I hadn't been back to this magical city, where I lived in the early 1990s, for nine years, and thought my observations of what's changed since then might be of marginal interest to 11 of you.
Aside from tourism, the entire Czech economy is run on SMS messages. I'm not kidding. Television is dominated by reality shows where the audience makes inevitably ridiculous votes using text messages on their cell phones. A friend who designs free open source software for Second World radio stations and news organizations reports that his Czech colleagues have developed a viable SMS-based revenue stream for organizations that are otherwise cash-strapped. In more than one transactional category, Czechs prefer to use text messages instead of credit cards, because obtaining plastic is just "too complicated." People text each other so much here that last night, when I made a joke about how "Czechs probably SMS each other on the toilet," two of my companions suddenly looked guilty, and admitted that they'd both done precisely that earlier in the day.
EU membership = wine shops galore. The phrase "Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrive" was as foreign here 10 years ago as "Mamoo-dockface in the banana patch"; now you see it on every freakin' street corner downtown. It's no surprise that Czechs embrace the hooch (they already rank at our near the top of the world in both per-capita beer drinking and per-capita pot-smoking), but now they're getting all fancy about it, instead of just filling up their empty plastics with sweet Moravian rot at the nearest tram stop.
Vaclav Klaus is still an asshole. The world's most overrated "Thatcherite" has been hi-fiving Kazakh dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev on the occasion of his fraudulent election, earning cheap western applause for mis-comparing "NGOism" and "Europeanism" to Communism, all while continuing to yank his party to the economic left of Hungarian socialists.
The kazoo-sounds of goofy expatriate media continue to fart along. Recent casualties include the bilingual entrepreneur/lifestyle mag The Prague Tribune, after a dozen years; recent additions include a screechy little cultural rag called The Alsoran. The English-ghetto press in non-English countries is always a weird and highly contested sub-genre, but one that still manages to compact more personality in each flawed issue than a dozen papers back in the Real World.
And, as I used to think back in the day, if this ain't the "real world," well, maybe it oughtta be.