I don’t heart Prague

“Get the f**k over it.”

The comments and messages I got in response to my super-depressive post about my current state of existence were all supportive, caring, thoughtful, and encouraging. Apart from that one. The anonymous (aren’t they always?) commenter left a comment telling me I sounded like a 12-year-old and should just “get the f**k over it”.

Having spent the previous night drinking myself into a stupor alone in my room and drunkenly researching desperate “I’ve messed up my life, help, what can I do?” solutions on the internet, the fact that this comment was the first thing I saw when I woke up and went online was like a kick in the teeth. I didn’t approve it to show up on the post (because I don’t let anonymous dickheads comment, that is – had it had a name and/or contact details attached as all other comments do, I would have let it go through, insult or no insult, as I have done in the past), but it stuck with me all day, and actually did me a favour. If an anonymous coward with so little of a life that (s)he thinks trying to make a depressed, lonely stranger feel worse is fun thought I was pathetic… chances were, I was pretty pathetic.

So, thanks to the brutal reality check from my dear unsympathetic reader, I took his/her advice and decided to get over it.

Things gradually got better.

The Demon Child either sensed the change or gave up on trying to do… well, whatever she was trying to do with her crazed screaming, and suddenly transformed into a sweet little girl. I’m not exaggerating – one minute she was screaming bloody murder in the cloakroom, trying to escape, and the next she was pulling up a chair next to me and chatting away cheerfully. It was as if a switch was flicked, and I still don’t understand what happened. She is a lovely wee thing now, all smiles and innocent childishness instead of pure terror in human form. Yesterday she even hugged me when I came in. HUGGED me. You can’t understand the enormity of this. Yes, little ESL kids often hug their teachers, and I get plenty of affectionate cuddles throughout the week. But this one… hugging me… I looked at the head teacher in utter astonishment over the child’s head, and she gaped back at me like a bewildered goldfish. I actually danced a little victory dance on the way home that night. My time at the pre-school is no longer my twice-weekly torture, for which I have to brace myself by taking deep, steadying breaths outside the door upon my arrival. The relief is unbelievable. I’m genuinely becoming fond of her and looking forward to seeing her – seriously, I would not have believed that to be possible. You have no idea how horrific it was!

Work in general got better, too. I learned something about myself – that too much free time is bad for me. Unlike at my previous jobs, I don’t have to be present for the entire working day, and so I had taken to going home after my morning pre-schools. Most of the time, permanently exhausted from my pre-sunrise starts, I’d gratefully crawl straight back into bed, and then have to drag myself dismally out again to go teach at another school in the afternoon. I interacted with no one, and had no energy or enthusiasm for my work. Now, though, I make myself go to the staffroom and thoroughly prepare my lessons in my free hours, or at least chat to colleagues. I don’t go home until I’ve done a full day’s work, and I feel no more or less exhausted, but much more useful and worthwhile.

My social life got better. The aforementioned chatting to colleagues developed into better working relationships, more human interaction, less isolation, and a few actual friends to spend my leisure time with.

All good, right?

But in spite of all this…

I stil hate this place.

I can’t explain it. I can’t even understand it. This is supposed to be a beautiful, much-loved city, and yet I’m not just indifferent to it – I hate it. I don’t see the historic beauty everyone raves about; I don’t understand why it’s so popular; I can’t fathom why many of my fellow teachers, unhappy in their jobs, justify staying because “It’s all about living in Prague, for me”…. “My weeks are long, but my weekends are amazing”… “Prague is an incredible city”.

I disagree – and strongly.

It’s grey, tired, and depressing. Nowhere to be seen are my beloved winding alleyways and red turrets of Estonia, or my cobblestoned courtyards of France, or my beautiful natural surroundings of Switzerland. That’s the Europe I craved to be back in. That’s the Europe I was coming back for. Instead, I find myself in an unfriendly, graffiti-slathered, grey, dismal, plain, unenchanting city.

