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Prague: the Staten Island of Europe

October 20, 2009

I was in Prague last weekend. It is a beautiful city- more so than I was expecting. It also appears to have been entirely engulfed by tourists – more so than I was expecting too. I thought it was your standard stop-off point for Americans on tour and, obviously, stag do-licious. Turns out, it might as well be Staten Island for all the Americans (and few Czechs) on hand.

In cities like that, you’ve got to ask just what the locals DO get up to, what industries there are for them to work in, and what, in fact, the Czech capital has in terms of business that isn’t tourist-oriented. The answer is: very little, apart from studying and working in the government. I asked the sommelier at the hotel (I am very posh and stayed at a hotel with a sommelier) who shops at the Prada, Dior, Cartier and other shops on Parizska street- I assumed they were for newly wealthy Prague-ians. Oh no. “You do!” he cried, meaning tourists, and, when pressed, Americans. Now, considering I’m on a quest for authenticity when I travel, eat and meet people, I was a little thrown for a loop. Prague has become the Disney of Bohemia. Lovely, but empty at the core.

(PS. That said, we did find a few locals. At a bar called Blue Light tucked off the Charles Bridge there was rowdiness, propositions and outrageous dancing from local women (all very good looking) and men (giants, all of them). Giants, that is, except for the slender, poetic-looking guy that came up to us, pounced on my friend, and requested sex the *next* day when his *girlfriend* wouldn’t be there, and after the *football*. The above mentioned sommelier was a local, too, named Vaclav, and embodied that curious trait you see in central Europeans: gruffness, with little care for the sickly sweet dance of etiquette, yet perfectly nice if you don’t mind brusqueness. He was very passionate about Czech wine. That’s right. Czech wine, from Morovia. I had some. It was quite ok, especially the Sauvignon Blanc, which verged on the delicious.

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