Letter from Prague A different perspective
Before I actually moved to Prague some seven years ago, it was very much a strange city to me as I only briefly visited here a few times over many years. Since my arrival, I have come to know and like many aspects of life in the capital. But my perspective has again changed radically since my wife and I became proud parents of our twin boys just about a year ago.
You would probably never imagine how pushing a double stroller around changes the way you see the city. The first issue we were faced with on out trips with the boys – you would be surprised how far you can walk in an hour – was the width of doors. “How do you get through a door that’s not wide enough,” a friend asked me. “I don’t”, I said. I have become an expert in assessing whether or not we can make it through a door by just looking at it – in shops and pharmacies, cafés and restaurants, and many other places.
Lifts are very tricky. We naturally use them whenever we can – in the building where the babies’ doctor’s office is, on the metro, or when visiting friendly families for play dates. The lift at our sons’ doctors’ office is particularly difficult to use: you can get the stroller in but that’s about all that fits inside. The lift operator – my wife or me – then has to lean over the stroller like an acrobat so that the door can actually close.
Taking the stroller on public transport can also be a challenge. I have come to appreciate the Prague transit authority’s online timetable which indicates which connections are operated by low-floor trams. The Metro is easy but a lot depends on whether the station has a barrier-free access; ours does not which means you have to hold the stroller on the escalator, up and down, blocking the path for those who are in a hurry. But from my experience so far, people have been very helpful. When I’m pushing the stroller on my own, I get understanding looks and even comments usually from elderly women who appear to be overcome with affection mixed with awe.
My wife and I have also become experts on baby-friendly cafés and eateries within out limited action radius. Things were a bit easier when the babies were really small as we could just bring them in a stroller and leave them there. But since they started crawling about, a play area is a must.
The choice is surprisingly narrow. There are only three or four places within a walking distance from where we live but their play areas leave room for improvement. Some are too small and overcrowded with babies when the weather is bad; one of them – a local branch of an international coffee shop chain – even has an uncovered socket on the wall right in the middle of the play pen.
Sometimes we just go to regular adult cafés but when we launch the baby-feeding process there, with all the stuff, bottles, spoons, clothes everything else and lying around, I noticed that soon an empty space forms around us with the other patrons moving out of reach.
Before our children were born, we also never realized how bad Prague air really was. Last November when the city was covered with smog, the kids fell sick and could not get rid of their cough for weeks. That made us think twice about where we wanted to live. In our never-ending hunt for an apartment, we now check pollution levels for the area before we even consider calling the agent. We have also considered what many Prague families have done before us, for better or for worse – moving out of the city. But that seems such a radical move that I’m sure it will take time before we find the resolve to leave our city life behind.