Sunday, July 15, 2007

Rediscovering Prague

So I've finally made it to Prague where I have hung up my backpack for a couple of weeks and take advantage of the free food and ablution facilities - it feels great to be able to have more than one shower a week, although I still can't bring myself to be decadent enough to have one every day. I know Prague pretty well because since the age of four I've visited the place at least once a year either to visit my grandmother or my father who, now that he's retired, has now permanently moved back to our house in his hometown just on the outskirts of the city. So, despite Prague being such a romantic and beautiful city it had long ago lost its charm for and become a city like many others. And, like most inhabitants of Prague, in Summer I would avoid the historical, touristic centre like the plague, unwilling to have to push my way through hordes of tourists and pay through the nose for overpriced beer. Now, however, I am having to dive back in and play the tour guide as my far-flung family is converging here to celebrate my uncle's 50th wedding anniversary next week. It hasn't been anything like a chore though, partly because it has been a long time since I was last here and so I'm enjoying rediscovering the wee nooks and crannies in the old town, but also because I am now better able to put what I see in context (historically, artistically, etc.) and so can appreciate it more and truly treasure the amazing city. And because this has also been the longest that I have been away from Prague the small, almost indiscernible, daily changes have piled up and upon arriving along the motorway driving past the suburbs I was immediately struck by the flashy new office buildings and the huge amount of construction work, especially of infrastructure, going on. Things are certainly changing in Prague despite the constancy of Charles' bridge and the imposing silhouette of the castle lording over the city from the far bank of the Vltava. Part of me is somewhat sad though, wanting to halt the economic progress, remembering with fondness the years just before and after the fall of Communism when it seemed to my young eyes that the city belonged to us alone and ice-creams cost a pittance (I wasn't old enough to have focused my taste buds on the finer rewards of the local beer). Now there are more tourists than locals in the centre and Prague is no longer an exotic destination, instead it has become the stag party capital of Europe. Even our little town hasn't been able to escape the tsunami of change. Apartment blocks are springing up in this mostly rural location and people don't seem to know each other as much - it used to be that you would always bump into someone you knew on the train to and from Prague but now not a single face is familiar. Luckily I still have a few friends here and there who I will be winkling out during my stay and having a few beers with.

1 comment:

Inihtar said...

So are you finding that being back among family and friends is enjoyable or tiresome after being by yourself (and among relative strangers) for so long? Or a little of both? This might be a taste of what's to come when you settle into a life of domesticity no? :)