Prague cleans up the waterfront
This week marks the fifth anniversary of the devastating 2002 floods that hit the Czech Republic, including the capital, Prague. Since the deluge, billions of crowns have gone into repairing the damage. Several parts of the city which, for decades had looked a little down-at-heel, were given something of a facelift. One such area is the Vltava River's right bank, which Prague City Council is now hoping to transform into a promenade lined with attractions.
Karel Vorlicky has been coming here for the last 65 years to fish. He explains how the area has changed over time:
"The tow-paths have changed, the water is cleaner, but people don't have the same relationship with nature as they did in the past. But I like it here; I can come here on public transport, no problem. In recent years it has got prettier and gone up-market. But there are a lot of visitors here, and for some people that's probably a good thing, but not for us fishermen."
But it's very much a work in progress: Filip Dvorak is one of the town councillors behind the plans to regenerate the waterfront:
Eva Kasalkova is the owner of one of these four newly-opened stalls. She sells smoothies, and staroceska trdla, sweet rolls of pastry coated in cinnamon or chocolate. She tells me a bit about how her first month of trade has been:
"Sales are good, especially sales of fruit juice. A lot of people walk past this spot and are interested in one of our fruit juices, especially because they are all natural and free from additives. For the most part, it is foreigners who are buying our smoothies, because they are more used to the concept. English people, in particular."
The walkway may not be fully decked-out with all the souvenir stands, beaches, playgrounds and performance spaces that Prague City Council envisage on the site by 2011. But even as it is, it satisfies a large number of purposes. Here is what a handful of people I bumped into there had to say:
"If I compare this to what was here before the revolution, it's much nicer. It really has its own atmosphere. I really like this waterfront, because it is all newly done-up, and it's oriented towards people."
"There is a sign saying this is a cycle-path, but it isn't a special path for bikes. I find it really difficult to go over these cobble-stones. I normally take another route."
"The benches are well designed, but it's a pity that that sculpture there, with the old trees - there is no explanation accompanying it. There is a little board saying who made it, but no further explanations. But that's something you find in the whole of Prague, no? Yeah."