My first year of living in China has been an education in many ways. Moving there from Prague was a 180 degree shift. Both encompass communism and capitalism as if they belonged together, but the result is entirely different in each case. It’s as if the two philosophies were two pies and they had both taken half of each. The Czechs live in a state of bureaucratic freedom while the Chinese carry on with their free-market obedience.
This may sound like a defense of Prague over China to anyone, and it probably is, but nevertheless I feel that I am happier and have more of a future in the East. Bohemians are ten-a-penny in Bohemia itself and standing out is always something I’ve needed. There are too many cool people in Prague, too many who have done everything before, speak the language better than me, stay up until 9 each morning and look and sound none the worse for it. In China I’m a pioneer – there are people all around who I know nothing of – and they know nothing about me.
All the same, I hold a deep nostalgia for Prague, especially the district of Žižkov where I lived for two years.
I arrived there nearly a month ago at 5.30am, having slept around an hour. It was a shame to arrive by bus – however much I love the city, I’ll always hate the bus station. It could well be the ugliest place in the country. Too tired to take anything in, I took the metro to Jiřího z Poděbrad, hauled myself to the Clown & Bard, got myself a bed and passed out.
Later, before contacting anyone, I had a walk around some of my old haunts. Everything seemed like it always seems – vivid but much the same. More than anywhere else, it’s somehow hard to believe that life has been going on while I’ve been away from Žižkov. Apart from a few buildings being slowly renovated, and prices having increased by a few crowns, everything was reassuringly the same. The Blind Eye has an official license, and a karaoke night on Mondays, but it’s still the same old bar I virtually lived in a few years back, and many of the same people frequent it. Also in Žižkov there’s a new bar-club in a soviet era bunker about 50 metres under the ground, with decent atmosphere and acoustics, though the air down there isn’t particularly fresh.
After a few expensive days in the Clown & Bard I moved temporarily into Gary & Jay’s temporarily spare room. It was a good base, and meant I didn’t have to eat at restaurants all the time, though inevitably I did anyway. It seems that I’m the only non-Czech person in the world who pines for Czech food while they are out of the country, but I can’t see why. It’s not healthy, but it’s what you want after a night out.
While I was in town I also
* Watched Eurovision with Marcus & Vicky. Serbia completely deserved to win.
* Went to the Bodies Exhibition, and am still not sure what I think about it.
* Failed to meet up with Hamish.
* Watched the end of the Prague Marathon, felt glad not to be running 26 miles over cobbles.
* Finally saw The Sads and found out there’s a secret club under the Chateau Rouge.
* Met some new people.
* Generally drank beer and played table football every night.
If you don’t know what this is a picture of then you’re missing out.
Inside the above….