Freezing weather doesn't deter Charles Bridge traders

12-12-2002

It's been absolutely freezing here in the Czech Republic for the last week or so, and the weather forecasters say we can expect the sub zero temperatures to last for another month. While just waiting for the tram for ten minutes makes most of us shiver, spare a thought for the poor souls who have to work outside all day in such weather. On Wednesday morning I braved the elements to see what life is like these days for stall-holders on Prague's Charles Bridge.

Bearded, ruddy-faced and very well wrapped-up, Viktor Loren spends an incredible six hours in sub zero temperatures every day, selling paintings on Charles Bridge.

"Now I'm feeling all right, because it's sunny and I've got the best equipment which is possible. I've got boots for the mountains, jacket for the mountains, pullovers."

Do you drink anything to stay warm, like rum or grog?

"Sometimes yeah, but normally no. It's enough if you're moving, I think."

How is business when it's so cold?

"At the end of the year there are open markets on Old Town Square, on Wenceslas Square, and they are also our competition. People feel more comfortable there. Here on the bridge, they are just passing by."

How many traders are usually on the bridge, say in the summer?

"I think that in the season, normally it's possible that there are 200 places."

Now how many traders are out?

"I think that just around ten percent, maximum twenty, twenty-five, in the week. At weekends more, around forty, fifty percent."

I have to say it's beautiful here, it's really nice now.

"I think that it's nice but it's looking a little bit like a Russian winter. I saw this morning the thermometer outside my window and it showed minus ten Celsius."

How cold would it have to be for you to say today I'm not going to work, today I'm not going to the bridge?

"I think minus fifteen."

Charles Bridge trader Viktor Loren relies on tourists to make a living, but how do they like the extremely cold temperatures? I asked this couple from England.

Man: "It's quite nice, it's nice and fresh."

It doesn't spoil your holiday in any way?

Woman: "Not at all."

Man: "I think it makes it. I think it makes it, being Christmassy. I wouldn't like to come in the summer, when it's full of tourists. I think you get a different atmosphere in the winter, with the Christmas lights and everything. And in the evenings it's spectacular."

I see you're wearing a Russian-style fur hat.

Man: "It's very warm, it's very warm."

Did you buy it here?

Man: "Yeah, (laughs) as soon as I got here."

Enjoy the rest of your holiday.

Man: "Oh yeah, it's been absolutely fantastic, it's a fantastic city."

Woman: "It's a wonderful place, a wonderful city."

Man: "It's the best city we've been to. It's really good."

12-12-2002