Don’t get me wrong – I know that I am very near to alone in this opinion. And it’s not like me, either! I was always the cheerleader of any new place I visited, refusing to let the negativity of others affect my enthusiasm. Even here, I started off with my usual eager curiosity and excitement. I created a Facebook album called “I love Prague!”, full of photos I took on my first day of exploring.

I do not love Prague. I feel as if the photos in that album show the only attractive things I’ve seen in my time here. One day. I saw all the nice things in one day? That’s not for me. My whole love of living abroad comes from seeing new things every day – exploring previously unseen areas, stumbling across some hidden beauty spot or historic place, admiring my unfamiliar surroundings almost constantly. Even towards the end of my time in Korea, when I was growing weary of the same old sights year after year, I still felt that elated traveller’s buzz just from walking down the street to my apartment and passing a little old woman selling vegetables on the kerb, or sitting alone in a Korean diner eating mandu and kimchi. Here, I just feel… disappointed. Look, I know the city doesn’t owe me anything, OK?! I probably seem arrogant, with an unwarranted sense of entitlement or something. But I can’t think of any other way to express the constant feeling of “meh” that I have here. I did a lot of driving and wandering around Northern Ireland with my mum last time I was home, and quite honestly, my humble wee country beats this place hands down. And if you know me, and how characteristically unaffectionate I’ve generally been towards my home country, you’ll know that that’s saying a lot. I find myself longing for the quiet little villages with their old churches and stone-walled fields lined with weeping willows, and the cities of Belfast and Dublin with their fascinating histories, friendly locals, and vibrant social scenes.

I’m frustrated by Prague as much as I’m resentful of it. I know I’m very much in the minority, and I can’t for the life of me figure out what everyone else is seeing that I’m not. In my frustration, I showed a colleague a picture of Tallinn. I think that’s what I was expecting, I told him ruefully. He wrinkled his brow and looked at me without comprehension. But that’s what Prague is like! he insisted, looking mystified. We agreed to disagree.

It’s very pretty at night, certainly, when the darkness hides the ugly graffiti, and the lights illuminate the gothic buildings and cobbled streets. The Christmas markets are beautiful, too – but everywhere looks pretty at Christmas, if you ask me.

For the first time since I’ve been travelling, I’m living in a city I cannot stand, and pretty much counting the days until I can escape.

No longer depressed and self-pitying, lest my dear, considerate, anonymous reader be inclined to comment again.

Making the most of it, and doing my best to see more and do more and hopefully finally see what it is about this city that enchants so many people.

But counting down, all the while.

I can’t wait to leave.

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11 thoughts on “I don’t heart Prague

  1. Marisol says:

    Maybe Prague just isn’t a good place for you right now. Depression can skew our views on things. And if Prague is really as dark and grey as you say it is (I assume it’s usually cloudy/rainy), then it REALLY wouldn’t be a good place for you. Sunshine, my dear Hayley. Sunshine and bright colors. Maybe you can decorate your apartment with really bright and pretty colors for the remainder of your stay in Prague. And continue keeping busy. Feeling useful and productive is a great way to combat depression.

    Hope all continues to get better for you. Good job turning something bad (an anonymous asshole’s comment) into something good. Love you, lady! :)

  2. I think it’s perfectly acceptable not to love Prague. I have no opinion on the place as I’ve never been but you’re feelings are strong and just as valid as all those people who love the place. When I travelled S.America I was underwhelmed by Peru. Had I stayed longer I would have appreciated it more but as soon as I hit that country I stopped enjoying my travels. And Peru was the country I thought I’d love the most. So take away your expectations because when we expect things it leaves us wide open to disappointment. You are probably learning valuable lessons about life, which won’t be come apparent until you are away from the country.

    And as for the demon child…..I knew she was your Jedi mind exercise. She has obviously sensed the change in you and you are probably the best thing that ever came into this wee girl’s life. It might be that the whole reason you are in Prague is just to give this girl a cuddle when her own parents didn’t have the time to. And if you ask me, that’s the beauty in Prague right there.

  3. I think children have a way of sensing things… she probably subconciously realised you didn’t want to be there and, already feeling abandoned by her parents, didn’t really want to spend time with you either.

