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Friday, 24 August 2018


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"Even so, Prague is immensely easy on the eye and one of the few big cities which is a pleasure to stroll around."

I've never been, but I remember a friend returning in a somewhat bemused state. He's a keen musician, and had located on-line a craftsman who made excellent mandolins, at a fraction of the price you could get them elsewhere. This Czech guy had taken his personalised order, received a tiny down-payment, sent photos of the finished instrument, and asked about payment and delivery. Not trusting either the Czech or the postal service, and needing to try out the mandolin before purchase, Steve thought the best approach was to fly out there in person and enjoy a few days of tourism while paying and collecting. The craftsman duly sent his incomprehensible address, which Steve printed.

He had images of an ancient droopy-moustached artisan with a rambling workshop hidden among the crumbling baroque alleyways in the heart of the city.

When he arrived in central Prague, he showed the address to a tourist guide who did a double-take, whistled slowly, and then put Steve on a bus, with a hand-written note to the driver. The bus took him out from the tourist zone, and into a series of monotonous suburbs full of huge Stalinist blocks of flats. Miles later, the driver stopped and motioned for Steve to get out at a massive crumbling tower block which looked like the worst bit of Birmingham, and pointed to the top floor. Inside, more Birmingham: broken lift, dark stairways stinking of piss, syringes, and packs of dogs on the landings.

The ancient craftsman turned out to be a young feller working out of a tiny cramped two-room flat, with bits of musical instrument over his bed and a vice and jig-saw bolted to the draining board. He was, though, a lovely bloke, and the mandolin was every bit as god as Steve expected.

Thanks for passing that along Whyaxye, there's a passel of Arkianese musicians (for who knows how they got it in their heads) about to fly off for some or another musical reason.

If you've a website, link or an et cetera I'd be more than happy to pass it along so to, er, maybe get in the good graces of the daughters of the guy arranged the trip.

The fellow knows my "awareness" of Czech craftsmanship by way of a previous tip:

Which, didn't set me so much as I'd liked as maybe getting "the guy" set for mandolins probably oughta.

That's what is known as 'humble origins'!

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