Friday, July 1, 2016

Our Authentic Libuš Lifestyle in Prague

For the three months that Greg and I have been in Prague this year, we’ve been living in a panelák in Libuš. It's been a very different experience from our recent Malá Strana and Vinohrady stays, but we lived in Lužiny for nearly two years in the 1990s, so we're very familiar with the lifestyle. The term panelák refers to a building constructed from pre-fabricated concrete panels, and many such structures were built in Communist Czechoslovakia. According to the Wikipedia entry, "Between 1959 and 1995, paneláks containing 1.17 million flats were built in what is now the Czech Republic. They house about 3.5 million people, or about one-third of the country's population." According to the Czech newspaper MF Dnes, half a million people in Prague live in sídlištěs, which are housing estates composed of paneláks. Though many guidebooks make deprecating comments about “Communist block housing” and “grey tower blocks,” the panelák lifestyle is efficient and cozy. And our recently renovated two-room flat is pleasant and clean. (See Ryan Scott's "Cemented In: Prague's Panelak Estates" for more on the panelák's image problem.)

Apparently, there is something very authentic and true-to-period about the courtyard we can see from the windows of our flat and the buildings that enclose it, including the one in which we live. Recently, this enclosure was chosen as the location for the shooting of a TV series set in Communist Czechoslovia during the 1970s and 1980s. And all this week a crew from Česká televise has been in the courtyard, first constructing a few playground items to add to the children's play area, and then shooting the program. I have been hearing calls of “Kamera!” and “Stop!” from the director all day. Vintage Škodas roar through the scene from time to time, and the actors and actresses are wearing polyester clothes that call to mind those days of the Cold War and the time known here as Normalization.

Even before we learned that our neighborhood was going to be on TV, Greg started to take some fairly abstract photos from our 6th floor window, designed to give the flavor of the place without violating anyone’s privacy by showing a particular family dwelling or any person’s windows or balcony. Here are a few:

Colorful paneláks in Libuš; photo by G.S. Evans
Another view of paneláks in Libuš;
photo by G.S. Evans

Paneláks in Libuš during long solstice evening;
photo by G.S. Evans
Not-so-recently-painted paneláks in Libuš
photo by G.S. Evans

Children's play area in May of 2016;
photo by G.S. Evans

 Children's play area in July of 2016 with added
sandbox as cast members stand by;
photo by G.S. Evans

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