I had the pleasure of visiting Prague for a week in the early 90’s, staying with a friend from Canada who was living there at the time. Then, as now, Prague was chock full of stunning architecture. The city has the good fortune of having never been the site of a major war, and so 1000 or more years’ of architecture has been preserved.
Prague in the 90’s was a bit run-down, thanks to 50 years of Communist rule and the lack of strong capitalist incentives to keep beautiful buildings in good condition in the hopes of high-paying tenants. What was palpable at the time was the post-Velvet Revolution energy; freedom to express one’s self, freedom to pursue new business opportunities, an influx of residents from Western Europe and North America seeking good times and cheap cost of living.
Prague today is still in a state of evolution, but has become much more Western European over the past 15 years. While much of its historical identity is intact, thanks in part to that stunning architecture, you’ll see many of the same consumer experiences as elsewhere. Streets with luxury brands like Prada and Gucci, lots of German sedans, tourists from all over, etc. The cost of living is now approaching that of other major European cities, at least in the downtown core. To an American the place feels very different regardless of what might have changed.
I’m interested to learn what the Czechs think of all this. I will need to drink some beers with them to get to the bottom of it. I speculate that they will see the changes with mixed emotions. Many people were left behind economically as inflation took hold, especially in terms of housing costs. On the other hand, there’s a lot of freedom to do what one wants, including moving around Europe as part of the EU.