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Oscillating Prague tourism trends

After weeks of sunny, tropical, and extremely dry weather, Czechia entered a very wet, consistently rainy half-week (or more) today, something that I call the "socialist weather" because I believe that this is what the weather was like (almost) throughout the early 1980s. Grey uniform socialist junk. The temperatures are 20 °C lower than two days ago.

I needed to go to Prague. Even though the rain is something basically pleasant for me, tourist destinations look profoundly non-photogenic when the weather sucks. I believe that it was raining bad when I went to the New York City for the first (or second?) time. This has dramatically negatively shaped my attitude to the Big Apple.

Prague is not much prettier when the weather sucks. But I still made a round trip around some of the canonical focal points of Prague. Wenceslaus Square, Einstein's office, Karlov, Nusle, Vyšehrad, Dancing House, riverbanks, Újezd, Lesser Quarter, Prague Castle, Office of the Government, Old Town Square, Wenceslaus Square again.

Many things are always the same – cities like this are only changing at the 1000-year timescale – but certain things simply do change visibly after several months. At least I did have the feeling.

Maybe my observational skills or memory were defective but I have never seen such a clear dominance of the yellow taxis. Taxis are called the "yellow cabs" and someone had a good idea to make them yellow in Prague, too. They must have been common for a long time. But only now, it seemed that almost all taxies are yellow Škoda Octavias. Most of them belong to AAA Taxi, probably the cheapest taxi service in Prague, starting at CZK 15 per kilometer.

This car is nominally Chrysler 300. The length is optimized so that it seems reasonably long at \(v\to c\) when the Lorentz contraction becomes substantial.

A few years ago, I saw the first segways in Prague. But today, Prague is literally filled with segways. When you walk towarads the Prague Castle, a big group of segway users is riding down the hill (which is not terribly convenient because the road isn't exactly smooth). For every hour, a segway tours company is apparently renting 14 segways to a group to move through downtown Prague – which pretty much guarantees that you encounter them all the time.

The composition of tourists is changing. There have always been East Asians in Prague. But the numbers have looked comparable to the numbers today. The Czech media have told us that e.g. the number of Russian tourists has significantly decreased – not so much because of the political tension but probably mostly because of the weaker rouble etc. It's unfortunate, I think.

One-half of this hole has been filled by the increasing number of the Chinese tourists. The Chinese visitors to Prague have exploded because of a movie "Somewhere Only We Know" [trailer, wiki] shot by the Chinese filmmakers. It's apparently a naive kitschy pulp romantic movie that was first supposed to be shot in Paris; later, they wanted to shoot it in Prague to save some bucks and pretend it's Paris. ;-) The creators fell in love with Prague so they finally admitted that it was the Czech capital and changed the plot (a Chinese girl and a man meet there; they fell in love while looking for Mr Josef Novák, a former lover of the girl's recently deceased grandma).

The movie was seen by something like 100 million Chinese viewers and you may imagine that even a relatively small fraction of this set of people that decides to fly to Prague may change the optical impression that Prague makes on others. (Prague has been trained for this invasion in an analogous situation in the past when a similar Korean romantic pulp movie was shot in the city.) I think that the East Asian tourists are significantly more shy. For example, you may see how they react to this innocent sculpture in the Museum of Toys beneath the Prague Castle.

I am not sure why this whole sculpture is located in the Museum of Toys; the colors indicate that only a small part of the sculpture is used as a toy. I am sure that women are playing with it and hoping that their playing will change its direction and consistency. ;-)

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