THE ESSENTIALS GUIDE PRAGUE W W W.N OR DAN GLIA.COM /PR AGUE
THE ESSENTIALS GUIDE PRAGUE W W W.NOR DAN GLIA.COM /PR AG U E
THE ESSENTIALS GUIDE PRAGUE WWW.NORDANGLIA.COM/P RAG U E
Essentials Guide Prague 1st Edition Copyright ÂŠ Nord Anglia 2011 All Rights Reserved Chief Editor - Travis Murray Primary Design - Valle DMG Secondary Design - Travis Murray Primary Copywriting - Suchi Rudra Copyediting / Proofreading - Aelred Doyle While every possible effort has been taken to ensure that the facts contained within this guide are accurate, Nord Anglia cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions that this guide may contain. No part of this guide may be reproduced or distributed, by electronic means or any other, without the prior permission of Nord Anglia Ltd.
TABLE OF CONTENTS PREPARING TO GO Introduction p 8 History p 24
Money and Banking p 62 Getting Connected p 64 Health Care p 66
Culture p 29
Temporary Accommodation p 70
Demographics p 30
Finding Housing p 72
Cityscape p 31
Getting Settled p 80
Country Map p 32
Culture Shock p 82
Language p 34
Education p 85
Climate p 35
Education Supplement p 92
Regional Map p 36 Administrative Preparations p 38
LIVING IN PRAGUE
Address, Phone and Finances p 40
Health and Wellness p 134
Embassies p 42
Eating and Drinking p 136
Books, Films and Music p 46
Shopping p 146
WHEN YOU ARRIVE
Neighbourhood Descriptions p 152
Landing p 52
Conclusion p 170
Getting Around p 54
helpi ng others thrive
Education and learning have always been our focus and our area of expertise. Our people and the people we work with all have a good understanding of what this means to us. We aim to provide students with the opportunity to be the best they can be. www.nordanglia.com/prague
f you’re moving to Prague, prepare to be mesmerised. Everything you might have heard about Prague – the Golden City, the Paris of the 90s, the best beer in the world, the stunning architectural beauty – well, actually, it’s all true. Perfectly balanced between the overloaded capitals of Western Europe and the growing nations of Eastern Europe, Prague remains a kind of refuge for those seeking out a very comfortable expat lifestyle.
rague has charm, sure, but there’s something almost hypnotising about this city that hangs out on the edge of central Europe. As Kafka once put it, “This dear mother has claws,” and indeed, many expats often find themselves staying just one more season or one more year, until there’s simply no better place to be than in Prague.
iving and working in Prague means intriguing career opportunities, exciting language challenges and cultural immersion. You can savour the comforting foods of traditional Czech cuisine and the many excellent beers, mingle with a diverse and lively expatriate community, enjoy a very good cost of living and be a part of one of the strongest economies in Europe. However, this also comes with frustrations.
rague becomes overrun with tourists in the summer, thanks in part to its status as a city with many UNESCO sites. The cold and grey of winter can last for four or five months. Adjusting to a new language, a new culture and a new government can be frustrating, and you may often find yourself saying, â&#x20AC;&#x153;But this would never happen if we were back home.â&#x20AC;?
cclimating to a vastly different environment will certainly take time, patience, flexibility and a good sense of humour â&#x20AC;&#x201C; something that youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll find the Czech people certainly have their own ironic take on. You can, to a degree, mentally prepare yourself and your family for the culture shock by learning as much as possible about Prague and Czech culture beforehand, which can help to mitigate the surprises that will inevitably pop up once you arrive.
his Essentials Guide Prague is designed to help you prepare for Prague and settle in once you get there. Despite its challenges, Prague has become known as an attractive place for expats to live inexpensively and enjoy a very safe, modern and relaxed lifestyle. Prague boasts worldclass hospitals, accommodation in inspiring and historical buildings and high-quality, accredited international schools. Newcomers will find countless cultural events, interest groups and organisations to make them feel that Prague is a home away from home.
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PREPARING TO GO INTRO
Preparing to go will be as much a mental journey as it will be a practical one. Understanding more about the culture you are about to encounter will help prepare you for the experience. You can read a book or watch a movie we recommend or you can engage in your own research. Either way, the process will reward you. The practical aspects of preparation are, of course, vital to ensuring that your journey begins on a positive note. This section will help you prepare on both fronts.
