Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Culture Shock

The first thing I noticed upon entering Prague were the multicolor buildings. In some cases, the exterior color changes every two floors. (By the way, the ground floor is considered floor 0, and basements are floor -1.) The buildings are tall and so are the trees that grow around them (huge fir trees). But what really caught my attention was the way the buildings act as echo chambers. You can hear the sounds of birds tweeting from the other end of the block as clearly as if they were perched right on your window sill.

In the city center

The housing is a lot like the kind I've read about in Soviet literature; it's very...communal. We have five people all sharing one bathroom, one kitchen, and one very tiny living room. The building is very old and the water is so cloudy that it looks like diluted milk (but after 3 flights, I was so thirsty that I drank it anyway). The lights have to be on awhile before they reach any level of brightness other than candlelight dim, the water pressure in the shower is very low, and the locks on the doors all lock twice (I've never seen that before) so it's hard to unlock them from the outside because you can never tell how many times they're locked.

Old sewing machine in the apartment

Supermarkets (or rather "hypermarkets") here are bread heaven as well as alcohol heaven, cheese heaven, and chocolate heaven; but only the first one interests me. I have yet to find hummus in any store, and believe me, I've looked everywhere. Drinks here are huge--1.5 liters (maybe because of the crappy water), but grocery stores will not give you bags unless you pay for them so you have to lug these gigantic bottles (as well as anything else you may have bought) around in your arms. One thing the stores do have, though, are thermal bags for which I don't think they charge you. These bags are used to keep ice cream and other items in the frozen section cold for you, which is helpful since a person may have to walk a mile or two from the store to get back to their apartment. Also, dogs are allowed inside most stores (including malls) and even the outdoor seating areas of restaurants. These dogs are pretty well behaved too; they just sit there patiently while people shop and don't move until their owners whistle to them.

Despite what you may think, drinking this water has yet to make me sick.

The stop lights here are pretty cool because, just before turning green, they turn both red and yellow to let the drivers know that they'll only be waiting a few more seconds.

As far as communication goes, most people in stores speak some English and some products are even labelled partly in English and partly in Czech (think Spanglish, only I guess this would be Czechlish). For those who don't speak English, it's fairly easy to get by with body language so long as you're not trying to say something complicated.

That's been my experience here so far. Prague is beautiful city; it reminds me a lot of Edinburgh as far as ease of navigation and ability to get just about anywhere without a car. Here are some pictures (some of them are actually in focus, but the majority...):

Top of Národní Muzeum (National Museum)

Monument to those imprisoned/oppressed during the years of Communism

I don't know what this building is but it's ornate so I took a photo of it.
Kind of blurry, but this was the best close up shot I could get.
It turns out that there are a lot of ornate buildings in Praha (Prague). And no, I don't know what this one is either.
At Night
Charles Bridge entrance (my camera does not like to take pictures at night, as you will soon see)

I tried...
And tried...
And again...
Setting after setting...
Before I finally got a decent night scene. It's a good thing my camera doesn't use film.
This beautiful building across the river, however, I could not get.
But the blurry squiggly lights kind of look cool.

1 comment:

  1. I KNEW hummus would be a problem. I can send you the recipe when you're more settled.

    I'm glad you're doing this; I get to see Prague through your eyes and live vicariously through you. I can't wait to see photos.

    (Great job on the writing, by the way!)