Only in the Czech Republic…..

You are entering the Czech Republic © Ricky Yates

You are entering the Czech Republic © Ricky Yates

I am very aware that in July and August, I only managed to publish three posts here on my blog. And I also note that today, half of September will have passed without anything being published either. My two excuses are the very hot weather that we experienced during nearly all of both summer months, together with my hospitalisation at the beginning of August and having to attend umpteen subsequent medical appointments.

This post is the beginning of my attempt to start writing and publishing regularly once again. I hope my readers will forgive its slightly more frivolous nature – I do also have planned some more serious subjects to blog about in due course.

‘Only in the Czech Republic’, is the usual comment Sybille and I make, when we see something that is so typically Czech, yet would cause shock and surprise in most other cultures. The sights I describe in this post, all fall into this category and were all observed during the recent very hot and sticky weather in August.

One Saturday morning, we made our regular weekly visit to the Farmer’s Market at Vítezné námestí. Because of the exceptionally hot weather, the Prague 6 authorities, as well as providing a water supply to the stalls needing one, had also set up a rotating fountain on the grassy area behind the stalls. That Saturday morning, there were numerous children ranging in age from approximately three to nine, thoroughly enjoying themselves by running in and out of the water being sprayed. And they were all, without exception, not wearing a single item of clothing. Judging by their skin colour and lack of tan lines, it is what they had been doing all summer.

Their parents were, no doubt, amongst those adults sitting under the nearby trees. But there were no irrational fears of paedophiles taking photographs or abducting a child. Children were being allowed to be children – totally unselfconsciously enjoying themselves.

I have frequently commented in this blog and in conversation, on how well so many Czech women hold their age. When seeing three generations out together, with the new mother pushing the buggy/stroller and her mother alongside, it is frequently difficult to believe that there is actually a generation between the two ladies.

However, on that same Saturday morning at the Farmer’s Market, there was a lady who I’m convinced was, like me, the wrong side of sixty. Yet she was wearing a sun dress held up by two straps no wider than shoes laces, revealing bare arms and shoulders and with a hemline that finished somewhere above mid-thigh. Whilst the weather was very hot and sticky, it still was an ‘only in the Czech Republic’ sight.

One very positive aspect of the Czech relaxed attitude to the human body, is that women can freely breastfeed, without anyone batting an eyelid. One evening during August, Sybille and I were sitting in the beer garden of Bar-Restaurace U Pramene, when two couples came in and sat at a nearby table. One couple, without children, sat on one side, whilst the other couple with a young child and a baby, sat on the other side.

As all the adults were enjoying their beers and the young child her soft drink, the baby started making a noise. So the mother just unbuttoned the top of her dress, got her breast out, lifted the baby from its buggy/stroller, and began to breastfeed him/her. But whilst doing so, she also happily continued drinking her beer! A most interesting way to give the baby an introduction to what Czech people call tekutý chléb / liquid bread 🙂

As I wrote in my most famous blog post, ‘How to be Czech in 10 easy steps‘ under point three, one aspect of ‘dressing Czech’ for ladies, is showing a rather large amount of cleavage. As I wrote there, this is look not just reserved for a romantic evening with your husband or boyfriend, but can often be seen being worn in situations which can seem a little inappropriate.

Our host Ceskobratrská církve evangelické / Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren congregation at Kostel sv Klimenta / St Clement’s Church, have a practice of a leading lay person, (I presume, an elected elder), being up front with the Pastor, helping to lead worship each Sunday. At the end of their service, this person always stands with the Pastor at the back of the Church, shaking hands and talking to the congregation as they leave. It is while this is happening that I, along with my helpers, slip into the building to start setting up for our service.

On the last Sunday in August, the lay leader was a lady, probably in her mid forties. She was wearing a summer dress which was quite long by normal Czech standards, the hemline finishing a little below her knees. But in total contrast, the neckline of her dress plunged at the centre, displaying a considerable amount of cleavage! Nice to wear when sunning oneself on the banks of the Vltava, but up front in Church, helping lead worship? Only in the Czech Republic!

10 comments to Only in the Czech Republic…..