History p 24 Culture p 29 Demographics p 30 Cityscape p 31 Country Map p 32 Language p 34 Climate p 35 Regional Map p 36 Administrative Preparations p 38 Address, Phone and Finances p 40 Embassies p 42 Books, Films and Music p 46
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A period of great prosperity and growth came with the rule of Charles IV (1346-78), who made Prague into a second Rome, a spiritual, political and commercial centre.
rague seems to have been established around the year 880 when the walls of Prague Castle (Prazsky Hrad) were built by Prince Borislav along the Vltava River as a fortress against invaders. The city’s other castle, Vysehrad (literally ‘high castle’), was established in the middle of the 10th century on another section of the Vltava, and these two fortifications formed the first rough boundaries of Prague. This was the beginning of the Premyslid dynasty. From 925-929, the famous King Vaclav became ruler of Bohemia. You may know him as Good King Wenceslas of Christmas carol fame; once you make it to Prague, you’ll find that he’s the very same Vaclav who gazes out proudly from his horse over Vaclavske namesti (Wenceslas Square). Between the 12th and 14th centuries, Prague’s main neighbourhoods or ‘towns’ were established. First came the Old Town (Stare Mesto), followed by the Lesser Town (Mala Strana) and Hradcany (the Castle Quarter). By the 1300s, with the Luxembourg dynasty already in power, Prague was putting itself on the map, growing in area and population. A period of great prosperity and growth came with the rule of Charles IV (134678), who made Prague into a second Rome, a spiritual, political and commercial centre. Charles IV built the stone Charles Bridge (1357), founded the oldest university in central Europe, Charles University (1348), and, during the same year, established Prague’s New Town (Nove Mesto). In 1355, Charles was crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and so it was that Prague became the capital of the Holy Roman Empire.
Statue of Charles IV, Prague
But after Charles’ death, everything changed. During King Wenceslas IV’s reign, the preacher Jan Hus began to spread his ideas about the reformation of the church. As a result, he was executed. This was followed by a period of religious conflict and, four years later, Jan Hus’ followers ended up literally throwing members of the council out the windows of Prague’s Town Hall, the First Defenestration of Prague. This led to the beginning of the Hussite Wars, in which Hussites and
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HISTORY King Sigmund’s armies fought over a period of 15 years. It wasn’t until the 16th century, with the Habsburg dynasty already in power, that Prague managed to regain a more stable status. In 1583 Emperor Rudolf II took up residence in Prague Castle, and Prague became the centre of European politics, art and science. It was a prosperous period for the city. But when Emperor Ferdinand II came to power, conflicts with the Protestants started up again, bringing on the Second Defenestration of Prague in 1618, when Catholic governors were thrown from the windows of Prague Castle. As a result, in 1621, 27 Protestant leaders were executed on Prague’s Old Town Square. This incident led to the Thirty Years War, one of the most destructive conflicts in European history. The city’s decline from a European powerhouse to a provincial town resulted in an economic collapse and a decrease in population. In 1784, by the order of Emperor Joseph II, the four independent towns of Prague (Old Town, New Town, Lesser Town and Hradcany) were
In 1583 Emperor Rudolf II took up residence in Prague Castle, and Prague became the centre of European politics, art and science.
Painting of the horror of the Thirty Years War
Nazis in Prague
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Wenceslas Square during the Velvet Revolution joined to form a single city. In the 19th century, Prague became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After World War I ended with that empire’s defeat, Czechoslovakia was created and Prague became its capital. The transformation into a big modern city continued at a rapid pace, something reflected in Prague’s highly diverse architectural styles. By 1930, the population had risen to 850,000. In 1939, as a part of the Munich Agreement, Germany occupied all of Czechoslovakia. The occupation resulted in the decimation of Prague’s Jewish community, with roughly 40,000 murdered. Prague citizens were oppressed and persecuted by the Nazis; politicians, university professors and students and many others were murdered, imprisoned or sent to concentration camps. Some parts of the city centre were destroyed by allied bombing in 1945. Prague was finally liberated in March that year when Soviet tanks reached the city after days of Czech resistance to the Nazi army, but consequently Czechoslovakia became a Soviet satellite. In 1968, there was a hiatus when Alexander Dubcek attempted to create a new “socialism with a human face” during what became known as the Prague Spring, when there was hope for democratic reform and the restoration of individual freedoms. This effort was suppressed when Soviet tanks entered Prague, capturing Dubcek and occupying the country. What followed was a period of even stronger communist oppression, with the Soviet Union controlling every political decision. In 1989, after years of communist occupation, when the Berlin Wall fell Czechs crowded the streets of Prague peacefully protesting and demanding change. They gathered on Wenceslas Square jingling keys as a symbol of freedom, as if to say, “Unlock the doors!” This was the Velvet Revolution, which ended with the overthrow of the communist government.
