|Old Town Square in Prague at midday under the astronomical clock|
After a year here, I still struggle to get used to the sheer volume of people walking around in the centre of town. Even getting out of my apartment on Smetanova Nabrezi can be a challenge on a hot day. But what really strikes me in Prague is the behaviour of the tourist in my natural habitat. It is a small wonder there isn't more pavement rage. There are various sub-species of Homo Touristia.
- The Map Reader - probably 50% of the tourists I encounter have a little paper map which they get from the hotel or the tour guide. Or maybe a slightly bigger map that comes with a guide book. Prague is not the easiest place to navigate I admit. In my first month, it once took me five hours to get home to Namesti Miru from Dlouha. In my defence, it was snowing, power failures had knocked out the pubic transport system, and we had been in the pub for the best part of six hours after a long day at the office. But around both the Old Town and Mala Strana, all roads eventually lead to the river, or up to the castle, from where it's easy to get your bearings. The sad thing about the Map Reader is that they spend more time looking at the map than seeing all the amazing sights all around them, and they miss that fantastic experience of getting completely and utterly lost but not caring about it because it's part of the fun
- The Phone Gazer - the Phone Gazer is the hi-tech version of the Map Reader, but cheats even more by using GPS and Google Maps on their mobile device, having directions listed for them to follow, and still managing to get lost, because they never learnt how to tell left from right
- The Umbrella Gouger - almost the most lethal genus of Homo Touristia is the umbrella gouger (the most lethal is the Map Reading Umbrella Gouger). The problem with tourists using umbrellas is that they simply cannot see you, therefore you don't exist, and therefore they can't hurt you. Unfortunately, having your eye poked out by an umbrella does hurt. A lot
- The Abrupt Halter/About Turner - this sub-species used to be found primarily in super markets (and at the tops of escalators) but has now spread to just about everywhere in Prague. I'm fairly certain this behaviour is related to the absence of spacial awareness in the species, but it's characterised by someone stopping dead in their tracks and optionally spinning around 180 degrees in order to walk right into the unfortunate person who was previously behind them
- The Pavement Hogger - pavement (or sidewalk to my American friends) hoggers hunt in packs and fulfil the universal law of nature that a group of people will expand to fill the maximum about of pavement and will not allow anything past (or even around)
- The Segway Leader - despite regular rumours of their imminent demise, the segway tour is still a popular activity in central Prague. To be fair, the tourists in this case aren't the real issue, although a tourist on two motorised wheels is even more dangerous than a tourist on foot. The really dangerous sub-species are the young enthusiastic leaders who dot and dart around the place like they own the place - very few of them seem to be from Prague however!
Tourists are big business in Prague and it is a 24*7 industry. They are here to stay and you can't avoid them, but at least this little guide will help you understand who and what to watch out for.
Postscript - last night we went to watch the procession for the Navalis (celebrating Saint John of Nepomuk) on the Charles Bridge. It was a very spiritual event, but many of the tourists on the bridge saw it as a major inconvenience and were pushing, shoving and jostling in the wrong direction against the flow of the pilgrims. Not a pretty sight...A little respect for local traditions goes a very long way.
|This town ain't big enough for both of us!|