Saturday, 25 October 2008
I have been meaning to blog about the tourists in Cesky Krumlov for months, but somehow never got round to it, until now. Cesky Krumlov is great place to partake in the sport of tourist watching, even though we are now at the very end of the season. Like most UNESCO world heritage sites Krumlov is a honeypot for visitors from all five continents. And when not being annoyed by them, as they dawdle and block my way or take up all the seats in the restaurants, I sometimes amuse myself trying to work out the nationalities before I hear the language. It may sound strange but the nationality that regularly floors me is my own – the British, but before I get on to that, let us take a seat on a bench on the Town Square and watch the comings and goings for a while.
First into the square are the Japanese – they are usually the first. They normally appear in groups following some woman holding an umbrella above her head, she may even have a microphone around her neck. The Japs are dressed conformly in leasurewear – slacks and light raincoat, trainers for walking, sun visor or cap. some may even wear a surgical mask over their mouths. I am not clear whether this is because they have a cold and wish in their famous politeness not to pass it on, or whether they fear those nasty Czech germs. They will eat together in their group too, one minute you will be alone in a restaurant wondering why the waiter put you in the worst seat in the house, when suddenly they arrive and take up all the tables. The food will be the same for each of them (no doubt some deal has taken place between the restaurateur and their guide) – a set meal which does not require them to order from the menu.
An Asian couple arrive – Japanese or Korean I wonder – they are not part of the group. He sits down and waits as his wife disappears. From time to time she will reappear with something in a bag, which she will deposit with him. This goes on for over an hour, before they gather together the shopping and leave. During this time the square has seen a loud guided tour of Italians, the guide for which needs her microphone as they are chatting to each other as she talks. Next came three young hispanics, from their tshirts we see that they are Brazilians, who walked across the centre of the square several times before they too disappear. Suddenly my interest is taken by a middle-aged couple who march in briskly holding those sprung hikers sticks, as if climbing the north face of Cesky Krumlov Town Square. Germans or Austrians I think.
Opposite me on another bench a lone young woman is reading in the warm Autumn sunshine. An American backpacker on a solo trip around Europe, taking in the culture – next stop Vienna perhaps. There are plenty of backpackers in Cesky Krumlov, and you will even find a few in the Winter, mostly they come from the US or the Antipodes. They cluster in hostel cafes and bars and exchange horror stories of their experiences – of being ripped off by London taxi-drivers, of expensive (for them) crappy hotels, of getting lost in foreign cities, of bugs that bite in the night. This jaunt is part of their modern initiation ceremony into adulthood, before they settle down to university or a job.
A couple walk past, they are tall and expensively dressed in leather jackets. There is something about them that says new Russian elite to me. And finally another party enters the Square. They are not dressed in any sort of uniform, nor are they clearly of one physical type. They listen to the guide whilst looking around the Square. They could be Dutch or a mixed party who have come on a daytrip from Prague. On the other hand they could quite possibly be Brits.