Prague by day
In 1993, the Velvet Divorce took place and the country was split into two new nations: Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Prague took its place as the capital city of a reformed country.
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zech culture has its similarities to German, especially in terms of beer and cuisine. However, Prague, as any Czech will tell you, isn’t typical of the Czech Republic as a whole. With its roller coaster population of expats and steady stream of tourists from all over the world, Prague is an increasingly diverse and cosmopolitan city. The city has long been a draw for expats from Western Europe and North America, but there’s also a thriving Vietnamese community owning almost all the fruit and vegetable markets you’ll come across. (You have them to thank for introducing Prague to a wonderful variety of Asian produce and spices.) In fact, there’s a spot about 45 minutes from the centre of town, known as Little Hanoi, where you can get authentic Vietnamese cuisine in winding alleys full of Vietnamese going about their daily business on bicycles.
Prague has long been a draw for expats from Western Europe and North America.
Religious Czechs are few and far between, as communist rule forced an atheist lifestyle upon the Czech people, something that has remained intact. The many majestic cathedrals and churches serve mostly as museums rather than functioning places of worship. Traditional Czech culture does make more of an appearance during the frequent nature-themed festivals that take place all over the city yearround, such as the festival to welcome spring featuring a witch-burning ceremony (Carodejnice), or the medieval-themed offerings at the Christmas markets (though this is mostly for tourists). Most Czechs are passionate nature lovers and find any excuse to get away from the city and into nature for various sporting activities, including skiing, mountain biking, hiking and even mushroom picking in early autumn. This is a big part of the Czech lifestyle, and many Czechs own a weekend house (complete with vegetable garden and / or fruit trees) a couple of hours outside Prague as a refuge from the city after a long week of work. Of course, beer drinking is central to life in Prague, as can be expected in a country that arguably produces the best beer in the world. Prague’s streets are filled with a wide range of pubs to suit every taste, and you’ll find them packed after work and on weekends. And when the weather’s half-decent, the crowds make a move to the beer gardens, located all over the city in parks of various sizes or on cosy green plazas. But when the weather isn’t so great, and for much of the year it isn’t, Prague’s citizens have many other options for entertainment besides a long afternoon at the pub. Prague is world-renowned for its film, classical music and architecture, and there’s always a fascinating variety of concerts, exhibitions and film and music festivals on offer.
Opposite - people enjoying a beer in Prague
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Almost 60% of Czechs claim to be atheist, agnostic, non-believer or not affiliated to any specific religion.
preading across about 500 sq km, Prague is home to around 1.4 million people. As with many major urban centres in Europe, Prague’s demographics differ from the Czech Republic as a whole, which is more than 90 percent Czech in terms of language and ethnicity. That number has been steadily increasing over the past two decades due to assimilation. Recognised minorities such as Moravians, Slovaks, Hungarians and Silesians have seen a steady decrease in numbers; however, the city has seen a significant increase in Vietnamese and Ukranians. During communist rule, the governments of Czechoslovakia and Vietnam had a special agreement for the education of Vietnamese citizens in Czechoslovakia which saw the first migrants arrive in 1956. Overall, the population increased by 1 percent due to immigration in 2007. Similar to many developed countries, the Czech Republic has a fertility rate of 1.5 percent and thus is dependent on immigration for further population growth. Almost 60 percent of Czechs claim to be atheist, agnostic, non-believer or not affiliated to any specific religion. Of those affiliated to a specific religion, Roman Catholics are the largest segment, at about 25 percent, down from almost 40 percent during the 1990s. In a Eurobarometer poll in 2005, only 19 percent of the population cited a belief in god, which is second lowest in the EU after Estonia. However, when asked if they believe in some sort of spirit or life force, 50 percent answered yes. • • • •
Literacy rate: 99.9 percent Life expectancy: male - 74.4, female - 80.6 Infant mortality rate: 2.83 deaths / 1000 live births Age structure (2007): 65+: 14.6 percent, 15-64: 71.2 percent
Crowd in Prague
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rague, an inspiring and enchanting medieval city, is known by many a name, including ‘the City of Seven Hills,’ referring to the beautifully hilly landscape of the Prague region. However, there are actually nine hills within the Vltava River basin over which the city is spread: Letna, Vitkov, Opys, Vetrov, Skalka, Emauzy, Vysehrad, Karlov and Petrin (the highest hill, which has a cable car to take you up to the very top, where you’ll also find a climbable Eiffel Tower replica).
