Looking back on our trip, I’d like to share some observations I had while in the Czech city of Prague. Prague was the first city we went to in the Eastern Bloc, and the differences were palpable. Loudspeakers and cameras left over as relics from Soviet rule still hung on light posts, and Prague had a very different “feel” to it than other cities we went to. Unfortunately, most of Prague was touristy and sterile. It took effort and an excellent tour guide to help us find “old Prague”- somewhere I never would’ve found by myself.
Prague has an interesting history that directly contributes to how the city feels. After Soviets took over in 1948, they stamped out all of Czechoslovakia’s Bohemian ethnic group and culture. The “Bohemian Empire” that the Czech people were so proud of was smothered by communist rule. After privatization in 1993, the Czech Republic was immediately colonized by Western companies and Prague became a tourist city. The vacuum left after privatization was filled so quickly with touristy stuff that the Czech people didn’t have a chance to reestablish the Bohemianism they had before.
Despite this, glimmers of a Prague that once was still shine through the touristy facade. Going to places like the Lennon Wall and Czech art installations over the city gives me hope that Prague will recover its quirky and counter-cultural identity.