  • Sean Mccann

    Hi Ricky,
    Glad to see you back, hope all is going well with you and that you and Sybille had a refreshing holiday in the interim. Czechia certainly is one of the most unique countries in Europe and its people, despite their reputation, are wonderfully friendly and welcoming, in my limited experience. Isn’t it sad to reflect on the lack of ‘children being allowed to be children’ that exists in the British Isles at present? Even in the most rural parts of Ireland it is a rare sight to see children innocently playing in the fields as we did when I was young. Everything has to be organised like a military operation now and sentry parents posted before a child is allowed to appear. While this is perhaps understandable on one level, it must contribute to children being more aware of their parents anxieties and therefore becoming more easily frightened and anxious themselves.
    Thanks for a great post as ever, and once again, welcome back.

  • Thanks, Ricky, for the entertaining post.
    I too am concerned about the fear that pervades the overly developed societies such as the USA and the U.K. I am sure that since the beginning of recorded history old people have decried the world “going to hell in a hand basket” but I think this closing off of ourselves and our children to our communities will truly lead to our downfall.
    God bless those cultures who maintain a sense of community.

    • Ricky

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, Michael – and thank you for your supportive remarks regarding the ever increasing level of fear in the USA & UK. You are quite right – it leads to the loss of a sense of community and children not really being allowed to be children. And by driving children everywhere, ‘to keep them safe’, leads to a lack of exercise & increased obesity.

  • Em

    Welcome back to the blogosphere, Ricky! Cheers to your continued good health. I must say, while I am a prude by European standards about my own presentation (thanks to my Midwestern American upbringing), I do appreciate how at ease Czechs are about their bodies. Of course there’s a time and a place, but confidence and self-acceptance are healthy traits. C’est La Vie!

    • Ricky

      Hi Em – Thank you for the welcome & your good wishes.

      I share your appreciation as to ‘how at ease Czechs are about their bodies’ & agree that ‘confidence and self-acceptance are healthy traits’. I particularly like the way that young children can play naked with & in water and the freedom women have to breastfeed. It is only very occasionally that I think something is inappropriate. Most of the time I just smile and say, ‘Only in the Czech Republic!’

  • Hi there Ricky, I hope you are feeling better this month compared to the last month… I was just getting caught up on how your summer was and I’m glad you are OK!
    I had the same feelings this summer about how free and happy the summer scenes of the Czech Republic were, as I believe you commented on. It seems like such a utopia sometimes (compared to what I grew up with) that these kids can frolic around and women can breastfeed openly. I do often have those “only in CR” moments as well… including every time I see a mother lift her little boy in the air so he can pee into a drain. Only in CR.

    • Ricky

      Hi Cynthia,

      I’ve been feeling much better, thank you – except I’ve now gone down with flu whilst attending our Archdeaconry Synod meeting in Zagreb.

      I knew you shared my feelings about young children being able to be naked when playing with water & women freely able to breastfeed, from your description of a riverside scene this summer in South Bohemia. And I understand what you mean about the total contrast to what you experienced growing up in the USA. An American lady in my congregation has told me of how she had to lock herself in a public toilet cubicle, in order to breastfeed her two daughters when she lived in the ‘Bible Belt’.

      Yes there are also other, ‘Only in the CR’ moments. The one in your last sentence is one I’ve seen many times too.

  • Never having been in Prague in the heat of summer, I have no personal experience of the much more relaxed attitudes you describe, but I must say how refreshing they sound. I’m sad that we have become so fearful about perceived risks to children that we’re preventing them enjoying childhood at they should and as I remember doing back in the 1950s. As for the false prudery about breastfeeding, it simply amazes me that we can have page 3 photos of semi-naked women in wide-circulation newspapers and yet come over all unnecessary when a poor mother just wants to feed her hungry baby. Sigh…

    • Ricky

      It is so nice to see children here in Prague, being allowed to be children as I was able to when growing up in the same era as you, Perpetua. And ‘false prudery’ is a very apt description of the attitude to breastfeeding that sadly still exists amongst some people in the UK, and even more so in the USA. The Czech attitude on both counts is most refreshing.