As a seasoned traveller and having already been through the expat experience on several occasions I had some ideas of what to expect – but then again I had absolutely no idea about what not to expect in this specific instance.
But a week is a long time, and in seven days I’m already strutting around the streets of Prague like an old timer. And I’ve been here long enough to be able to share my top five likes and dislikes (not in any significant order).
- Despite the supermarkets, mini-markets and drugstores being full of men’s toiletry products it appears that at least half the male population that uses the metro either doesn’t understand what they are or don’t know how to use them!
- I find it desperately sad that beautiful cities around the world are subject to such pernicious vandalism in the form of graffiti. OK, Oslo and Zurich aren’t renowned for their architectural grandeur but they are thought of as being clean and wholesome cities and I was shocked at the levels of graffiti in both places. Prague is a magnificent mediaeval city which has also been subjected to acute attacks of mindless, artless aerosol abuse
- Cobbles and tramlines are a lethal combination, especially in the rain! And doggie-doo doesn't help - pooper scoopers haven't yet made it this far
- Bus and tram stops are a nightmare with regard to people milling about aimlessly waiting for the next bus or tram to come along. As a pedestrian you have no choice other than to put your head down and charge through the throng!
- The sheer volume of people in the old town square and on the Charles Bridge is unbelievable. At three o'clock on last Saturday afternoon the area around the Astrological Clock was busier than Oxford Street on Christmas Eve (pre-recession!)
- It seems that wherever you go in Prague, the Palace and Cathedral are watching over you. The office is about three miles outside the centre of town but you can still see these awesome buildings across the skyline. My flat is also across the other side of town, but from the top of the hill there's a great view. It all adds to the sense that you're in a city where history is engrained in the fabric of the buildings.
- Beer and food are undeniably good value – a decent pub lunch of a meat and potato dish with a half-litre of budvar budweisser will cost less than a fiver. The food is filling, the beer is refreshing and the wallet is grateful
- Despite what I'd read about the Czech people being surly and abrupt, especially in shops, I've found that I've been treated with patience, courtesy and usually a wry smile when they find out I'm a stupid foreigner. It's true, even trying a little Czech lingo seems to be appreciated.
- Much of the new town is very open and grand - great sweeping boulevards with lots of green spaces. Great in good weather, but no so good in the rain!
- There are a lot of beautiful people here - I was struck at how classy the ladies were in Zurich, but given the average salary there is probably twenty times that in Prague, these girls really know how to look good on a budget!