My Prague Spring

13. 8. 2008 | | Názory, Studentský život

Someone would undoubtedly start his narration about staying in Prague by admiring its architecture. Others would surely pay tribute to Czech cuisine and beer. And for the few visitors Prague could be associated mainly with the famous Czech crystal, which can be found in abundance in numerous souvenir shops all over downtown.

Someone would undoubtedly start his narration about staying in Prague by admiring its architecture. Others would surely pay tribute to Czech cuisine and beer. And for the few visitors Prague could be associated mainly with the famous Czech crystal, which can be found in abundance in numerous souvenir shops all over downtown.

As for me, though, my AIESEC traineeship in Prague is not something in particular, but a whole spring of prospects and alternatives. It’s a long-awaited change to what I left behind in my home country, dominated by autumn moods. In Moldova, you would be overwhelmed by people’s pessimism and even despair, hostility and breakdown of once so firm friendly and family connections. My capital city Chisinau, where I spent most of my life, is not in its best days. Budget cuts, poor governing and corruption, overloaded public transportation system, paths beaten in mud across the green lawns- these are a few strokes to the overall picture.

Consider this – and you will understand the reason why it wasn’t Charles Bridge, Prague Castle or the Old Town Square as a starting point for my impressions. From the very first days of staying in Prague I explored the city not only as a tourist, but also as a journalist and simply a person that came here to stay. And the overall picture turned out to be far more complex and astonishing that I would have ever envisaged by reading Wikipedia or taking a short guided tour.

Prague is something deeply Slavonic. “The Golden City” reminds me of the other remarkable capital, “Mother of Russian Towns”, Kiev. The resemblance grows as you make your way through the labyrinth of paved streets leading to the Prague Castle. This touristic district, beefed up with pubs and souvenir shops, has common spirit and appearance with its famous counterpart in Kiev called Podol.

Here, I often feel lost in translation, being stuck on the border point between my native Russian language and Czech. Almost identical in both languages, many words are utterly different or opposite in meaning (And take okurky – it always sounds like “cigarette butts” to me :) Besides, some terms (such as zásuvka, divadlo and sedadlo) are so self-descriptive, that I can’t help smiling every day, reading the newspapers and observing the street billboards.

Prague is also a city of contrasts. On my way, I frequently take notice that side by side with nicely restored houses there are ones where the peeled off plaster reveals the brickwork. However, it doesn’t make a gloomy impression to me, especially as long as the streets are kept so clean and neat. A gap can also be observed between well-to-do and down-and-out city dwellers, but the homeless whom I often see at Andel crossroads are very colorful and don’t have some frustrating traits of a typical Moldovan bum. And, what’s essential, walking alone at night does not make me feel beware.

Prague is undoubtedly a capital city for all kinds of arts. Its old and modern buildings’ graffiti make-up is far from being the most exotic things you can see around here. I am more attracted by Prague’s art galleries then by its night clubs, as they exhibit an amazing range of intricate pieces of modern art. Nevertheless, Prague’s music clubs are small self-contained worlds with unique atmosphere I enjoy as well. And I’ll surely keep telling my Moldovan friends about the poetry that can be found alongside the add posters in subway trains.

Living in Prague is all about communication. My acquaintance with „indigenous inhabitants“ of the city is so far very limited, as I interact with other trainees and immigrants mostly (describing all „social networking events“ organized by AIESECers would require a standalone article). However, when I recollect my intercourse with capital dwellers who are Czech, I realize that with a few exceptions the attitude is really amicable, polite and helpful. I frankly admire the positive, optimistic and equal treatment of my boss and manager- and, judging by my neighbor trainees’ feedback, this is a common practice in Czech companies.

To sum it up, for me Prague is a capital city the way it should be. Dynamic enough, but not a megapolis. Technological and inherently green. Full of variety- but with no appaling gaps between rich and poor quarters. Slavonic – and multiculturally touristic at the same time. It takes me only a few steps in the street or in subway to make another thrilling photo shot, and even Prague‘s few shortcomings serve as an inexhaustible source of personal impressions.

Despite all difficulties of adaptation, modest earnings and decent workload, I can’t help enjoying staying in the capital of Czech Republic. Three months spent here are far more than a mere escape from Moldovan reality or a touristic euphoria. I’ve expanded my outlook, gained new friends and felt the real freedom. And I strongly hope that the Prague Spring in my soul will never come to end.

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