more expensive and glitzy the place has gotten even in the past five years though. Many of my old haunts have had costs multiply three or four times, which was a little disconcerting to say the least. I can't quite decide whether it's the increased strength of the Czech crown, the weakness of the dollar (and yen), or the fact that the Czech Republic's now in the EU. (It's probably all three, really.) It's still a beautiful place, for sure, even if a lot of its soul has been leached out.

It took me a little time to find my feet and get the radar going in town yesterday. The maze-like web of streets in the Old Town can be bewildering at times, and I had forgotten where certain things were. After a while of walking though, I got back into the rhythm, however. We made the usual stops on the first day: Old Town Square, the Charles Bridge, the Castle District, etc. Then in the evening we headed down to Smíchov, had a fairly cheap, down-home meal of Czech food, and caught The Church at the Futurum Music Bar. The boys put on quite a show, despite initial problems with their in-ear monitors and such. Even the opening acts were pretty good (particularly the Hungarian band playing second), so that was a pleasant surprise. Shame about the embarrassing drunk dude in the audience making a fool out of himself in front of his apparent favorite band, but that's the way of concerts, I s'pose.

The long streak of beautiful weather was bound to end eventually, and it did today. Actually, it finished last night mid-gig, as we walked out of the concert to wet streets and damp, brisk conditions. All day today it went from dark, overcast and occasionally misting to patches of sun and blue sky. Temperatures were much cooler, even cold at times, but frankly it's much more in line with what I'd expect from April in Europe. It didn't hold us back too much though. We were tossing around the idea of heading out to Karlštejn Castle outside the city, but instead we spent the day looking around the Jewish District of Josefov and the far-flung suburb/green spot of Vyšehrad. The latter was a nice diversion from the usual tourist fare (not a single one in sight, actually), and it offered inspiring views down the Vltava and beyond. The former was a fascinating insight into architectural and cultural history, even if the sights were ridiculously overpriced (470Kč for a combination ticket to the synagogues and cemetery??).

We passed the evening with a stroll down into Karlín, the business district where I took my TEFL course some five years back. The area hasn't changed a great deal, but my school seems to have packed up for elsewhere in town. The old bar - Černa Kočka ("the Black Cat") - is
still hanging around though. Alas, we didn't have a chance for a drink. Instead we had a pasta dinner at another old haunt, the atmospheric Charleston in the middle of the district. We had it in mind to watch some live jazz at Železná off Old Town Square, but were surprised to
see that prices had jumped astronomically. Since we had blown so much of our budget already, we opted for the lower-key option of Ungelt, where we could just settle for the cost of drinks alone.

To end the evening, I had to pay a visit to my favorite old bar - the infernally-decorated Chateau Rouge. The place has changed very little - save for the predictable price hikes - but without the old mates around, it still wasn't the same. Oh, how times change. . .
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