The Prague Photos
Last month, I was in Prague to attend a professional conference. Most of the time, I was with professional colleagues either at the conference or at dinner functions and really did not get to do the tourist things.
On one afternoon, the conference scheduled some free time, and offered the choice of a guided tour of a castle. I took that tour, and it really was not that interesting (except the part about how ugly the Hapsburgs were). To me, what was more interesting was the female tour guide's narrative over the public speaker system on the bus. Here are some snippets that I remember.
As you may have heard, Czechoslavia had been under the rule of the Communistic Party (note: that was what she said) for several decades before the Velvet Revolution took place in November 1989.
Today, I don't want to tell you about the political history of the Czech Republic. I am sure that this is not what you came here to listen to. Instead, I will tell you more about Prague and its people as our bus goes through the city.
On the left, you can see a large building. This is the Ministry of Transportation. When the Communistic Party was in charge, the Communistic leaders liked the building so much that they forced the Ministry of Transportation to move out and so this became the building of the Communistic government. After the democratic revolution, the new government gave the building back to the Ministry of Transportation.
As you go through the streets, you will see buildings with flag staffs. Those buildings belong to the government. When the Communistic Party was in charge, all the government buildings must have the national flags raised.
On the right of the highway, you can the blocks of residential apartment buildings. These buildings were erected by the Communistic Party for the workers. The apartments are tiny and oppressive. I am a small-sized person. During the two months when I lived in one of those apartments, I found it difficult to move around inside the apartment. Some of you taller and bigger people will definitely have big troubles.
As we go through this neighborhood, you will see some very nice villas. When the Communistic Party was in charge, these villas were assigned to important party leaders. Ordinary Prague citizens did not get to live in this area.
When the Communistic Party was in charge, there were not many cars here. Only members of the Communistic Party can have cars and they were not very good cars either. Today, we have cars imported from everywhere. We even have traffic jams here too. [note: by personal observation, the concept of a Prague traffic jam is apparently quite different from the painful reality of taking five hours to go through the cross-harbor tunnel in Hong Kong]
On the Prague skyline, you will see a very tall needle-like structure. There is no way not to notice it. That is the television antenna. The Communistic Party started to build it in the 1970's but they were not very efficient and they were slow. So it never got completed until after the democratic revolution. Besides, the Communistic Party was not building an antenna to transmit television signals. Instead, this antenna was going to be used to jam radio signals coming from western Europe. The antenna was completed after the democratic revolution. The first television show transmitted by this antenna was the BBC documentary on the Velvet Revolution. The Communistic Party members never imagined that this was how it would be used.
There were two other buses for our group. When I checked with people on the other buses, they said that they got a standard historical narrative about kings, queens, princes, emperors, the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Hapsburgs, saints, castles, walls, gates, churches, and all that. Not that I mind the Communistic-themed narrative, and it is a good thing to see diversity and individuality being present. Still, I begin to wonder just what kind of narrative I would have personally constructed for the cities that I have lived in. I should think that it would be quite unusual and eccentric ... Yes, there was Memphis: "On the left, you can see the Graceland mansion where Elvis Presley lived. He died from a massive overdose of a combination of a very long list of drugs. He had volunteered to J. Edgar Hoover to become an undercover FBI informer, but he was turned down ..."
Now for the photos. Below first is the clock tower, which serves as an observation point for all of Prague. Oh, you don't have to walk all the way up to the top (but you could) -- you can take an elevator!
Eventually, one is supposed to look for the signs that say "Karlov most" which leads to the Charles Bridge, where one gets to be mobbed by more tourists.
The Charles bridge is above all known for the statues, one every twenty meters or so.
And that's all. As I said, I did not get around much. But let me give you another photo -- a failed "smash-and-grab" job at a Rolex store, and this is more like my personal style in photography.