Yesterday I decided to have one final walk around Old Town Square to get a glimpse of all the festivities laying within the beautiful architecture. I saw the usual: a wedding, a live band, and a handful of street performers. This square will never get old or boring, and I don’t want to leave it behind. I can’t believe time has slipped away this fast from the beginning of the trip. It seems like yesterday I was that crazy tourist, photographed above, posing for pictures in front of the astronomical clock. Now at the end of my trip, it’s hard to look at the tourists the same way when you are starting to not feel like a tourist yourself.
While walking through the square, I saw a group of girls sweating with frustration as they were reading a giant Prague map. It was strange to think that only four weeks ago, that was me. I remember thinking that there is no way I am going to be able to get to know this city. However, just yesterday I remembered I had to take something back to the Pallidium (the Prague Mall), and I quickly hopped on the 24 and rode straight to the mall and then I ran into a market to pick up some snacks before heading to my apartment. This easy task wouldn’t have seen as simple in the beginning of my trip. Now getting around town seems like nothing! It’s exciting to think how far everyone in the class has come from those tourist days. I know I’ll always be considered a tourist while I’m here since I’m not from these parts, however it was fun learning the ways of the Czechs and getting to know the wonderful city of Prague.
One aspect about Prague that I was really surprised about was how many American brand names are prevalent around the streets. I’ve seen a McDonalds almost on every corner of the major intersections. However, their McDonald’s menu is completely different. They serve fried cheese as commonly as their french fries. They also serve a “Mexican” spicy burger with peppers and a “McCountry” sandwich with fried chicken. Another strange concept within the Czech Republic is how they charge extra for condiments and sauces. I had to pay for each ketchup when I ordered french fries and I had to pay for the salad dressing when I ordered a salad. Also, I have seen a couple of Burger Kings, multiple KFC’s, one Subway, and one TGIF since I’ve been here. Furthermore, it’s strange to walk into any restaurant and hear the United States’s top 100 hits playing on the radio. I know that these name brands don’t fit in within the ancient surroundings of the city and I often wonder why they are here. I’m not sure if these companies are here to cater to those not from these parts or if they are really here for the people of the Czech Republic.
As I was walking through Wenceslas Square, I noticed the man photographed above. He had a bag around his neck for his binoculars, another bag hanging on his side for his camera, and a map of Prague in his hands. It was obvious that he was a completely lost tourist and he was asking people around for nearby restaurants. Later, I saw him walk into a giant nearby McDonald’s. Again, I ask myself if these brands here are for the tourists seeking the comfort and familiarity of their home or if possibly this for the locals seeking something completely different.
In the middle of a bike ride through town, everyone decided to stop to listen to a little concert of authentic Czech music. In the center of the square, there were tons of tourists soaking up as much Czech culture as they could around them. As a tourist myself, it’s easy to spot who else is a tourist. I’ve noticed that the Czech citizens love to stare at others around them and they often do not smile. They talk quietly and like to keep to themselves. Also, they don’t usually wear bright colors. I realized that it might seem strange to them that we don’t stare at other people. It actually makes more sense to stare at the people around me instead of staring off into space like I usually do.
Whenever I see a person in bright colors or with a camera, I easily know that they are not from Prague. For example, I discovered this interesting couple of Asians who were lost at the Czech concert. At one point, they were yelling at each other about directions and pointing in every which way. Luckily there were so many busy tourists around that it wasn’t very noticeable. However, if they were sitting on the metro yelling like they were, they would have caused a big scene. Sometimes looking at the people surrounding you is just as interesting as the sights around you. Maybe I should pick up the Czech ways and “people watch” more often.