During those years I have spent living in Prague, I have often wondered what the most appropriate tourism slogan would be for the Czech Republic. I ended up coming up with the following: “Czech Republic: Where no one gives a fuck”.
In the beginning you are amazed to see and experience such a level of presumed liberalism and hyper-tolerance, because you want to believe that it is liberalism. Well, we can either call it liberal or ignorant if you are allowed to have 1.5 grams of heroin on you.
According to current legal regulations in the Czech Republic, possession of the below listed amounts (or less) of illicit drugs is to be considered “smaller than large” for the purposes of the Criminal Code and was to be treated as a misdemeanor, subject to a fine equal to that of a parking ticket:
• Marijuana: 15 grams (or five plants)
• Hashish: 5 grams
• Magic mushrooms: 40 pieces
• Peyote: 5 plants
• LSD: 5 pieces
• Ecstasy: 4 tablets
• Amphetamine: 2 grams
• Methamphetamine: 2 grams
• Heroin: 1.5 grams
• Coca: 5 plants
• Cocaine: 1 gram
As a consequence of the above list, the country has an astonishing density of junkies and poppy seed harvesters roaming the streets or camping next to the plantations. If you were not previously aware of this, you should watch the documentary movie Heroin Holiday in the Czech Republic.
Prague is the amazing capital of the ‘Land of Castles’, with medieval parts and an effervescent cultural scene since forever, but sometimes you get the impression that something went wrong, either socially or from a human perspective. Of course, people ignore each other everywhere in the world, but here it is different: there is an air of not being involved, not being present. In some ways, not wasting too much energy on certain things and being a bit apathetic is very charming, but there are plenty of situations when you have to care.
Due to this very enervated attitude it is very tough to make a Czech person really upset, unless it involves hockey (or hokej as they call it). During hockey championships they really go mental, screaming and chanting songs about their beloved player (or hokejista) Jaromir Jágr, who they cheer for even when the Czech Republic isn’t playing
The Czech Republic is also the land of Bohumil Hrabal and Jaroslav Hašek who represented in their oeuvre how much Czechs don’t like being involved even in their own conflicts. One of the nicest manifestations of this attitude is the famous quote from Hrabal’s book, I Served the King of England:
“-Were you in the war?
-No. We Czechs don’t fight wars.”
By reading this quote, you might righteously think how amazing it is and you just start wondering about how the heck Czechs managed to be pacifist while being in both world wars, but then it just hits you in the head that this is the same tricky story over and over: mystify it, call it pacifism, liberalism, whatever… they just don’t fucking care. They don’t give a fuck.
This is not nihilism though, but much more like a sweet and charming nonchalance which is elaborated and kind of idealized in Czech movies, from the Czech New Wave up to today.
The country has been split up and divided many times. A 100 year old person who spent their entire life in what is today the Czech Republic may have been a citizen of many different countries depending on where in the country he/she lived. The Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia, Germany (who annexed the Sudetenland), Poland (who annexed the Zaolzie area), the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (Nazi controlled) and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I guess your grandma would have been very upset for less, she might have even gone berserk with all her pals, but guess what: no one gave a fuck!
Another fun fact about the country: globally it leads the per capita beer consumption league and it literally means that everyone downs beer as it would not mean a thing – even your Czech boss in lunch break – and it is incredible, I know, but in restaurants a pint of beer is cheaper than a small bottle of mineral water. It is not uncommon to see a businessman in a suit leaving the office building with a briefcase in one hand and a can of beer in the other, downing it as he exits the main entrance. For some individuals starting their morning with a 2 litre plastic bottle of Staropramen or Kozel is no big deal either.
Besides downing beers, Czechs also love sports: they are very much into skiing, hiking and cycling in particular. Cycling is not an activity to be done sober either: at sunny weekends you can see shitloads of men wearing more than exaggeratedly professional cycling outfit and equipment, but after some kilometres all the cool bikes are dumped at the entrance of a bar where these sportsmen are drinking beer and eating párek v rohliku (hotdog). They even sell a beer type called cyklisto which is quite weak, therefore recommended for cycling.
But this lovely country is not only the land of great beers. It is also the country which has a remarkable tradition of defenestration – the act of throwing someone out of a window – in order to solve political issues. This has happened at least four times in Czech history: 1, in 1419 seven officials were thrown out from the Town Hall’s window during the Hussites war; 2, during a fight between the representatives of Old and New Town in 1483 anther seven people lost their life due to defenestration; 3, the famous defenestration of 1618 sparking the Thirty Years War; 4, and the assassination of Jan Masaryk by the Soviet secret services.
Pretty fancy, is it not it?
Prague is often referred to not only as the ‘Golden City’, but also as ‘Sin City’, or ‘the Amsterdam of Eastern Europe’, a label which has been earned by having many brothels, erotic clubs and hookers hanging around town. The most famous erotic club even has a limousine which can be spotted in the centre, offering free limo services for potential customers of the club.