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Banbury Cross

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Post details: Off the Beaten Path

Off the Beaten Path

Tourists are like a lava flow - always barrelling along the path of least resistance. In Prague they usually erupt at the Prague Castle, they cascade down the Old Castle Stairs to Little Quarter, then cross the centuries old Charles Bridge into the Old Town and end up at the astrological clock, drinking overpriced beer and buying trinkets from Russian or Ukrainian peddlers.

But those looking to find more about the Czech way of life would be ill-advised to stay on the beaten path. From the cobble-stone pavement you won't see more than meticulously restored facades of medieval houses. But if you peeked inside, you'd find modern faxes and superfast internet routers purring happily in commercial and government offices and revealing little of the days of yore. And strings of western shoppes on the ground level aren't helping either. They give out about as much information about the Czech culture as the Sunday Night Football Wrap-Up on ABC. But if you hop on a bus in Prague's Eastern District and ride 30 minutes to a little town named Prerov nad Labem, you will not only get a pitcher of beer for a fraction of its downtown price, but you will actually learn about the life in a Bohemian village at times when Czechoslovakia was still a fetus growing restlessly in the tummy of Austria-Hungary.

The open-air ethnic museum is really just a well preserved and carefully labeled part of the original settlement, all in all about 20 cottages and barns, each presenting one facet of an era long forgotten. To add color to the experience, individual rooms feature mannequins involved in various contemporary activities - playing cards at a table, cooking meals, washing clothes or just chatting on a bench.

So if you get tired of endless displays of digital cameras and Russian fur hats, leave Prague for a few hours and take a trip to the world of washing boards, flail harvesters, dovecotes, granaries, cribs, grindstones, ploughs, tile stoves, ferules, birch twig broomsticks and utensils, implements and appliances we don't even have the name for. At least not anymore.

skansen

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