Are Britons earning a bad name in Prague?
It's that time of year again. When the first sunrays glisten off the small plastic replicas of the Petrin Tower being sold on Charles Bridge and the evening chorus of flocks of stag parties can be heard across the Old Town. The tourist season is upon us; another wave of the estimated 6 million people who visit the city each year. And it's no wonder. Prague has a lot to offer as a tourist destination: stunning architecture, cultural heritage and of course you can't leave out the national drink. But I can never help but wonder how many visitors are here more for the latter than anything else.
Don't get me wrong, it's true that there are some great nights out to be had, and the beer is some of the world's finest. Yet when bars begin to display signs that read "NO STAG PARTIES" prominently in their doorways, as I've seen in quite a number of places, there is definitely a problem emerging with the "get drunk quickly" mentality, which accompanies them. The arrival of low cost airlines in the capital a few years ago brought this new wave of stag-party tourism to the Czech Republic, and it's now the most lucrative part of the tourist industry in Prague. I've met Czechs who actually find it fairly funny to see, say, a group of 30 people, men and women, all wearing pink bunny ears and tails and many people don't have a problem with this.
But there comes a point at which the behaviour of some earns them a bad reputation, and as far as Praguers are concerned, this is most applicable to the British. Just by walking through the city you can see why this is the case. Although Prague receives stag-parties from countries all over Europe, most of the drunken parties that you hear in the streets are talking English with British accents. Is it just that there are more British parties than those from other countries, or are they genuinely more boisterous? Stereotypes, such as the view of the Brits as drunken football hooligans, would have you believe the latter. As the 2006 World Cup approaches, for example, German authorities are considering measures to prevent tensions between English and German fans. They are even considering prosecuting those who sing the theme tune of the famous Second World War film "The Dambusters" during matches, due to its wartime connection.
But the issue applies to every nation, as much as it applies to British stag parties in the Czech Republic. As long as respect for the host people and their culture remains at the forefront in a visitor's mind, as I believe still remains the case for the majority of British tourists, Prague should remain the captivating and mysterious city it is renowned for being. It is simply a matter of common courtesy.