>Modernize the Czech Republic? Childsplay


It’s holiday time and, as usual we are in the Czech Republic. As ever the country is visibly, if slowly improving. If the early 1990s saw an explosion of stalls and small shops and the late 1990s the emergence of superstores and hypermarkets what’s striking now is the obvious the investment in infrastructure. The panel built high rise estate on the Southern outskirts of Brno where my parents-in-law and sister-in-law, whose flat we are kindly borrowing for a few days before heading off for the countryside, is – at least in parts – being insulated and re-faced in pastel colours. After this beauty treatment after the hideous grey paneláky look pretty civilized. There seems to have been a slow draining of younger, better off people from the estate over the years and there’s a lot of graffiti, but French style urban ghetto it certainly isn’t. Indeed, looking at some of the refurbished blocks, you might blink and briefly think you were in Holland or Germany. At least, you might until you looked round at the rest of the estate at the remaining communist-era high rise monstrosities, or down to the ground at the scrubby and unmaintained grass verges. A large university science park, a new regional library and a new regional archive are springing up nearby, the borough council’s newsletter – stuffed into the letterbox with a mass of flyers for Interspar, Tesco and Kaufland – tells me.

The Czech Republic is still rather badly off for children’s play facilities, however, and the kids are quickly bored. There are plenty of playgrounds on the estate, but with a few exceptions they are small and poorly maintained. The sand in sandpits looks like builder’s aggregate, rather than anything you would want your kids to play in. There are few better, newer playgrounds, including one near where we are staying with an interesting climbing frame and a cable ride, which was built a couple of years ago as part of a EU backed scheme to humanize high rise estates. But the cable ride is broken, although a long-winded notice says the council will fix any faults reported within a week if the responsible officer is contacted. I wonder if anyone has bothered.

There is a rather arty playground with wooden sculpted animals in central Brno’s Lužánky park, where also has a complete miniature mockup road system complete with road signs next to, where some cops from the municipal police are putting kids through their paces doing some kind of cycling proficiency test. Our youngest like the wooden animals, but both kids are only really satisfied when we discover the cheap and cheerful open air swimming pool (koupaliště aka koupák) in the local sports club across the tram tracks on the estate. This has water, hot dogs, a trampoline and climbing frame. At last both are placated.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply