‘Cabin fever’ drives young Czechs out of Soviet-era housing

It’s something like (cabin fever), but let’s say it lasts for 15 years or so…”

“South Town, also known as Jizni Mesto or Prague 11, is an endless field of these buildings, called panelak ”panel buildings” in Czech, which sprung up in the early 1960s and now make up more than 30 per cent of the nation’s housing stock.”

During my first two trips to Prague my wife and I stayed in an apartment in a “panelak” and it was a perfect short-term place to stay: Just enough space for two travelers who didn’t have many possessions. It was in the Pankrác neighborhood, right next to the Metro and an open-air market.

It was perfect then, but now that I have a family of my own I can understand the cabin fever.

Library, in Goo

Future System’s winning design for the new National Library in Prague, to be built in Letna Park in Old Town. The Czechs already know what it’s like to have an out-of-place modern design dropped into the existing cityscape, and I don’t think the result garners much affection (although that example carries Communist baggage along with it as well). Fred and Ginger have made quite a success for themselves, but I think you can argue that Gehry’s addresses and embraces the surrounding architecture, rather than completely disassociating itself from it.

Link via Librarian.net

For a while they didn’t

For a while they didn’t but now they do: The Globe has a web site. So does their doppelganger, Ouky Douky.

The Globe, unbeknownst to us, moved in 2000. When we went looking for it this past June, we were astonished to find another bookstore/cafe in its place–Ouky Douky. This new establishment was eerily like The Globe in every way, except the language of choice had changed from English to Czech. A bizzaro Globe. We stopped and had lunch (great sandwiches), and thanks to the English-speaking bookstore attendant, we got the address of The Globe’s new location.

The new Globe’s cafe is much improved: more space, and a great new menu. And they’ve got good cheap internet access. But the bookstore section seemed less well-stocked. On previous visits The Globe was always my source for English translations of Czech fiction, but during this past visit that section seemed very limited. Luckily there’s always the Big Ben and Anagram bookstores.

Rooftop Rebellion

A rooftop rebellion.

These days, a guy on a rooftop carrying an unwieldy metallic object probably isn’t interested in your chimney. More likely than not, he’s trying to connect to the nascent CZfree.net network, which aims to bring broadband to residential users.

An imperfectly-wired urban area like Prague seems like the perfect place for this kind of thing. For the same reason that mobile phones were poised to take off in a country with lousy telephone service, wireless internet service deserves to overtake wired internet service.

Two of the major changes I observed in Prague during my trip, compared to six years ago, were the sudden ubiquity of cell phones, and the proliferation of internet cafes. I don’t know if it’s because of all the tourists, or because in-home internet access is still not common. link via boing boing


Okay, I admit it: I’m back. My wife and I spent a month in Prague and it was great. The city is as beautiful as ever. We worried that it would have changed a lot in the six years since we were last there, and it was wonderfully familiar. We saw all the sights, some old friends too. I’m still sifting through almost 2000 digital pictures from the trip. I hope I get a chance to return before another six years goes by!