Ano/Ne: Praha, České republice

I was fairly disappointed in Praha (Prague) from the start. Exhibit A: One of the start attractions in town is Black Light Theatre; as in the whole stage is illuminated by black lights. Furthermore, the main production for this main attraction is Cats.

I would be hard pressed to think of a more annoying duo.

It would be unfair to write off Praha just on account of this, I realize, but there were other things, too. The entire city may have been cheap even a couple years ago, but the Bohemian fantasy is no more. Beer is the only constantly cheap thing left, which is great for awhile. Eventually a man needs a decent meal, though. I did find good value (and free refills!) at Bohemia Bagel, but felt silly for eating at place with such a name. “I can’t take you seriously, sandwich! You’re rife with alliteration!”

From my preconceived notions and stories from others, I truly believed Praha would be a magical little city where expenditures would be minimal, mysterious characters would pop in and out of conversation, the horse would still be the main mode of transportation, and there would be weird drug-fuelled Art Nouveau eroticism on every corner. Instead, wherever I turned it was just incredibly loud and drunk Brits yelling extremely loud. Oh, and a McDonald’s.

Perhaps my first clue should’ve been that my guidebook plainly said that 1.9 million live there. It’s probably pretty hard to have a confluence of so many strange, minor things at such a population. The other thing that I should have put together is that if everyone has stories from Prague, everyone goes there. And if everyone goes there, a place becomes very touristy.

If I have felt mild resentment at prior cities for falling in line with their state-ordained spectacles, I felt like a two-bit whore (is that a phrase?) in Praha. Only the Louvre and Notre Dame in Paris seemed to have more tourists, and those were just specific, contained areas. Throughout Praha everyone was following a circuit; taking their picture over the castle wall, hiking over a bridge for more snapshots, admiring architecture that frankly I don’t think is all that and a bag of chips, and then eating at the aforementioned McDonald’s.

When I broke away from the group, I at last found something I liked. A huge park frequented by the locals on the edge of town, the areas of town where people just live, and a few quiet side streets. I didn’t find any mysterious men on them but at least it was easier to imagine.

The point may be that you (I) should try and limit the preconceived notions of what a place should be when a tourist because it’s very hard to find find intoxicated Art Nouveau artists on horseback, these days.

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