Wednesday, 19 March 2014

A wander through Prague to the Charles Bridge and beyond...

It's odd being a foreigner. Walking around a foreign city is strange, although, these days, you never feel that far from home thanks to the concept of 'globalisation'. You know when globalisation has overstayed its welcome when you find yourself, like I did, on the other side of the world, but standing next to a Claire's Accessories shop. I think I was in Calgary at the time, but since then, I've found myself in the Middle East staring at, say, a Dixon's or a Monsoon, and it's as if I'm a mere bus ride from home, let alone a few thousand miles.

One of many religious statues on Prague's Charles Bridge.
And you don't have to be that far away either. Any modern European city is the same (with a few exceptions). Now, however, I'm in Prague and I might as well be in Croydon or the Bluewater shopping complex. As I wander around the cobbled streets, what do I see? Zara, Debenhams, Mango, Apple, Tesco, and many more, some of which escape me as I write this. It wasn't so bad in Istanbul, but in places a little more developed, the big brand names all have a presence and I wish they weren't there; admittedly, Prague does have other, more quirky shops and if you get onto the other side of the river, preferably by crossing the Charles Bridge, you'll find a much quieter city with quirkier shops and quiet and cosy cafés and restaurants.

Once my business was over I did just that, as the light was beginning to fade. I headed off towards the river, although I really had no idea where I was going, I was simply remembering a street map I'd left in my hotel room. It wasn't a problem, however, as all I had to do was keep walking in a straight (ish) line and, lo and behold, I eventually reached the Charles Bridge. The bridge is strange as it is lined, at regular intervals with religious statues and peppered here and there with the odd beggar stroking his dog or holding out a paper cup, sponsored by another rather prevalent big brand name – Costa. Oh, and there's also Starbucks and Subway here too.

One thing I do find rather wearing is the shops full of tourist 'tat'. There's loads of it in the shape of tee shirts, glassware, Russian dolls, furry slippers, hats, you name it and it grates a little, but not as much as the big brand names.

On the other side of the Charles Bridge, Prague.
After walking for some considerable time I found a café and ordered a fresh ginger tea and a slice of honey cake. Alright, I know I should of held back on the cake, but generally I've been good so I treated myself, having found a very cosy little caff just on the other side of the Charles bridge, which was nice. I sat there for all of ten minutes and then headed back across the bridge and back to my hotel where I sit now penning this post. I'm likely to being going back in the direction of the Charles Bridge in a second or two as my colleague Nick and I need something to eat and tonight we thought we'd try out somewhere other than Al Forno, even if I did say I'd be going back there tonight for the final time.

It's ten to midnight (1150hrs) and I've just got back after what can only be described as a very pleasant evening. Nick and I met up as planned and we walked back towards the Charles Bridge and then wandered around and eventually walked over another bridge and back towards our hotel, having looked at (and turned down) spending our money in any of the restaurants we passed en route. In the end we decided to visit Ristorante Italiano Buschetto where we chewed the fat about this and that and had a very pleasant evening setting the world to rights and so on before a leisurely stroll back to the hotel, from where I write this post.

View from the Charles bridge...
I head back home tomorrow afternoon and while I love being here in Prague, I miss my family and look forward to being reunited tomorrow evening. It's work on Friday as normal and then the weekend. So here's to everything!

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