Dispatch from Prague
Lokal (The Dump) features updated Czech classics at low prices in a 1980s retro style designed to recall a charmless train station. A menu note says they subscribe to the Slow Food movement that combines honest work and fresh ingredients “caught up with spices, bad fats which keep longer, and other tricks to make the food faster and cheaper.” That’s either incredible honesty or a bad translation but it was packed with young people, the décor was clever and fun and the food was fresh and tasty (I ordered a roasted portion of duck with red cabbage and apples to avoid any possibility “bad fat.”)
- Men in the Czech Republic travel in amiable packs. Where are the women?
- Dogs travel off leash and are extremely well behaved.
- Praha could win a prize for diversity in architectural style: Art Noveau, Art Deco, Gothic, Baroque, Cubist and Communist (defined as ugly and cheap).
- If there is an enterprise in need of a museum, you’ll find it in the cobbled streets of Prague.
- Praha, the city of golden spires, invites you to look up.
- Pilsner ferments from the bottom and bubbles up like champagne. Urquell means old well. Pilsner is the Czech Republic’s unique contribution to the world.
- The Czech Republic is the most atheistic country in Eastern Europe, second only to Estonia. Beautiful churches empty of worshippers now serve as concert halls.
- Hitler did not destroy Prague because he intended to make it the new Paris. He even preserved the Jewish Quarter, planning to make it a monument to an extinct people.
- And this most interesting fact from our tour guide: The Czech Republic comprises four generations who do not communicate with each other. The oldest generation fought in WWII and lost its nation to Communism. The one after that grew up knowing nothing but Communism. Next, a generation of young people threw off Communism and re-established their nation, unsettling their elders. Now their children place their hope in a democracy they don’t understand. Throw into this mix that tourists from all over the world have descended on lovely Prague and some Slavic gruffness is justifiable.
Our 28-year-old tour attended the United World College whose mission is to make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. His personal mission is to learn as much as he can (he speaks five languages), earn as much as he can (he’s headed to Brazil to make his fortune) and return as much as he can (he certainly helped us understand the history, culture and present reality of the Czech Republic).
This city bustles with energy. Parks are dotted with public art and the streets are filled with glorious music. Much of the beauty of this place has Judeo-Christian roots, but awe inspiring icons like the Spanish Synagogue and the sculptures of religious figures on the Charles Bridge are merely sights to see and legends to tell. Faith has fled the hearts of its people. Relics of a religious past are sold as tchotskes in the square. The explanation is that they felt betrayed by organized religion. I wonder if there is any room for true faith.