Yesterday during a fun, four-hour walking tour through several neighborhoods I learned about Alternative Prague! It was a small friendly group of seven – three Americans, two Israelis, and two Australians. Our excellent guide Eliska, from Prague Alternative Tours, enlightened us on many aspects of Czech Alternative Culture and life in Prague.
Gentrification and Soviet Invasion
Eliska discussed Prague’s art, music, and theater scenes, gentrification, and the vast impact of the 1968 Soviet Invasion on the Czech people and almost every aspect of their lives. Eliska encouraged everyone to learn some key Czech words and phrases – a difficult language, but I’m resolved to try harder.
“The Soviet invasion stopped Alexander Dubček and the Prague Spring liberalization reforms and strengthened the authoritarian wing within the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ). During this era, the foreign policy of the Soviet Union was known as the Brezhnev Doctrine.”
Even today, the painful effects of the brutal Soviet invasion are still reflected in Czech culture. Some aspects of which (including religion) many Czechs do not discuss openly.
Graffiti in Prague
Having lived in San Francisco for many years, I’ve seen high-quality street art, but Prague also has interesting graffiti, and the city is beginning to appreciate this form of urban art. The John Lennon Wall has “Lennon-inspired graffiti and fragments of lyrics from Beatles songs”.
Anyone can write a message or paint a drawing on the John Lennon Wall which is near Charles Bridge in an area where the government allows graffiti, even though it’s not officially “legal”. Graffiti is prohibited on historical buildings, businesses, and private residences. Punishment for graffiti writing on these structures is a fine the first time, prison for subsequent offenses.
Galleries, Markets, Cafés, and Theaters
We toured alternative galleries, pubs, flea markets, and cafés that are part of the youth scene in Prague and learned more about alternative festivals, theaters, and live music venues – I will never have time to visit them all during this trip! I took mental notes and plan to visit a few theaters and galleries where “older people” might blend ;o) with the crowd… What motivates today’s youth is always interesting.
“Cross Club is a uniquely designed multicultural centre housing a real crossroads of cultures and a variety of styles and genres in the centre of Prague Holešovice.”
Dox Gallery is another interesting place. “The gallery’s mission is creating a space for research, presentation, and debate on important social issues, where visual arts, literature, performing arts, and other disciplines encourage a critical view of the so-called reality of today’s world.”
The Jatka78 Theater sounds interesting as does the Prague Shakespeare Company, Blood Love & Rhetoric Theater, and Beroun Pottery Market – many things to see!
I will visit MeetFactory, “a non-profit international center for contemporary art founded by Czech artist David Černý”. After destructive floods in 2002, MeetFactory was forced to move from the Holešovice district to an industrial building in Prague’s Smíchov quarters.
MeetFactory is described as a “unique space squeezed between a motorway and an active railroad”.
Ztohoven Activist Collective
Eliska told us about Ztohoven, an active resistance group described as a “Czech guerrilla artist collective known for its artistically motivated pranks”. To protest President Miloš Zeman, who is labeled a populist, “Ztohoven breached security at Prague Castle in 2014 and replaced a flag containing the Presidential Seal with a huge pair of men’s red underwear”.
The Ztohoven activists “picked red boxers because it’s the color of the Chinese flag, referring to Zeman’s visit to China and his praise of Chinese leaders”. Ztohoven is well-known for its social commentary and crypto anarchy, most famously for hacking a Czech state broadcaster in 2007 to show a fake nuclear explosion. The purpose of the hacking was to illustrate how it’s unwise to place blind trust in media information.
We ended our tour at the Cross Club, named for “housing a crossroads of cultures and styles and genres in the centre of Holešovice”. Respected Cross Club has been a part of the Prague alternative cultural scene for years. “Its fascinating futuristic design, with unusual artefacts, gives the club a unique identity.”
Photos from the tour are attached. Více později…
Sounds like a very educational and fun tour! Nice photos! Glad you did it and thanks for sharing!
Wish I’d come across this tour when we were there. It’s sounds a great insight and a chance to break through the usual tourist trail.
Yes it was fantastic but really made me feel like an ol’ fart!!!!! :( It’s challenging keeping up with the younger generations and our sweet guide (an ancient 31) said it was very, very difficult to be included in the Prague inner sanctum of alternative artists! Also most of them (really young ones) are totally uninterested in politics – slightly scary as the current president is running again!3
That’s interesting. Usually the young people I have come across in Europe are much more politically aware and active than “we” are (and I guess I am including Americans in that generalisation). Dubcek figured in one of my stories. It’s still hiding on my laptop.
This is an interesting short article on the “passivity” of Czech youth http://digitalcollections.sit.edu/isp_collection/1436/. The article is supposedly about “activists” and was written before the 2013 election. Our guide mentioned young people who currently have no interest at all in politics and didn’t even bother to vote…. Maybe it’s because they didn’t experience the Soviet invasion? In South Africa the “born free” generation is also an interesting study. Personally, I’m so weary of politics in the US I can’t bear reading electronic newspapers – they’re too upsetting! There’s such vitriol and division between and within the right and left and zero common ground. As you probably know there are also many racist groups in the Czech Republic, especially in the more rural areas. The Millennial generation in America is progressive but you saw what happened in the election! Guess there will never be a perfect world ;o(! It will be interesting to experience what’s happening in Istanbul!!!!
I had a look at the summary and will download the pdf. My FB feed today included Trump’s Quote: “No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly” . . . laid over a picture of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island. And last night’s Australian news broke the story of a major tax fraud perpetrated by the son of our Assistant Commissioner of Taxation. I think we have all had enough of these ridiculous political situations. What’s the alternative?
I don’t know Gwen but glad to hear others are concerned. Oregon and Washington are radically left progressive states – even more so than California and angry / heartbroken that Bernie Sanders didn’t become president. Although I agree with most of their political philosophy, people have gone off the deep end since Trump’s election – to the point they attacked protesters on his side – literally. I’m wondering what they propose for any person(s) not in line with their liberal concepts – murder, imprisonment, frontal lobotomies all around, banishment from the country? The east and west coast are of a different ilk than the rest of the country. Intolerance and insistence that ideas out of line with theirs are incorrect and could not possibly be considered are scary and I’m so tired of the demonstrations and people lecturing if you chose not to participate. My activist days are long gone!!! On the other hand not sure South Africa is a permanent alternative either…. What to do?
My Australian friend who lives in Texas is here at the moment. With any luck we’ll catch up next week. She campaigned for Hilary Clinton. It will be interesting to hear what is happening in her part of the US.