The Vltava River is a defining feature of the city.
The Vltava River is a defining feature of the city (though swimming in it isn’t recommended) and is the longest river in the country, eventually joining the Elbe River. It runs through Prague for about 31 km, crossed by 18 bridges, and divides the city centre a bit unequally, with half on the left bank (Mala Strana and Hradcany) and half on the right bank (Stare Mesto, Nove Mesto). These sections of the city are where you might easily get lost in the charming maze of narrow, winding cobblestone lanes that aren’t too suitable for automobiles. Prague has 22 districts, but as Prague continues to grow, so do the numbers. Several small islands (including Slovansky, Zofin, Strelecky, Kampa and Detsky) are found in the Vltava, and these cosy green spaces are often used for festivals and concerts. Kampa Island is separated from Mala Strana by a small branch of the Vltava, known as the Devil’s Arm. This quaint historical area (the island was once full of mills and gardens, and four of the watermills still remain) has been called the Venice of Prague.
Prague district map
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It’s always respectful if you try to throw in some Czech words and phrases when speaking to a local, even if they know some English.
he Czech language is from the Slavic language family, and has more in common with Polish, Slovak and Ukrainian (Slovak and Czech speakers understand each other perfectly) than with Russian or Serbian. Czech uses the Roman alphabet (not Cyrillic), with a few accent marks thrown in for fun (often used to create a double consonant sound), and which are rather simple to remember, but need lots of practice to pronounce correctly: č (ch), ř (rrrrrzh), š (sh), ž (zzh), ň (nyuh). You’ll also find t’ and d’, where the apostrophe after the letter implies a softer ending pronunciation, something a little like this: t’ = tyuh, d’ = dyuh. Vowels with this kind of accent, á, are pronounced with a longer sound than a regular ‘a’. You’ll also see ě (ye) and ů (short oo sound). It’s a good idea to get started on your Czech skills before you arrive. Pick up a phrasebook or instructional CD, or download a podcast. Definitely purchase a dictionary to supplement the use of your phrasebook. It’s always respectful if you try to throw in some Czech words and phrases when speaking to a local, even if they know some English. It shows you’re at least making an effort as a foreigner in their country, instead of assuming that they should speak your language. Ask your child’s school if Czech classes are available for parents through the school. Look up conversation exchanges on fliers at expat hangouts like the Globe Bookstore or on websites like www.expats.cz. The Slavic grammar system can take time to master, with its endless declinations and conjugations, and the Czech language is also notorious for stringing together consonants and skipping vowels, such as in the words krk (throat) or mrkvy (carrots). But more and more Czechs (especially younger people) speak English nowadays, and English teachers are still in high demand. German will also help you get by, since many Czechs from the older generation learned it in school. The same goes for Russian, as people were forced to learn it when Czechoslovakia was under communist rule. There’s been a recent wave of Russians migrating to Prague so you may hear Russian spoken quite often; however, speaking Russian to a local isn’t recommended, as it’s considered offensive or upsetting. Public transport signs and announcements are often in both Czech and English, and sometimes also German. Most tourist signs are in English.
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helping others to be the best they can be Education and learning has always been our focus and our area of expertise. Our people and the people we work with all have a good understanding of what this means to us. We aim to provide students with the opportunity to be the best they can be. WWW. N OR DA N GLI A.COM /PR AGUE
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