Some reasons to love (and hate) summer in Prague

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Men at work: Maniny tram stop in Prague gets an overhaul

There are many reasons to love summer in Prague. It’s an excuse to explore the city’s great parks, have a wander along the river or just chill out in a beer garden.

However, there’s one major downer besides the influx in tourists – and let’s face it, there’s no avoiding them in central Prague whatever the time of year.

Roadworks.

I’m starting to associate summer in Prague more with the smell of tar than the taste of a cold pint. Everywhere I turn my ears are assaulted by the racket of a pneumatic drill or the chugging of a digger.

I understand that repairs need to made to keep the roads maintained. I know I’d soon be complaining if every stretch of highway was full of potholes which turned into mini lakes during the annual snow melt.

However.

Girl In Czechland pauses to take a deep breath.

What exactly is going on with the trams?

Yes, I understand that there must be diversions. I’m partial to a diversion or two myself as readers of this blog will attest. Anyway, what’s the point of giving a tram the same number when half of its route is completely different? Isn’t that just bound to cause confusion?

Girl In Czechland continues deep breathing exercises.

I haven’t finished. Then there’s the issue of the metamorphosing trams. They aren’t mysteriously turning into beetles  – that’s a Kafka reference you ignoramuses – but changing their identity seconds before slamming their doors shut.

I was standing at Delnicka one Saturday afternoon. Having consulted with the timetables on display I realised that I needed to take tram 24 instead of the now defunct tram 3 in order to get to my destination. So far, so good.

As I was patiently waiting I noticed a tram on the horizon. Number 14 was approaching the stop.

Is this tram 14 or just a mirage?

However, this was obviously of no use to me, right? Wrong. Just as the passengers were getting off and I was returning to reading my novel (Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – those terrible Tudors) the tram magically become number 24!

Of course by the time I realised this, the doors had closed with a thud and I had to wait another fifteen minutes in the blazing heat until the next 14/24 appeared.

Don’t get me wrong: summer in Prague is still fantastic. The tram issue is just a very small fly in the proverbial ointment. However, public transport chaos is something I associate with the vast metropolis of London. Can’t something be done to make things less confusing?

Anyway, here’s a picture of some people peering into a hole in the road. Yes, I am that desperate for material.

26 Comments

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26 Responses to Some reasons to love (and hate) summer in Prague

  1. Richardinprague

    Mysterious indeed, Girl!

    I remember once, soon after I arrived here, I was travelling back from the far reaches of Prague 6 towards the city centre around midnight on a regular tram. It got as far as Hradcanska, where it seemed to wait a bit longer than usual, before setting off on a completely different route to a destination I didn’t recognise.

    That tram had metamorphised from a regular tram to a night tram.

    I thought it best to stay on the tram because (1) I thought I might pass somewhere that I recognised, and (2) it was cold outside.

    I didn’t recognise anywhere, and when I eventually got to “konecna zastavka”, I was turfed out in the cold and had to wait an hour before I was allowed back on! Not even a trafika was open for a warming grog!

    Ach jo!

    Keep cool 🙂

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Richard,

      Eek! Sorry to hear about your night tram experience – I’ll try to be on the lookout for that potential pitfall so I don’t repeat your mistake. Where’s a friendly Herna Bar when you need one, eh?

      GIC

  2. Hi GIC – I very much sympathize with all that you write here. Last summer we had no trams at all to where we live for 3 months, whilst they extended and relaid the line. This summer, we have Tram 20 rather than Tram 8 coming to Podbaba meaning a change of tram at Hradcanska to get to Church. Then on a couple of weekends we’ve had both Tram 20 & Tram 8 coming to turn around at Podbaba because the whole stretch up to Divorka Sarka was shut!

    It is mostly the result of the neglect of the system during 40 odd years of communism which is now being put to right. And the weather in summer is the best time to do so. All of this also confuses the tourists who try to follow what their guidebook tells them, only to find that the tram they are on doesn’t go to where the guidebook says it does!

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Ricky,

      Yes, I also pity tourists trying to grapple with all the transport chaos: there are quite a few hostels in my local area and so I imagine more than a couple must have fallen prey to the perils of the metamorphosing trams.

      I do think though that this post is a bit grumbly – perhaps I should find something cheerier for next time!

      GIC

    • Hi Chaz. I’m living in Podbaba too so I know what are you saying 🙂

      Often diversions in Podbaba (and anywhere in Prague) are not a result of the neglect yet. All tram lines in Prague have been reconstructed several times since the fall of communism. In example the line to Podbaba has been completely renewed 3 times.

      The diversions are caused by extending of the subway A to Motol and digging of the tunnel Blanka. The Evropska (to Divoka Sarka) was closed several times because the tram rails were moved around several holes which are future halls of the new subway.

