queue here for theresienstadt

06Aug11

or Twenty Top Tips for Tourists

Prague menu board1. I know everyone in Prague speaks English, but why not at least try learning the Czech words for “hello”, “goodbye”, “yes”, “no”, “please” “thank you” and “two Pilsners please, my little Bohemian chum”? Otherwise, I’ll spend all week with no beer, because the Czech word for “yes” is “ano”, which sounds like a hesitant demurral to an overworked waiter who’s expecting English.

2. Please stop video-ing stationary objects.

3. I know the book says to go straight on, and that that’s where everyone else is going, but you really don’t have to. There are side streets.

4. You see, while I’m happy to wait five seconds while you take a snapshot of your partner/child/BFF, I’m less happy to wait sixty-five while, freed of the need to buy film and choose shots with an eye to economics, you encourage your partner/child/BFF to fill your 64GB memory card with thirty-seven subtly different combos of mood and pose. And when it comes to waiting while you video an inanimate object NOT MOVING for five minutes in (I assume) some sort of homage to Andy Warhol, I’m afraid I snap. And yet you seem to think it’s me that’s being rude when I walk in front of you.

5. OK, yes, it’s great that, while I’m writing this – sheltering from the rain in the Nostress Café on Siroká – a Czech waiter is explaining to an African tourist the English pun in his Belgian café’s name, but this is still the Czech Republic, and people should be talking Czech. A French waiter who walked into a bar in Madrid and loudly demanded drinks in French would be considered arrogant and rude and, while obviously he’d take this as a compliment, surely we shouldn’t all aspire to be French waiters?

6. Seriously, I would actually quite like a drink now please. Ano. Prosím.

7. And, more to the point, if you just want to take photos of each other, you can do that at home. It’s not like the beauty and historical significance of the unique and priceless artefact you’re using as a backdrop has been enough to make you pause for five seconds and actually look at it.

8. Please, Americans under thirty: the English language, which we do our level best to share with you, despite you taking up all the space, contains a colossally capacious cornucopia of coruscating concoctions connoting commendation. Do you really not realise how cool, neat and awesome this is?

9. No, seriously, try actually looking at things, rather than just photographing them. And then ask yourself if bleeding saints and medieval body parts are suitable props for holiday snaps of you and your BFF in vest tops? Remind me again why you’ve come to Prague rather than Disneyland?

10. The currency in Prague is the crown/koruna, NOT the dollar or the euro, however loudly you say it. This is because Prague is in a foreign country.

11. Please, men in your thirties and forties: if all you’re going to do with these photos is stick them on Flickr, then you don’t need a digital SLR the size of your head. Flickr’s largest display is 1024 x 766 pixels, or 0.78 megapixels. And sorry about the whole penis-size thing – it must be tough.

12. They won’t let you eat your ice cream in the choir stalls, even though you’ve only just bought it??? Oh, those Catholics do love their interdicts and admonishments, don’t they? But, you know, he’s a da pope, so… whachagonnado?

13. You do realise you can turn the flash off, don’t you? And that your little light going pop isn’t going to illuminate those distant misty ramparts any better than the moon? It’ll just spoil the atmosphere for everyone else and run down your batteries.

14. Also, that silly kershthwunk noise your “shutter” makes – it’s nothing to do with the camera mechanism, it’s just a soundfile, to make it sound like you’ve got a proper camera. Why not turn it down or off? Then it won’t annoy people.

15. Can I apologise, by the way, for not having the full range of Czech accents on this computer? That’s why any words which require a hácek – you know, that little upside-down circumflex which, when placed above an “r”, instructs native Czech speakers to remove their tongue and reinsert it backwards before proceeding with the next syllable – haven’t got one.

16. And that sign you passed on the way in – the camera with a line through it? – that means don’t take photos. But you probably didn’t spot it, as by that stage you were already staring intently at your little screen rather than the place you’d gone to visit.

17. Because, you know, it’s a CHURCH, and people are trying to pray; and all the flashing and kershthwunking makes it difficult to be spiritual.

18. OK, you’re not religious – neither am I. But if you’re not interested in it being a church, then… why are you here?

19. Besides, even if I don’t believe, it’s clear that some people here do and that, for them, it means an awful lot. That woman in the headscarf, for instance, sobbing photogenically in the side chapel.

Prague Communism Memorial20. Oh, what do I know – I’m just a bloody tourist. But maybe, after you’ve snapped yourself posing by the graves in the old Jewish ghetto and been on the coach trip to Terezín, once Theresienstadt, transit camp for Auschwitz, you might like to come here, to the Memorial to the Victims of Communism at the foot of Petrín Hill. Because, as the inscription says: 205,486 convicted, 248 executed, 4,500 died in prison, 327 annihilated at the border, 170,938 emigrated, 1 great photo opportunity.

Times were tough, but Eastern Europe’s loss is Flickr’s gain.

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