Hammer and drill

Photo: Comission Européenne

Summer in Prague has many joys to offer to its dwellers and those of our guests who venture beyond the tourist zones that are packed throughout the year, except perhaps November. For one, you can enjoy much quieter pace of life, as most Prague people are vacationing abroad or at their summer country refuges. Streets are less busy, trams and metro less crowded, and pubs are emptier. Having spent much of the summer in the capital so far, I’ve certainly had enough time to take advantage of these summer treats.

But it wouldn’t be the real world if all this was true with no price paid. It just isn’t just agreeable, relaxed citizens like myself who take advantage of the time when things go smoother in Prague.

In early July, we moved to an area of Prague known as Vinohrady, an allegedly upper-scale neighbourhood where people who think they are anybody live. Compared to our previous location across the river, it has more eateries, nastier shop owners, less dog poo in the streets, and more traffic. Also, I can now get to work on foot, as the Czech Radio building is only some 15 minutes’ walk away.

On my first walk to work, I was strolling down the long street that eventually leads to Czech Radio, and I saw lots of construction works going on several blocks away from our new apartment. It was just past 8 AM, but the noise from all the jack-hammering, drilling and cutting was all pervasive. I remember looking up at the surrounding buildings with all the unfortunate inhabitants, and pitying them.

Of course I didn’t realize that not even a week later the workers would have moved up the street to our area. I only understood what happened when one morning there was no need for an alarm clock. The jack-hammering would awaken the dead.

But this time, I was really in for some fun. I had to take some time off because I needed to finish a job that was long overdue. So I stayed home working.

The crew out in the street were also working. Starting around 7 and finishing around 5, also every day, including Saturdays and Sundays. But with all the windows closed, it was nearly bearable, at least they were outside.

Photo: European Commission
But on the third or fourth day of my home confinement, I was to learn how it feels when they drill in your head. Apparently, there was an old shop downstairs in our building, and they decided to renovate it completely during the summer.

A partial remedy was switching my daily routine, getting up late – noise permitting – and finishing early in the morning.

But during the day shift, there was no ignoring the sound. There were times when I conceived of the noise almost philosophically. I enveloped myself in it, I tried giving in to it, I tried listening to all the jack-hammers, drills and hammers. It was like a numbing pain, like a toothache.

I can see now clearly that I was going mad. But I was saved – with my work done, I could come back to Radio Prague. The renovation of the Czech Radio building is also underway, but it’s nothing compared to the centrifuge of noise down where I live.

I don’t think I’ll make the same mistake again. Next time, I will follow suit and flee town on first sighting any activity by “reeks and wrecks”, as Kurt Vonnegut put it. And I won’t come back until the summer is over, and the city is bustling again, but not being shaken by hammers and drills.