      • Hi Ondra – I did understand that some of the tram diversions these last few years have been either because of the construction of Tunnel Blanka or the extension of the Metro green line out to Motol. I have also driven around several of the large holes in Evropska in recent months 🙂 Thank you for my new name ‘Chaz’ 😉 As I frequently say, I do answer to almost anything people call me!

      • Oh, I’m sorry for the name 🙂 Probably I was too sleepy when I was writting the message that I removed six letters from your nick 😀

  3. Quor

    Hello,
    I read your blog quite regularly, it’s very interesting to know what expats think about us, Czechs 🙂 But now, I am even able to give some advice – which is very satisfying 🙂 I am known as a public transport geek (you know, that kind of guy who knows which bus you need to take to go to Lipence for example.)
    The situation (diversions and stuff) now is pretty much a kind of an experiment for plenty of changes which shall be effective of 1st September – so I advice you to check the site of ROPID (the manager of the Prague Integrated Transport System) so you can rant even longer: http://www.ropid.cz/files/archiv/index.html (the site is only in Czech, but it’s rather self-explanatory)

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Quor,

      Glad you’re enjoying the blog. I have heard rumours about tomorrow’s transport changes – I suppose I’d better finally summon up the courage to click on that link and see just how they’ll affect me…

      By the way, how *do* you get to Lipence? 😉

      GIC

      • Milan

        You take the bus 241 from Smíchovské nádraží 🙂 There’s actually been a rather extensive reconstruction of the main road to Lipence going on for 6 months already, so the trip takes a little longer due to a detour. That’s nothing compared to the mess us Lipenečáci suffer from, though; I fear even the slightest rain which turns the road into a muddy cesspool that destroys anything it touches! My boots and trousers require daily cleaning just from a short walk to the diversed bus stop 🙂

        Regarding the metamorphing trams (love the Kafka refference!), there really isn’t a neat solution to the problem I think they try to solve. In the case of 24, the problem was that there was no loop in which the line could end and turn around, so it took a huge 15-minute-long loop around Holešovice, starting and ending in Strossmayerovo náměstí. If you never took the tram before and wanted to leave Holešovice, you could easily waste 15 minutes of your life going the wrong way because of the loop since the tram terminated in the same stop in both directions which rendered the jízdní řád almost unintelligible. Eventually, you would reach your destination no matter the direction you took but the sense of confusion would remain 🙂 To remedy the situation, Ortenovo náměstí became a fictional terminal station, in which the trams change their numbers and so the confusion of this type is gone. However, the tramvajáci are notoriously lazy and change the numbers at the last possible moment, usually right in the following stop Dělnická, a practice you fell victim to 😉 Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if the stops had 14/24 written on them but that would definitely require some clever redesign of the whole infographic system. In other words, too much work, the half-assed solution must suffice 😀

  4. Hi there, interesting tram post 🙂 It appears that public transport, as well as the weather, really is the never ending topic for English people 🙂

    I must disagree, though. Prague’s public transport has the reputation for being one of the most developed, reliable and user-friendly in the world (nevermind the grumpy staff). Having lived here most of my life, I’d put my name on that. The majority of tram lines haven’t changed in years (except for temporary, road-work related diversions) and you could set your clock by their punctuality (as opposed to London, where there could be no bus for an hour and then three same buses would arrive at once, or a totally packed bus wouldn’t stop at all).

    I think comparing our public transport with London is harsh. They’re just different cities with different problems and different ways of solving them. Prague tries to get most of the work done over the summer break, when kids are out of school, most people in Croatia and road traffic is lighter. It’s a bit annoying for those staying home, but I personally prefer it to the constant tube weekend closures.

    Having said that, I do admit I haven’t lived in Prague for six years (by the time you moved here, I was already settled in London) and therefore I’m not up to date with the current situation. I’ve heard something about a grand overhaul starting with the new school year (why do they change something that works so well…), so it’s likely your trouble is related to that, and there’s bound to be lots of confused, angry and late-for-work folks in the weeks to come. Am I glad I won’t be here 🙂

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Jiri,

      I realised when I read your comment that I might have given the impression that I think Prague’s transport system is generally a bit rubbish. Oops! In fact, having lived in London, I greatly appreciate the fact that usually everything runs super-smoothly here in Czechland and I suppose that’s the reason I’ve been so irritated by the mysterious metamorphosing trams and the big holes in the ground.

      Still, the real test will be how the city copes with all the changes to the various routes planned to take place from tomorrow. Think I’ll be staying at home for that one!

