Echoes of an earlier disaster

Prague in Lockdown

Two older women, masked and socially distanced, walk through a quiet Kampa island, just near the steps to Charles Bridge. Photo credit: Mark Baker
One side of the normally packed Havel market. A friend told me that before the current lockdown, the market had never closed (and even operated through the 1918 pandemic). Photo credit: Mark Baker
This back alley leading away from Havel market is often quiet, even during the height of the tourist season, but feels lonelier than normal these days. Photo credit: Mark Baker
The entrance to Charles Bridge, looking over to the Malá Strana side of the river from the Old Town. Photo credit: Mark Baker
Two girls walk past what was once a tacky souvenir shop near the Mustek metro station that's apparently now gone belly up. Photo credit: Mark Baker
Even in the cold early-spring weather, the crowds from the Municipal House cafe would normally spill out onto Republic Square. These days, you can apparently only enter the building through the window(?) Photo credit: Mark Baker
A tourist-trap restaurant, located on a pedestrian throughway just beside the Mustek metro station. No one will shed a tear if these kinds of places don't come back. Photo credit: Mark Baker
Oddly, 'chimney cake' shops are still operating. The 'trdelník' was one strangest inventions to emerge from mass tourism. Said to be a traditional Czech dessert, I have yet to see a local person ever eat one. Photo credit: Mark Baker
A sign of the times on the door of the Powder Tower, where you can climb to the top for a view out over the Old Town. Photo credit: Mark Baker
A quiet Celetná in mid-March 2021. This street runs from the Powder Tower to Old Town Square and would normally be filled with visitors in the run-up to Easter. Photo credit: Mark Baker
The "James Dean" restaurant and club, a block off Old Town Square, was closed during my walk. I typically avoid this place "like the plague," an expression that's taken on new meaning. Photo credit: Mark Baker
A uncharacteristically quiet March morning on Mostecká street in Malá Strana, just at the entryway to Charles Bridge. Photo credit: Mark Baker
Before the pandemic, this was a popular shoe shop along the street that leads into the heart of the Old Town. Photo credit: Mark Baker
A common sight through the window: unused chairs stacked up in a shuttered restaurant. This is "Joy Burger," not far from Celetná street in the Old Town. Photo credit: Mark Baker
A closed-up storefront somewhere along the back streets of the city's Old Town. Who knows if this business will re-open once the lockdown is lifted. Photo credit: Mark Baker
A young couple strolls through a nearly empty Old Town Square in mid-March 2012. Photo credit: Mark Baker
Looking down normally crowded Celetná street from the Old Town Square in the direction of the Powder Tower, one of the original gates to the Old Town, in the distance. Photo credit: Mark Baker
One of dozens of popular youth hostels that have closed down because of the restrictions and lack of customers. Many of these will come back, but some will close for good. Photo credit: Mark Baker
The entryway to the elegant Four Seasons hotel, in Prague's Old Town. Most hotels have closed or greatly reduced operations. Photo credit: Mark Baker
An empty row of benches along the eastern side of Střelecký Island, facing the National Theater. Photo credit: Mark Baker
Two masked girls emerge from a doorway covered with graffiti along Wenceslas Square. Photo credit: Mark Baker
The doors of this shuttered souvenir shop near the Powder Tower in the Old Town are covered in spray paint (to be fair, though, this doorway has always been a graffiti magnet). Photo credit: Mark Baker

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About the author

Mark Baker

I’m an independent journalist and travel writer who’s lived in Central Europe for more than two decades. I love the history, literature, culture, and mystery of this often-overlooked corner of Europe, and I make my living writing articles and guidebooks about the region. Much of what I write eventually finds its way into commercial print or digital outlets, but a lot of it does not.

That's my aim with this travel website: to find a space for stories and experiences that fall outside the publishing mainstream.

You’ll find a mix of stories here. Some will be familiar “what to see and do” travel articles on particular destinations. Others will be tales of “adventure” (usually with a comic twist) from life on the road. I'll also share tips about living in my adopted hometown of Prague and stories from a more-distant (but seemingly ever-present) past, when Central Europe was the “Eastern bloc” and I was a full-time journalist trying my best to cover it. I hope you enjoy.

Tales of Travel & Adventure in Central Europe
Mark Baker