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New Europe

Day One Hundred and Thirteen: Prague to Karlovy Vary

Meeting Miss World 
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Meeting Tatana Kucharova, the Czech Republic's first Miss World.
Michael Palin - New EuropeTo counter what's happening she and her friends try very hard to bring traditional African musicians to Prague, but the immigration policies are very strict, so it's not easy. I realise that throughout my journey I've seen only a handful of Africans, and Bára is the only one who seems to have any personal experience of, or indeed any interest in, the growing numbers of young Africans trying to get into Europe. When they get here, I ask her, what do they find?

'Loneliness. They find loneliness, and they find people very strict and unfriendly. They get the material world, but they don't get the emotional world. It's impossible because people don't chat on the street here.'

She's angry, and right to be so, because I think it offends her own sense of tolerance. She was brought up in the Czechoslovakia that I remember from twenty years ago. Everyone being watched, friends informing on each other. Then came the Velvet Revolution, which she remembers as being very much riskier than it sounded. More recently she saw the Czechs and Slovaks split, which she was against. She desperately wants to bring people together rather than keep them apart.

Despite her disillusions, Bára is optimistic. She likes Prague for its culture, and the Czechs for their humour.

'It's dark humour. We are very ironic and sarcastic. We can get used to everything, you know. Even though we don't have much to offer we can somehow take it.'

As we come back to our pedalo port the Charles Bridge is heaving with people, and I've no wish to join them. My short voyage with a Yellow Sister has given me an insider's view of life here which you'd never get in a month of tours.

I shall look out for the fires on the hilltops tonight.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day One Hundred and Thirteen: Prague to Karlovy Vary
  • Country/sea: Czech Republic
  • Place: Prague
  • Book page no: 264

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