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Friday, 15 April 2016

From Czechoslovakia to Czechia; Approaching Prague, Thirty Years Ago

From The Independent - Czech Republic leaders approve plan to change country's name to Czechia

It's exactly 30 years since we entered Czechoslovakia, in April 1986.

First impressions - from my 1986 journal:

"Our Czech language training finished on 21 March, 1986, just after the packers had come to take our personal effects away and before we headed off by car, aiming to reach the German-Czechoslovak border-crossing at Waidhaus/Rozvadov- and Prague itself- on April 12, to take up post and to participate in the new Cultural Agreement and Exchange Programme negotiations from 15-17 April. The contrast between Bavaria and Bohemia, between Rothenburg-on-the-Tauber and the deserted or abandoned houses on the grim road towards Pilsen (where we got lost in the back streets) couldn’t have been greater or more dispiriting on a cold day, in a bleak snow storm. Soldiers and guard dogs, booby-traps, mines and barbed wire in the dense, dark forests...Then the arrival at Francouzská Street, Vinohrady, Prague 2 - not quite the ‘Kensington of Prague’, as our Czech teacher had described it, nor the once-quiet street where the poet Svatopluk Čech found a peaceful environment in which to write, from 1879-1890. After the lovingly-restored or rebuilt medieval features of prosperous German towns, we faced the crumbling stucco facades and rusty scaffolding of Prague".

I soon came to love Prague, as a city. How quickly it has changed, almost beyond belief - the country (Czechia) is unrecognisable from the description above.

 Jim (left) in the Francouzská apartment, with Bohumil Hrabal

At the office

Prague Office (bugged)

16 Poems, in English and Czech, October 1989

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