Bursting the Bubble: Czech-ing Out Prague

Chris Jospe

A flock of people gawk at the black Lamborghini that the driver has casually parked in Ungelt Square, after he shrugged off the police officer saying that the people don’t seem to mind having it there anyway. The 900-year-old square isn’t bothered either. After serving as a marketplace for goods traveling from the East to West, it had maintained significance through communism. While quietly filtering out the hordes of tourists on this Friday afternoon the Lamborghini doesn’t present much of a problem.

Like any European city, Prague exudes a certain class and charm that have immediate effects on the outsider. Sitting in a smoky bar that resembles Nichols and Beal or the Jug, one can see this collision between Czech culture and the rest of the world. But this is not Colgate. Instead of seeing swans swimming peacefully in the lake on my walk back home, or feeling safe enough to leave my car unlocked while I run inside to get a slice of pizza, I am harassed on the street by strip club promoters who unabashedly beg me to come to their club, or try to sell me drugs.

I attend classes and lectures in every area of study, though every lecture seems to contain a tidbit on the national pride of the Czechs. I hear other languages in the hall outside of class there are vending machines where I can buy strange little packets of yogurt. I don’t hold judgment on “townies,” but instead embrace the fact that we all live in the same city.

This city has an unequaled pride in uniqueness, and one finds oneself becoming attached to this fact. While answering a travel survey for a pretty French assistant upon returning from my vacation in the French Cote d’Azur, I was sure to give my address in Prague. On the public bus ride back from the airport, looking up at a 500-year-old church that stands high above the city was a perfect homecoming.

Public transportation in Prague can be a bit exciting at times. Riding the subways and trains is the best time to try to feel Czech (until you get off, and realize you’re lost because you can’t pronounce the street names). But the best way to ensure that you’re warmly welcomed by the Czechs is to be able to say “dva piva (beer) prosim.” This is, however, a temporary welcome. Since the Czech people decided to maintain their Bohemian identity, there is no mistake; you are either Czech, or you are everyone else. That being said, Czech people have invited foreigners and allowed outside influences to affect them, just like a new Lamborghini in Ungelt Square.