Last night I found myself unexpectedly alone and with no plans whatsoever, so I decided to walk downtown from my new apartment, hoping to see the city with fresh eyes.

The first thought I had as I set out was that it’s good to know I live so close to downtown. Then again, most Czechs – at least those within a 6 metro stop radius – live close to downtown. From where I live, it’s a 15-minute walk to Prague Castle, 30 minutes to Mala Strana, and 45 to the Old Town Square. Of course, those numbers are theoretical, as I decided to drop in to various pubs along the way.

The castle was relatively empty, but Mala Strana was full of Easyjet Brits looking to fight or fuck or maybe both. I passed two groups of middle-aged men, with thick arms and short sleeves, revealing various tattoos. One had tattoos on his neck. Modern primitive, I’m sure. Regardless, I made a long, looping detour around them.

I opened the door and walked in to U Kocoura on Nerudová, but felt like I walked into a time vortex. They’re still keeping it real there, and the Czech clientele maybe confirmed it. Vladimír MenÅ¡ik was on the TV in a normalization-era comedy, one of those where everybody in the movie is screaming at each other all the time and this was somehow funny. So of course I had to stay and watch it, waiting for the inevitable scene where somebody gets thrown into a pond – didn’t every normalization-era comedy have one of those scenes? When this didn’t happen, I walked on.

I dropped in for a mojito at Blue Light, still one of my favorite bars in town even if my friend David isn’t bartending there any more as he has his own bar – Černa kočka bilý kocour (Black Cat White Cat) – on náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad. Blue Light is still full of movie support people, including one pair of loud “Canadians” mouthing off about how NGOs are bad, based on his one trip backpacking in Nepal.

“It just enforces a welfare mentality,” one said, adding that everywhere he went, he made it a point to let everyone know he’s Canadian, even though he lived in LA. I stifled my urge to give him a bitchslap in the name of International Development, and headed on instead.

The rain was starting to fall, so there weren’t many people on the bridge, and nobody making wishes at the Lorraine Cross, although lots of people touched Nepomuk’s dog for good luck.

On the path between the Castle and the Old Town Square, there are so many identical stores, each carrying the same goods from the same manufacturers that a shakeout must be inevitable at some point.

I wanted to go up to the terrace bar on top of U Prince, but kept walking, figuring the wind and sporadic rain wouldn’t be too pleasant. Maybe it was a good thing, because I was rewarded with the best image of the night: Walking down Celetná street I saw two Africans, dressed in mariachi outfits, handing out fliers promoting a Mexican restaurant, themselves eating gyros. They stood in front of a crystal shop, its signs in Russian and English.

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