Friday, July 18, 2008

Czech recap

Cesky Krumlov at night.

The smaller towns in Europe are always more enjoyable than the big cities.
Prague is very pretty and well-preserved, and certainly worth visiting, but
it still bustles as a metropolis. That is amplified by the hordes of
tourists, and while it is easy to find quiet lanes out of the tourists'
way, it's a bit like Saturday night in Sydney every night in Prague. The
locals appear quite jaded by it. The worst appear to be British and Italian
groups of loud drunk blokes who holler up and down the streets at four in
the morning, though quite a number of other (Eastern) European tourists
bring their own special type of odorific offence, like the fat old Polish
woman sweating garlic sausages who bowled us right out of a shop.

Cesky Krumlov, while also unavoidably touristy, is intimate and friendly,
comparably beautiful with Prague, and easily digested in three days. All
the 17th-century buildings perched all over the little hill in the crook of
the river are painted pinks and greens and reds and overlooked by the
castle on the hill with the multicoloured tower. There is a tea house there
with Arabian rooms full of cushions and a quiet garden where "master tea
brewers" serve countless types of tea from China, India, Africa and Latin
America with spices like cardamom, cloves, white pepper and chocolate. You
can even smoke perfumed tobacco in a shisha, or hookah.

The preservation and restoration of buildings is done supremely well by the
Czechs. There is almost never graffiti to be seen in the well-maintained
old town centres. Although a minor aesthetic nuisance for photography,
there's always restoration scaffolding up somewhere.

When you get out of the historic centres, there are some interesting
buildings understandably maintained with considerably less enthusiasm --
monotonous crumbling grey concrete slabs of flats from the Communist era,
which is rather improved by its graffiti.

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