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Museum of Communism: Above McDonalds and opposite Benetton

In this, which is about some guys from Loughborough who have decided to mark cities (scroll down a bit) like they are undergraduate essays (Alpha+, Beta+, Beta-, etc.), NickM waxes lyrical about Prague:

The coolest city is Prague. Prague is just mental. I’d happily move there tomorrow but for the language which is something else. Just super-cool. On the Charles Bridge there was a rodent balancer. Some bloke in a monk’s cowl was balancing rodents on a labrador for change. And then you just walk past where Kepler lived and customer service is spot-on and it was about a quid a pint for most excellent beer right in the city centre and the food was good quality and good value. Went to a steak house run by former firemen who donned the hats when they put the heat to the meat. Bloody good steak that was. And then down by the river and a load of blokes ride past me in Edwardian garb astride penny-farthings. Prague is just ineffably cool. Just wandering around is wonderful. Just doing that brought me by chance to the church where the killers of Reinhardt Heydrich had holed-up. That was poignant. And then there is the Museum of Communism. This is not a free museum. It makes a point of being a for profit enterprise. It advertised, when I was there, with a Russian doll with fangs. It gives it’s address as, “Above McDonalds and opposite Benetton.”. It didn’t need to add, “And fuck off Lenin”. A joy to behold.

Here endeth the broadcast from the Czech tourism bureau.

But he adds a warning:

But catch it while you can and before EU membership fucks it.

Well, EU membership doesn’t seem to have fucked London yet, despite decades of the EU trying everything they can think of to accomplish that. London, according to the Loughborough guys, is equal top (Apha++) with New York. NickM goes further. He reckons New York is overrated and has London top on its own, as the greatest city in the world “bar none”. He doesn’t say why, however.

Personally, I love London, because I live here and I just do. But I do not know where I think it ranks in the great city stakes because I seldom leave it, and hence can’t compare it with other urban greatness contenders.

I have been to Prague, which I thought was pretty good. The middle is amazing, wall-to-wall listed buildings, as we would say in London. As I assume is the case in Prague too, i.e. you may not smash it down and replace it with a concrete blockhouse, just because you “own” it. Which I understand. But the uninterruptedly historic nature of the centre means that nothing new can now be built. In other words, the centre of Prague feels like a film set, and will feel more and more like one as time passes. See also: Paris.

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13 comments to Museum of Communism: Above McDonalds and opposite Benetton

  • Preston Hill

    Umm… err…. Don’t libertarians think people should “own” real property?

  • Rich Rostrom

    But the uninterruptedly historic nature of the centre means that nothing new can now be built.

    See this piece by Claire Berlinski on the difficulty of any sort of construction in Istanbul, where practically everywhere is a valuable archaelogical site:
    Can’t Go Back to Constantinople

  • Bruce Hoult

    Christchurch was a bit like that too, until most of the listed stuff fell down recently.

  • ManikMonkee

    You’ve gotta love the Eastern Europeans hatred of Socialism. I remember having a Czech mate, who used to throw shit and shout in Slav at the Portuguese Communist Party headquarters every time he drunkenly strolled past it.

  • Umm… err…. Don’t libertarians think people should “own” real property?

    Umm…err… yeah. Brian’s use of “own” in quotation marks should give you a clue what he thinks. I also doubt he used the term “film set” as a compliment: i.e. pretty but not ‘real’.

    Also if a pretty building is saved from demolition by “listing” then it is an indisputable fact that said pretty building, rather than a concrete blockhouse, is there to look at and thus can factor in any subjective aesthetic rating of a city’s “coolness”… the morality of “listing” is quite amenable to being moved into a separate discussion.

    I like it when pretty buildings do not get demolished. I just do not want them preserved by state force for all sorts of reasons.

    Oh and I also like a lot of fascist architecture and have some Chinese communist propaganda posters on my walls.

  • RAB

    I mention Bath in the comments section to Nick’s piece. I adore the place, the wife and I go to the Theatre Royal at least once a month (all the best plays seem to start their run there, before coming into London), but it has to be said that it does have the air of a museum about it. Seems to function perfectly well though, despite being clogged with tourists throughout the summer.

