Downtown packed with tourists, drunk brits, cheap junk labelled „Bohemian Glass“, rude waiters, overpriced Goulash. That’s what’s left in many memories of an „unforgettable“ holiday in Prague.
To a good deal the fault of those who complain. What does one expect when booking a package tour where 30 or more participants need to be squeezed into „medieval taverns with a unique atmosphere“? To a good deal also the fault of travel agencies and the official tourism organisations who constantly propagate and sell the notorious „Castle – Astronomic Clock – Goulash – Beer“ bus tours for the old ones and pub crawls for the young ones.
To a good deal also the fault of the entire nation. A nation that needs to be aware of the fact that their language is understood exclusively in their own country (with the exception of the Slovaks who understand Czech without problem). The language barrier is certainly not a Czech phenomenon – go to France, and you know what I mean. My point is somewhere else:
There is a lot more to Prague and the Czech Republic than the clichés mentioned above – but these things are hardly accessible to foreigners not speaking Czech, due to websites translated lousyly or not at all (And – btw – to those who have their website translated by Google: Let a native speaker read it and wait until he has stopped laughing. It damages your image more than you think). Thus, the large bandwidth of offerings in art, culture, cuisine is reduced to a minimum which, when consumed by masses, loses its quality.
Who knows how to differenciate between excellent concerts of graduates of the Academy of Music and all kinds of third rate student concerts in almost all downtown churches, adverstised by street wooers clad in theatrical costumes distributing leaflets?
Which tourist knows about the dance festival, the design week, the DOX art gallery, the Signal festival with its fascinating video mapping shows, the Cross Club, the charming flea markets, the wonderful but mainly empty terrace gardens below the castle, the German Literature Centre, the Barrandow film studios, Leon Argondian’s hidden gallery grotto on Petřín hill, the romantic train trips over the „Prague Semmering“, the vegan restaurant Plevel, the romantic and award winning winery in Groebe Park, the fascinating Museum of Industrial Arts, the alternative Akropolis concert hall, the Švandovo Theatre with its English surtitle service even for drama, the Rhododendron orgy that the Pruhonice chateau park displays every year in May?
Not even the renowned Prague City Gallery with its nine collections has an English website! The oldest of their gallery buildings, the gothic House of the Stone Bell, dating back to the 13th century and located right on Old Town Square, has been the stage for the Brikcius Chamber Music Festival from April 2013 on and ending in December, celebrating several anniversaries from Benjamin Britten to Max Reger. Tell me you knew about that, and I’ll make you the Tourist Of The Year.
It hurts me when I see how the famous tradition of Prague’s Black Theatre degenerates into cheap mass tourist entertainment instead of offering excellence in a category that does not exist anywhere else in the world.
The Magic of Prague is a cliché sold like cheap detergent in a shopping mall. But the real magic exists. One can flee the cheap stuff and discover a different world here.
This is a plea to all those who sell off the magic to the masses. Improve the information, get rid of the masses, raise the quality, approach the individual tourist and let go cheap group travel. (And – by the way – you’ll not lose. Quality tourism earns more than mass entertainment.)