I’ve been eternally bummed that I never made it to Prague when I
visited Europe in 1996. Back then, it was the new place to stop on the backpacker circuit. I missed out, and
now read about how many folks are so over Prague and its throngs of tourists and English teachers.
Sooooo, Prague is popular — that might turn some backpackers away, but not me. I’ll be heading there next year, and
will have to see for myself what popularity has done to Prague. Until then, I’ll study up on the Prague that was, and
start by digging into the mini-archive of Prognosis, the first
non-communist English-language newspaper in Prague. Members of the ambitious team that founded the newspaper in 1991
included Matt Welch,Ben Sullivan, Laura Pitter, Chris Scheer, Jenny Ogar and Vladan Sir. Prognosis was “…an
alternative newspaper that track[ed] the Czech Republic’s traumatic transition from communism to capitalism.” (SF
Examiner, 1993). It attrracted attention as a respected publication, but as Welch said in the
post-mortem salute (it died in 1995), “…the oldest owner
was 24, everyone was drunk, and no one within vomiting distance of the place ever had a clue about running a business.”
The American journalists who visitied Prague back then were
criticized by Welch for writing about the YAPs (Young
Americans in Prague) instead of focusing on the city itself and the changes it was experiencing.
There are unfortunately links to only a few Prognosis articles on Welch’s site, but they’re worth browsing to get an
idea of what was going on in Prague 10-15 years ago. For more, read Think Magazine’s
Let the Kazoo’s Sound: A Decade of English Language Press in Prague.
The best way to learn about any place before visiting is to read the local papers, so for Prague, check out these two
English language pubs: Prague Post and
The Prague Tribune.