Dog Turds Galore!
The Czechs love their dogs, and take them everywhere. It's not uncommon to go into a pub and see more dogs than punters.
More dogs means more dog poo, and unlike the UK, leaving your dog mess for people to slip over in is not a fineable offence. The trend of cleaning up after your beloved dog is gradually catching on, but it's fair to say older Czechs in particular are still happy to let their pet crap everywhere and leave it.
So watch out when you're strolling around admiring the architecture, or else watching out for wheelbarrow loads of bricks tumbling off scaffoldings, because you could end up having one of those embarrassing two-sole shoe checks to find out who's trod in the muck.
Camouflaged or hidden dog poo is also a hazard - always check before you sit down in the park or any grassy area. Also be careful when making snowballs in the winter - Czech winters tend to be long and hard, and with months of accumulated snow and ice, dog turds get trapped between the layers, suspended like the raisins in a strudel.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Health & Safety is for Wimps.
I liked it at School when we were shown those really amateurish health and safety videos, where you had to spot all the dangerous blunders being made by the characters - leaving aerosol cans on the hob, changing a lightbulb with wet hands while standing on a swivel chair at the top of a flight of stairs, that kind of thing.
Sometimes strolling around the streets of Brno can seem like you're in one of those videos, or else one of the elaborate death trap sequences from the "Final Destination" series.
The most basic hazards for the unwary and accident prone are the uneven cobbled streets and loose paving slabs that tilt like trapdoors when you step on them. Holes in the ground are common, and streets and paths are frequently dug up and left gaping with nothing to prevent the careless or drunken pedestrian tumbling into an open ditch.
In 2009, major renovations on Pekarska and Husova left large sections of both streets resembling badly organised building sites for most of the summer while tram tracks were laid; rather than being cordoned or fenced off, the public were free to stroll through the trenches and piles of rubble as they pleased. Indeed, inspired by the annual "Museum Night", visitors ran outside and built their own sculptures and structures from piles of cobbles left laying about the building site.
All this is quite refreshing, coming from a nanny state like the UK - it's nice to be left to look after yourself without so many rules and regulations. But it still pays to be careful...
New Year's Eve 2009, we were strolling back home across Zelny Trh, when I had the peculiar sensation of my right leg vanishing from existence.
It had just disappeared down an unmarked round hole about two feet in diameter, and about six foot deep. Luckily I'm quite nimble, and managed to go into a forward roll and not scuff myself up too badly. It was a good job I didn't go down it with both feet, otherwise the paramedics would need to pull me out by my ears.
Also worth watching out for is things falling from scaffolding around buildings under renovation - tool boxes, breeze blocks, buckets full of rubble, that sort of thing. Apart from being narrowly missed by what sounded like a spanner bouncing off the decking by my feet and into the water, I've always been deeply impressed by the slapdash nature of Czech workmen.
This all stems from the time I sat in a pub of the outskirts of Prague, and watched a man plastering a wall. He was also on the beer, and getting steadily more plastered as he was plastering - he started off well, but by the time he got to the far end, it looked like he was artexing the wall instead.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Staying Sharp at Night
Brno can seem refreshingly safe and free from hassle, especially if you come from the UK, where Friday and Saturday nights after the pubs kick out tends to turn into one massive drunken brawl.
You are unlikely to have any trouble, and it's nice to walk down the street late at night without having drunken yobbos yelling in your face, or running the risk of getting randomly busted over the head with an alchopop bottle.
However, it is wise to keep your wits about you and not get lulled into a false sense of security.
The main place to uphold this wisdom is the main station (Hlavni Nadrazi) and it's surroundings, which is seedy enough during the daytime, but positively David Lynch-ian at night.
Also, side streets away from the immediate centre tend to be rather under lit compared to what you may be used to, and usually deserted. Keep your eyes open for drunks or sinister characters lurking around in the bushes or doorways. They usually won't bother you, but you may encounter some phenomenally drunken people on your travels.
So long as you keep up a brisk pace and look like you know where you're going, and keep your voice down so it appears you're a local, you shouldn't get accosted. If you are, they'll usually just want a cigarette or to slur at you for a bit before stumbling away.
However, it's not very pleasant and you can do without that kind of hassle.
These moments aren't the best time to whip your map out, and keep a firm grip on any personal belongings.
Also, if you are going out at night, it's probably not a good idea to walk around with your $1000 SLR camera dangling round your neck.
Similarly, if you need to get cash out of an ATM, chose carefully. Some ATMs in Brno are located in distressingly dark corners, and it's always good to know who's around you when withdrawing from a cashpoint.
This may all sound rather obvious, but as I've found out in the past, as well as a number of friends here, it's always when you get too comfortable that something unsavoury happens.
To be honest, I would not recommend to use public transport in Brno for it is a fact that the company providing this service is a bunch of insolent extortionists. For example, going to Zoo and back by a tram from the city center will cost you and your friend 88 CZK, while going by car will cost you less than 50 CZK. But it is not only money, maybe you are an environmentally thinking person! Well... good luck ;) (sorry but I just suffer when embosomed with smelly sweating people :( ). My advice: for long distances use a car, for short distances use your feet ;)
Smoking causes health demage + is ANNOYING!
There's finally a rule that people cannot smoke on bus/tram stops. Of course they still do it because sadly, there is practically no punishment for them. However you have a right to tell the smoking/smelling person to stop and threathen with police.
Revizor (ticket inspector)
Beware the ticket-inspectors in public transport! They can be insidious! Always ask them to show you their badge and ID. After all, it is better to walk. Do not support this extortionate institution!
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