Saturday, September 29, 2007

To the Edge and Back

It turns out my body didn’t want to go to Ceske Budejovice today. Instead, I slept in till about one. Luckily, I have been to this small city before, but I wish I could have made it out again. I don’t know if the weather is making me tired, or if it is the long jogs. Either way, I felt great after my 11 hours of sleep and headed out to explore in the city.
Today I decided to walk towards the outskirts of the city. Tramvaj #22 goes by our dorm, and ends at a stop called Bilá Hora, or white hill, which was my destination today. After getting of the tram, I immediately noticed a difference in the amount of noise. Although I was still in the city, there wasn’t a huge amount of cars or, thank heavens, tourists. The area was incredibly Czech, and it felt like I was closer to what the city must have been like before the tourist invasion that has come with globalization. At the same time, the lack of tourist money could be seen in the establishments. Though they were livable and beautiful, they were not up to par with what you would see near the center. For example, there was a large church with the typical Czech red roof and towers with oxidized copper domes, but the years had seemed to take a toll on its upkeep. There was a bunch of graffiti on the walls surrounding the church, and part of the church ground had an auto-service company. The church probably does not have enough money to go through reconstruction; since it is so far from the typical tourist traps, and since Czechs historically have little taste for organized religion, I would have no idea where the money would come from.
There were some old looking clubs and restaurants here as well, and I would like to return with a couple of friends. It would be a great place to practice Czech and have an opportunity to mingle with another culture. The farther you get from the center, the more useful Czech becomes. The people also seem to be friendlier. I said “dobry den” and people responded in kind. It was great to see interaction between people rather than the typical Prague indifference.
There was a great hill overlooking some trails and I climbed to the crest hoping to find a spectacular view of Prague. However, I was greatly disappointed to find that the buildings that were most prominent were some of the least attractive the city had to offer. The TV Station kept catching my eye, as well as the industrial buildings. Prague isn’t much for a skyline; although the majority of its buildings are fascinating when two feet away, from a distance they all become a jumble only broken up by the giant modern eyesores.
There were some trails near the end of the line and, feeling adventurous, I decided to explore them. After a quick hike, I came upon a very unique part of the city. In Prague 6, in the far west, there is a section of town that was obviously influenced by communism. All the apartment buildings seemed to be carved out of a gigantic block of granite and then colored with pale pastels. These imposing buildings look so awkward when they are covered with these dainty colors. It is like coloring a pit-bull pink and pretending it will now be a polite dog. Walking through this section of Prague is like an Easter Sunday gone horrible wrong. What is really interesting is that these colors are used a lot through Prague. However, when you see these pale pinks and blues on Art Nouveau buildings, the architecture seems grander and more beautiful. On blocks of concrete, the effect isn’t inspiring, but nauseating.
After this unique hike, I decided to head back into the center. I got into the nearest tram, and headed back east. The length of the tram really made me realize how far I had ventured, and it took quite a while before I realized I was nearing the huge mall in Andel. Once I got back in the city, however, I quickly realized I wanted to get back home. Being so isolated and away from the noise and crowdedness of the city really made me dislike how many tourists are here on the weekends. It is hard to walk around when everyone is snapping photos and staring at every other building. I don’t want to sound like a snob, I can still be quite touristy at times, but now I understand why Praguers leave the city during the weekend.

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