      GIC

  5. Pavel

    With summer public transport layoff it is something mysterious like Kafka novels or Vaclav Klaus at all.
    Short analyse:
    1.Prague belongs to Praguers
    2.Nobody is interested in tourists because they are not Praguers and even not Czechs
    3.Praguers are out of Prague in summer if they can
    4.Opportunity to offer confused tourists glare to big hole in quiet street without trams

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Pavel,

      Love your comment 🙂 In fact, I think this is much more entertaining that my actual post – apart from the photo of the hole in the ground, which is unmissable…

      GIC

      • Pavel

        You are only true hero of this blog – still alive and blogging!!
        After demonstratiton of your ability move to unconscious your first battle with czech “prodavačka” nobody have doubts.

      • girlinczechland

        Hello Pavel,

        Your encouraging comment made me laugh out loud! I’m glad I have such a positive relationship with my Czech readers: I can hear you all cheering from the sidelines each time I successfully buy five rohliky!

        Yes, I’m a survivor! I’m still standing – even if grumpy people do insist on slamming the phone down on me from time to time and the foreign police threaten to fine me 50,000kc despite the fact I’m an EU citizen (long story which may be the subject of a post soon…) Viva Czechland!

        GIC

  6. Oh my goodness! I was so looking for some foreigner to speak/write/whatever about the Czech Republic. I so so so wanted to know if it’s just me (and many many many other -especially young- Czechs) who don’t like it here:D

    Haha, I’m glad I don’t have to go from Palmovka to Holešovice:D And anyway – tube rules:D
    (Though… Národní třída is out of order now and will be for about two years:D But that’s no matter for me, I’m going from Zličín to Palmovka and back:D)

    • girlinczechland

      Hello there Cantharus,

      I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying the blog but sorry to hear you have negative feelings about being Czech. I always find it a bit sad when I meet Czechs who can’t believe that I would actually enjoy living in their country. However, I’ve touched on that topic many times elsewhere: what I’m really curious to hear from you is what exactly *is* so bad about living in Czechland if you’re a young Czech?

      GIC

  7. Hi there, very funny article! I don’t really envy you foreigners having to deal with horible Prague transportation system and with their information signs all in czech… Anyway the thing with the trams is gonna’ get worse starting today, because they created more of those metamorphosis trams (they actually claim that it is a good thing :D). Poor you GIC..!

    • girlinczechland

      Greetings,

      Don’t worry – the only tram-related mishap I’ve had recently is going miles past the right stop because I’d been enjoying a few too many glasses of vino until the small hours – and then having to pay out for a taxi to get where I actually needed to be. Oops. Don’t tell Czechman…

      GIC

  8. I must say that every time I am in Prague (which is every few months), I always breath a sigh of relief at how reliable the tram system is in comparison to what I deal with on a daily basis in Rome (where I’m an expat). However, reading your email made me smile a little, as the switching numbers and massive construction made me realize that public transit in Prague and Rome maybe aren’t as different than I thought! Anyway, as someone who lives by public transit, I definitely sympathize with the need to vent about it every once in awhile.

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Jessica,

      I must confess this post is a bit of a grumbly one but I think it’s precisely because the public transport here is usually so reliable that I find it so irritating when things go pear-shaped! Still, I’ve just about come to terms with the permanent changes which took place at the beginning of the month. Thankfully none of the tramlines I rely on got the scrap…

      GIC

  9. Petra

    I would like to explain why trams nr.14 and 24 change. It took me some time but I understood it. The Ortenovo namesti stop is a terminal. But there is no loop. So when a tram nr.14 comes it finishes its track. But there is no place and no time to make a break. And in the same situation is a tram nr.24 which goes from the opposite direction. The only possibility to send trams back is to change their numbers. I don´t understand why this stop was determined to be a terminal, but probably they had wanted to save money and no real terminal was near.
    I agree that this solution is confusing.

    • Petra

      And this is not extraordinary situation because of street repaires but it is a part of a new trafic system.

    • This post was written before the change, though, and it wasn’t at Ortenovo namesti, it was at Delnicka. And THAT is confusing.

      If it consoles you, GIC, the same thing happens in Brno from time to time. I distinctly recall getting on a number 13 tram that turned into a number 3 (or some such numbers) when we were sitting on it, taking us where we’ve just come from. It was a day when something was going on in the streets, and it took us an hour to get from a place to a place that are normally lying on the same tram line and would take about half that time to reach.

  10. Honza

    Ahoj,

    když jsem toto četl, první mě napadl typický vtip:
    Jaká jsou roční období v České republice (nejen v Praze)? podzim, zima, jaro, výluky.

    Typical Czech joke: What are the seasons in the Czech Republic (not only Prague)? autumn, winter, spring, roadworks

    And the same is typical during Easter (when Czechs leave Prague and turists come). This year they even closed Metro claiming there are fewer passengers (they aren’t), how arrogant! Unfortunately, there many imperfections…

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