Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Pretty from the bottom up

is as beautiful as you've heard. I used to say that Budapest was the most gorgeous city I'd ever visited and people would say, "Budapest is nice. Have you seen Prague." Now I know what they are talking about. 

For years under communism the city was drab and gray -- mostly the result of coal burning. You can still see statues and buildings coated in dark grime. But cleaning and restoration is bringing the city of palaces, castles and cathedrals back. The fabulous Charles Bridge over the Vltava River is half rigged with scaffolding as its turn for renovation has arrived.

Prague has 2 million people, but has managed to keep the core city much as it was centuries ago. People live in those horrid square boxes so beloved by Soviet era architects and they are on the outskirts, leaving the mid city pristinely medieval.

The city's cobble stoned streets are one reason for its charm. They are perfectly even and maintained and framed by sidewalks of painstakingly worked-out geometric patterns. They are all variations of white marble and black graphite. 

Apparently, however, Prague residents are not as impressed by their streets as this visitor judging by the frequent piles of dog poop found everywhere. There supposedly is a famous picture of Prince Charles of England on a visit to the city stepping into a steamy heap and wrinkling his nose in disgust.  I have unsuccessfully looked for it.

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