It’s a tourist town, you see, but that’s OK; I come from one so I understand. Herewith Prague words and pictures.

I come from Vancouver and I know the tourist-town bargain: people, some of whom not perhaps the ones you would choose to know, come to your town and walk around and look at it. Your job is to take some of their money and send them away happy. Seems fair to me, and whether you’d like them or not, consider that that they’re paying your taste a compliment by spending their money to be here.

Prague, by any measure, is too crowded. But I’m going away with a smile on my face. And there are way worse places to be during a sunny September sunset than on the Karlův most. The buskers and vendors are kind of lame, but the views are awfully pretty. Here are a couple of views from the bridge. They do nice tiles, don’t they?

Prague at dusk, from the Charles Bridge
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Tile rooftops in Prague near the Charles bridge

They really are set up for tourists; you can get a town tour in a horse-carriage, boat, antique convertible, or Segway. One charming note is that apparently classical music is part of the essential Prague experience. It tends not to be that challenging; I suspect that if you wanted to listen only to The Four Seasons, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Smetana’s Moldau, Dvořák’s New World Symphony, and Pachelbel’s Kanon, well you could still go a concert pretty well every night.

The touts are friendly and professional, I’ll give ’em credit. I was having a beer (generally excellent beer, by the way) in the big square just enjoying the vibe and at the next table ten laddish Brits were yukking it up; this picturesque elderly lower-case-b bohemian caricaturist cruised by and offered them a package deal for a picture of the whole table; bargaining ensued and they cut a deal for about 5€/head. I looked over the guy’s shoulder as I left, the picture was shaping well but a manic impulse came over me—weakened perhaps by jet-lag, without thinking I pitched my nasal Norteamericano twang to knife through the Mitteleuropean hubbub and said straight-faced “He’s a Slovenian shaman you know, he’ll steal your soul and you’ll die of wasting diseases.” They all laughed, after a second, but I think they’ll remember that.

History · There’s a lot of it about, but I’m old enough to remember Alexander Dubček and That Spring and if I’d found Wenceslas square I’d have shed a tear for Jan Palach and the other hopes that died.

But now it’s more or less just another European city (well, except for the fact that the country’s name is an adjective not a noun, but it doesn’t seem to bother them). Judging by the buildings cars and billboards (Jack Daniels, H&M, TMobil) and songs on the radio, you could be in Munich or Zürich or lots of other places in the middle of Europe. Except of course for all those diacritics on the signs. I glanced at the Wikipedia write-up and feel sorry for the elementary-school kids.

Let’s close with a couple of pictures of street-lamps.

Street-lamp and Charles bridge tower, Prague
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Street-lamp and graffiti, Prague

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September 27, 2005
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