    As for Prague… I liked it, but I was only there for a holiday. If I had to live there, I might feel the same as you. I don’t know. I know plenty of people who love Stuttgart… and I HATE it! Too grey, too crowded, too city-like. I love Karlsruhe because it IS a city, but it has a small town atmosphere (ok, anyone just moving there now will probably hate it because the entire town is a giant construction site, and will be for atleast 4 more years, but that’s besides the point…) NOBODY can like every city, maybe Prague just isn’t for you… or isn’t for you right now.

    Also, what Marisol said about depression skewing your view on things… maybe because you’re already unhappy, you notice the grafitti and greyness more. Does Estonia really have not have any grafitti? Or did you just notice other things?

  4. I admire you Hails, it takes plenty of courage to step up and admit a place is not for you. Prague is stifling your growth. You tried, gave it a good few months, but you are a tied to the place for life, chalk it up to experience and move on to fresh beginnings with the new year.

    In the mean time get through the last days with planning your Christmas holiday.

  5. Adam says:

    That’s funny Hayley, when I was travelling years ago I fell in love with Prague but I would find it hard to say exactly what appealed to me so much. I think it was just the feel of the city that I got, it was such a weird mix of old and new, and I loved the dilapidated feel. Like some other commenters have mentioned there is no shame in admitting that you don’t like something, contrary to mass opinion and there is courage in standing alone. I’d be interested to hear whether you have been to Riga? That is one place that did not grab me in the same way but I have heard many people love it and I believe it may even have topped some poll for most beautiful city. Hope things look up for you soon

  6. Clare says:

    Hey Hayls,
    It really does take guts to say you don’t like a place, especially one that everyine else seems to think is so beautiful.

    I couldn’t agree more with all previous comments, so I don’t feel I can add anything, just to say, I owe you a big hug when I next see you in the staffroom!

    Hold on in there for one more week, then you get to go home for Christmas! And maybe that woud change your perspective? Or maybe not? Who knows, either way, you get to see all the people you love and that’s got to be good!

  7. Philippa says:

    If it’s any consolation, Hayley, I felt completely the same about Prague. And I’ve been to a lot of cities and countries. Just couldn’t see what the fuss was about.
    I suggest you go somewhere more Latin-based…

  8. smrtonos says:

    Heya,

    I don’t believe anyone is judging you for your perception of Prague, nor is anyone forcing others to love it. Personally I’d say it’s perfectly valid opinion; I also don’t love all the places I’ve been to.

    Regardless of what the city looks like for you or others, I have a feeling that the reason you might dislike it here is because of the city atmosphere. By that I mean the people and the mood/vibe the city gives off. Being Czech myself I’m probably indifferent to it, but my Greek friend was complaining to me many times that riding in public transport is a misery for him. Czechistan is broken country with majority who see no light at the end of the tunnel, I get it why it might be so depressing for you to live here. Either way, if you feel unhappy, you should start making plans for further steps in your life that part away from Prague =)

  9. Andrea says:

    Hello Hayley, I only visited Prague for 3 days. I loved the touristy bits, and the fact that it was bitterly cold but with bright bright blue skies and fresh snow (it was early Feb), but I thought it was a dump and the people came over as miserable! The main highlight was joining a walking tour and learning a little of the history of the place, especially the Jewish quarter.. I wouldnt have wanted to stay there for longer and I don’t want to return! Most beautiful places I have visited left me wanting to return. Not Prague. I am glad the little horror has come round (been exorcised?) x

  10. Marie says:

    Hi, I think it’s important to speak honestly about your true feelings about the place where you live. It’s allright to like it, it’s allright not to like it either. I currently stay in Prague and I can’t stand the place. No wonder you feel depressed because the overal spirit of the city and people is full of anger and depression. Scowling cold faces, people starting at each other and being rude for no reason. Sometimes for me it is a physical feeling that I get as soon as I leave the house or get off the transport when I return back from trip outside of the city or the country. As other posts above suggests, I also would recommend thinking of changing place. Supposed beauty of the city centre isn’t worth all the bad mood you get from it.

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