Showing posts from July, 2011

summer in the city: some meditations

We've had some nice cool weather in July. April was hot and so was May, leading us to expect a scorcher in July and August. But not so far. It's been partly cloudy and about 21-23 degrees, in the 70's and very low 80's. After the 90+ Florida summers, we are enjoying the cool.

But what we don't enjoy is the grime of city life. Even the frequent rains can't keep the streets clean when so many cars clog the narrow streets of Prague. Jarda has one response to cars these days--they have no right to be here. He's a one-man campaign to ban cars in the city.

Under communism, there were many, many fewer cars in Prague. Most people used the trams and buses, or walked to work. Cars were expensive luxuries up until the 1990's, when people reacted to the opening up of Czechoslovakia by becoming as car-crazy as any Western country, without having any rules in place to control those cars.

So today you see cars everywhere they don't belong: in Hradcany (the castle), …

something ugly I saw today

I was coming home from a nice visit with my friend at Cafe Louvre, over coffee, and got off Tram 22 at my flat. There were lots of people getting off, as Tram 22 is the "tourist tram," full of people staying at hotels and pensions nearby. This is the tram where Jarda's wallet was stolen and mine was almost stolen (see "Roma but not Rome").

As I'm going toward my street I see a Roma man in his 20's, standing and doing nothing. About 10 yards away is a Roma woman of indeterminate age, wrapped in a dark blue shawl. She looked like someone from 100 years ago, standing perfectly still with no expression on her face, in a shawl and long skirt. She appeared to have no teeth, though she wasn't old.

I looked at her as she started to inch her way up to a very old man, completely bent over, who was looking in a store window. He had an open shopping bag on his poor, bent back. He was so busy just trying to walk, with his cane and shopping bag, that he didn't…

everyday noises in the flat

In our flat, motors hum, chug, belch and mysteriously stop, only to restart at their own whim. This noise becomes background to daily life, unnoticed till it changes or stops for good.

Last week we had some noises change, in a bad way. Under the kitchen sink is a white plastic box, hooked up to the water and drain pipes. I never knew what it was--thought it might be a water softener. It made a brief "r-r-r-r" sound when you turned on the water and a whooshing sound when water went down the sink drain.

Then last week the "r-r-r" sound wouldn't stop. It was on a Sunday evening (of course) and we went to bed not knowing what would happen. Next morning, no noise at all. I deduced that the motor burned out overnight. Not knowing what the box was for, I didn't panic.

Then on Tuesday we got a call from the landlord. The people in the flat below were being flooded by our sink. Don't let any water go down the drain! Jarda went down and apologized to the people i…

talking through the window

One Prague pasttime that is so adorable is talking through the window. You see this anywhere someone has a ground-floor (NOT 1st floor--that's the second floor, from an American point-of-view) window and some time to spare. This custom makes sense, as going into someone's flat to visit involves keys, buzzers and telehones on the wall.

People station themselves at their ground-floor window and watch the world go by. When they see someone they know, they talk. These talks tend to be long and involved, not the kind of quick chat you might expect, given that one person is standing on the street and the other is leaning on a windowsill.

It's complex to get into and out of an older building of flats. You have to buzz from the outside on an antique buzzer with the name labels obscured, written-over or simply missing. You wait for the person to pick up the telehone on the wall of their flat and shout down at you. Through the static you shout your name. They press a button and the…