    As for London, well as a frequent visitor, i always find that it is really a conglomeration of overlapping villages, each with it’s own centre and character. It’s the time spent travelling around it that is the real pain in the arse for us provincials though, especially ones like me who can walk to everything of note and importance in Bristol within 20 minutes from my house.

  • Anyone who says the food in Prague is even edible must be from the tourist office

  • Kim du Toit

    Being somewhat old-fashioned, I’ll take the “film set” look of Paris or Prague over the ruined aspect of London (e.g. Millenium Wheel and that horrible glass dildo of a building) any day of the week. Imagine the City of Bath allowing CitiBank to put up a steel-and-glass skyscraper on Bath’s Great Poulteney Street, and you’ll have an approximate idea of my reaction to what’s happening to Europe’s wonderful classical architecture.

    Even Paris (Pompidou Centre, Louvre Pyramid) isn’t immune to soulless po-mo architecture, though.

    Then again, I happen to think that the world would have been a far more beautiful place had I.M. Pei, Helmut Jahn and (most especially) Le Corbusier all been strangled at birth.

  • LinseedOil

    The Czech Republic has pretty damn good firearm laws compared with other European countries. A simple ‘shall issue’ gun licence allows you to also carry your firearm in public for self-defence.

  • Being somewhat old-fashioned, I’ll take the “film set” look of Paris or Prague over the ruined aspect of London (e.g. Millenium Wheel and that horrible glass dildo of a building) any day of the week.

    I like the Gherkin and the Wheel actually.

    Anyone who says the food in Prague is even edible must be from the tourist office

    I was there a few weeks ago and the food was just fine… and occasionally superb. The Mozaika is extremely good for example.

  • I’ll tell you all a story about Prague which is quite revealing. The old parliament building is just next to the natural history museum. The old parliament building was a commie project that looked like a 1960s university social sciences faculty. Now at one point there was an uprising. And the Soviets being subtle coves called for artillery. The uprising was centred on the parliament but despite having the co-ords the Russian artillery men couldn’t believe it was the parliament and shelled the Natural History museum instead. It certainly does look more like you’d expect a major state institution to look like.

    I guess what I’m saying was that communism created something so ghastly it’s own troops couldn’t see it for what it was. There is an irony there.

    I don’t know what the old parliament building is used for now but the Czech government meet elsewhere.

  • David Gillies

    pace kim du Toit, I adore the Gherkin and the Millennium Eye. London is nonpareil. It is indisputably the finest city on the planet. Every time I am there I feel more alive. I spent three gloriously happy years living there while at university and every day it excited me. The sheer density of the place was almost overwhelming. Within a few hundred meters of my lab were, inter alia, the Albert Hall, the Albert Memorial, the Victoria and Albert museum (see a trend?), the Science Museum, the Geological Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Royal College of Music, the Royal College of Art, the Iranian Embassy (of SAS fame), Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. When I lived in Camberwell, we once tried to map every restaurant within a half mile of our flat. We gave up after marking about 250 of them. And it’s like that everywhere. If it weren’t so shockingly expensive, I’d move there in a heartbeat.

  • Paul Marks

    Having just got back from Paris (and knowing London fairly well), I would say that Paris is better in a few things.

    They manage traffic better – but my view may have been distorted by the time of year I went.

    I like the fact that one can see along the major roads to the A de T. – it makes finding one’s way about child’s play, and it is actually very impressive to look down the road from the financial district to the A. de T. (although the financial disctrict, just outside Paris, is rather ugly).

    However, what Paris does have that London does not is the islands in the river.

    I know that London has islands in the lakes in the parks – but these islands in Paris are real areas (with houses, shops, churches and so on).

    One can not attack London for not having such islands – the Thames was a working river (and London was a commercial city – in a way Paris has never really been) islands in the Thames would have been a bleeping hazard.

    However, they are (now) an advantage Paris has.

    It is a fact – and it is should be admitted.