By

02-12-2001

Regular listeners to the programme will know that our station is on Prague's Vinohradska street - number 12 to be precise. What you may not know is that Vinohradska is a really long street, stretching all the way from the top of Wenceslas Square out to the Olsanska graveyards in Prague 3.

Being very close to the centre, Radio Prague's end of the street is quite upmarket, with expensive clothes shops and furniture shops - the latter ranging from antique shops to the kind of place where an orange plastic dustbin would cost you a week's wages.

Actually, the whole area around here - Vinohrady - is one of the more fashionable parts of the city - a 'good address' as the Czechs say.

I'm happy to say that I'm also based on Vinohradska - my flat isn't at the really trendy end, but further away from the centre, and close to the cemeteries I mentioned. I'm not complaining though - it's a wonderful place to live - and of course it doesn't take me long to get to work in the mornings. It's a very pleasant walk, and downhill too.

My part of the street - between the metro stations Jiriho z Podebrad and Flora - is more like a regular neighbourhood. I say regular - but as is the case everywhere I suppose - it does have a few quirks - and a few locals who are decidedly quirky.

One of them is quite an attention grabber - he's a short, aging man - with a hairy back and arms. I know how hirsute he is because I've seen him many times in a shoulder-revealing woman's dress - not that there's any other kind of dress that I know of. He always stands in the exact same place, wearing the same dress and grinning broadly at passers-by - indeed his grin is quite infectious and he seems to make most people smile.

I mentioned my amusing neighbour to a friend and he said there was what he called a 'simple' explanation for it - the man owns a clothes shop there and that's his unusual way of attracting business. The next time I saw the dress-man I noticed that he was indeed standing outside a clothes shop - called in the literal Czech way - Men's Fashion Fashion Goods Women's Fashion. I also noticed that his dress had a price-tag hanging out the back. I assume that means it's for sale - but is there a special 'already worn by short hairy man' discount? I'm afraid to ask.

I'm also afraid to ask another local about his look - he might scalp me. There's a guy I see around really often dressed head to toe like an American Indian - very convincing he is too - long jet black hair, headband, rides a horse bare-back. Actually, I've never seen him on a horse - but I'm sure if I did he wouldn't use the white man's saddle.

I mentioned the literal nature of Czech shop names - bakers are usually just called Bakers, pubs are often called Pub - I often pass a shop where they sell electronics and clothes - it's called Electrotextil.

One exception to this trend is a brothel around the corner from my place. It's not called Brothel. It has the rather more colourful name of VIP Club Viagra. What a mad name I say to myself every time I pass it, not that I have anything against mad names. In case you're wondering I haven't been there, but I imagine it's not just open to VIPs - on Viagra.

02-12-2001