Tourists cram the streets and the buildings can be so beautiful it almost seems fake.
Still, somehow Prague clings to its Eastern Bloc edginess; outside of the main centre the monolithic living quarters are yellow and harsh and ugly, and there’s a slight strangeness between the cracks in the city that remind you that history is always lurking just around the corner.
When we arrived at the airport there was a bald man, tall and thin, in a black coat with a pale, expressionless face. He was standing in the arrivals area holding a sign in cyrillic.
“Your friendly KGB welcoming committee.” I said, wit I concede somewhat dented after the marathon journey from New Zealand.
A stranger in the arrivals area overhead, and laughed. Hopefully the man with the sign’s hearing wasn’t so sharp.
Our cab driver spoke no English but understood Polish so Lucy took over and eventually we stumbled through an old door into a hotel that was here long before the first Europeans sighted or even imagined the country in which we had begun our journey.
The winding, mediaeval streets of Malá Strana were waiting outside, and after dark we walked down the hill past cosy bars and crowded restaurants, and found ourselves in a noisy underground bar. An old couple were playing Czech folk music and the beer was everything it should be.
On the way we’d walked by the USA embassy. There was a dark, ministerial car parked outside sporting the Russian flag. It was after 10pm and over our beers we speculated as to what the Russian ambassador could be up to at the US embassy in the small hours in Prague on a Thursday night.
Perhaps the bald man at the airport would know.
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