There was plenty going on on Prague’s Wenceslas Square this week – and a lot at stake. While at the top end of the square people were signing petitions against the siting of a US radar in the Czech Republic, at its lower end a sausage vendor was fighting his own battle against the town hall’s decision to get him evicted.
Anyone who stopped to buy a grilled sausage lathered with mustard was handed a pen and paper and asked to support a petition to save the sausage stand. Czechs are familiar with the dispute – and many of them willingly complied. Most tourists stared in disbelief as the vendor explained in broken English what it was all about. Sausages have been a feature of Wenceslas Square throughout its long existence. When it was still a horse market the best butchers in town would sell their wares there. Grilled sausages on Prague’s main square were a cheap and tasty snack throughout the twentieth century and the arrival of McDonalds and KFC to Prague after the 1989 Velvet Revolution did not harm the sausage business. Vendors simply went cosmopolitan – offering a Euro-sausage, a Bavarian sausage, a wurst with sauerkraut and a dozen variations on the same theme. It was still the cheapest snack on Wenceslas Square, available round the clock – and the smell of grilled sausages in the open air attracted both tourists and locals. However the days of the grilled sausage were numbered. Prague City Hall unveiled plans to gentrify Wenceslas Square and the sausage stands were no longer deemed suitable. The first two were slated to go in June of this year –but one of the owners simply refused to budge and took the battle to court, stalling the process. In an effort to help his cause he got thousands of people to sign a petition that they wanted open-air grilled sausage stands on Wenceslas Square. But it was no use – this week a Prague court issued a thumbs down verdict. The sausages will have to go in the interest of turning Prague’s main square into a modern, up-market boulevard. But before they are pushed out sales of the greasy, charred sausages are likely to go through the roof because few people will miss out on the last opportunity to enjoy a grilled sausage on Prague’s main square –for old times’ sake.
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