There is one certainty in my daily life in Prague and that is that I will encounter a dead pig on my plate if I am so inclined. The Czech Radio canteen can boast some variety, but serving up some dead pig in one form or another seems to be a sacred daily duty. Slice, sirloin, steak, chops, you name it, you can find it on the menu and on your plate.
But I must admit I did not expect to encounter a very much alive, slightly drooling, large pink pig on the streets of the capital. I bumped into the happy porker on a muddy side path shortcut that runs near the railway lines and under Nusle bridge near my flat. He had been just let off the leash by his youngish owner.
When the large specimen directed his snout and body in my direction I decided to hold my ground and even put on a bravado display as if meeting pigs on the street were an almost everyday occasion. The pig started sniffing my trouser leg, I bent down to edgily stroke it. ‘I wouldn’t do that,’ warned his mistress. ‘It can bite,’ she added helpfully.
I moved my leg back and imagined going to the doctor and explaining I had been bitten by a pig. My doctor is a phlegmatic man who likes to discount most ailments that the world brings him. But I think that a pig bite would have impressed. Luckily, I had had the tetanus booster a week or two earlier but god knows what you could get from a pig bite. The scenes from a really bad ‘b’ movie also went through my head where some criminals met their fates by being fed alive to some hungry pigs.
Don’t get me wrong, I like pigs but I am a bit wary now of taking this shortcut on the way home from work right now.
Even with that slice of the city to be avoided, there are still plenty of surprises on my daily walks round the city. I have a policy of walking the two or three kilometers to work and sometimes taking the tram back.
I like to check up on the rise and demise of the shops along the route. There is a strange phenomenon at the moment where opticians stores and coffee shops, normal not Amsterdam style, seem to be proliferating in Prague. Is everyone going blind or in need of a caffeine pick-up?
One bonus, from the coffee boom is that some café’s seek to drum up business by offering a cup of free coffee on the street. It tastes all the much better for being free. I have found later to my expense that the name Costa Coffee is a real reflection of the damage buying a drink at the establishment can do to your pocket.
There are the other visual pearls that I enjoy on my morning promenade. For example, there’s one spot on the route near a park where clothes are regularly left for the homeless. One day though at the same site was a copy of a glossy magazine bearing the title ‘Top Fashion’ or something similar, with the male models in three-piece Gucci suits, Burberry raincoats, the works. Was someone trying to give the homeless a message, I wondered.
Usually some team of workmen are digging up some piece of road or pavement en route, so I usually like to see how many are working and how many are supervising. A ratio of two to one seems about normal.
And then there’s the progress of the two men cleaning team getting the streets spick and span in the early morning for the day ahead. There is a mechanical part of the two man team - I’m not being sexist but I haven’t seen any women - and he is armed with a brush. The technical side has one of those big vacuum type machines with a trunk which bears the appropriate, but still slightly jarring name, ‘the glutton.’ To be honest, the glutton seems to encounter everything and happily swallows it down. I reckon it’s about the nearest I will come to meeting the real live pig since I have put the Nusle shortcut out of bounds.