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Banbury Cross

a pillow for lost thoughts...

Post details: Dwellery


There are many architectural marvels to admire in Prague: the Old Jewish Quarter, St Nicholas baroque church, St Vitus cathedral, Vysehrad Castle, the Charles Bridge... you need a substantial vacation time to see them all. And whether you are a Gothic Arch aficionado or an Art Nouveau buff, Prague has something to offer you. But there is one style which gets consistently the short shrift - the style representing the 40 years long period of communism.

You may think that walking across an Old Town Square with its astronomical clock and an assortment of churches from different epochs will give you the comprehensive Czech experience. But you will be missing an important stone in the mosaic - a truly authentic one. To see it, you have to take the subway line "C" to Haje or "B" to Nove Butovice. There you will find a sprawling artefact of communism known as "sidliste" - the word usually translated as a "block of flats" or a "housing project". I think neither translation does it a justice. This architectural sore-thumb deserves a word of its own. And since the Czech term is derived from the verb "sidlit" (to dwell), I'd like to propose the term "dwellery".

A dwellery is a maze of drab looking concrete high rises, often indistinguishable from one another and resembling more a rabbit hutch than a human abode. Houses themselves were knocked up on the cheap, with corners cut, doors failing to fit, faucets dripping and swaths of cheap Formica gracing the inner space. Each complex usually has a playground, sometimes a cultural center and almost always a pub. Try to find it.

The pub is the magical Stargate. Don't be shy. Have a seat, boldly fold your hands on the plastic tablecloth and look around. You will see young ladies discussing the latest dating strategies over a cup of coffee and simultaneously displaying their impeccable chewing techniques with their bubble gum. You will see construction workers cursing the ruling political party, whichever it happens to be at the moment. In the corner you may also see a bunch of old geezers bad mouthing the notoriously corrupt national soccer league. But don't even bother looking at the menu. When the waiter comes, order Beer and Goulash. Bon Appetit!

Now you know how it feels to be an average Czech.



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