When Barbora Jarešová, the head of marketing at a Prague global real estate services firm, started blogging about cool places, hip design and trendy restaurants in the Czech Republic, it was mostly for her own pleasure and to inform close friends of what’s happening in Prague and other Czech cities. On her website, ProtiMysl, readers can see gorgeous photographs of little-known and unique locations – and to many foreigners, it comes as quite a surprise that there is more to Prague than dumplings, beer and art nouveau buildings. Barbora talked about what she would like to change about the country’s reputation, what reactions to the blog have been like so far and about her time spent abroad.
„I actually studied in different places. I finished my high school degree in Sweden, came back and went to Canada for university, for my graduate studies. The reason I came back from Canada was that I completed my studies and I sort of, in my last year, started this need to come back home and use the education and work experience I acquired abroad, use it at home and apply it to the job market here.”
I understand that you studied politics and now work in marketing. Do those two fields have anything in common at all?
“I have to say that I am one of those cases, where… I did my bachelor’s degree in political science and my master’s degree in Canada in history. Those were things that always interested me, that are to this day my hobbies.
"But when it came to looking for a job in my graduate years, I found out that I was not an academic type, but I still enjoy the research side of things and writing very much, and I thought PR and marketing would be a field where I could apply that knowledge. And now, having worked in the field, I think I was correct, in that although I didn’t have a business education and there were a lot of things I had to learn in the field in terms of business. But when it comes to communicating, writing press releases and analyses, researching market trends, that is definitely something that every humanities student knows very well.”
So you spent quite a bit of time abroad and had longer time periods where you did not live here, have you seen the country change, and design and trends change?
“Definitely, it was always interesting for me to live abroad, for say, two or three years or more, and then come back and live here for a bit, because I think that’s when you notice most of the differences, when you come back.
"A couple of years ago, I would notice that the fashion trends were maybe a couple of years behind, that the offer, the retail offer generally was a little less varied. And just the charisma of the people, maybe or kind of the daring attitude of the people, it was a little different, people were a little more conservative here I found than in other countries, where you would wear vintage clothing, or just be innovative with the way you dress, express your personality by the way you dress. But later on, as I moved to Canada and moved back, I started noticing a big difference.
"A lot more stores and fashion brands, especially here in Prague of course. A lot more foreigners living here as well, so there’s more cultural differences and it just enriched Prague as well from that perspective, so I think that’s had an impact on Czech people as well. And you can see that in the way they dress and how they use clothing and other things to express themselves, where they like to go clubbing and even gastronomy, recently, the things they look for when they want to go have a nice meal.”
Maybe you can tell me a little bit about your blog, ProtiMysl?
“Basically, the idea just started from the fact that I have a lot of friends from abroad, because I studied in different places, and every time they came to visit me or they recommended their friends who were coming to visit Prague to contact me, they asked me for tips where they could stay, where they could eat, what they should see in Prague.
"And I found that most of the tourist guides are very conservative, they obviously list the big sights in Prague and the traditional restaurants, traditional Czech food, but I wasn’t always happy with say, the service. And a lot of my friends are young, hip and modern, and they don’t necessarily want to look around the churches, they also want to see modern, interesting design and interiors, local fashion brands and local designers. That’s part of travelling as well.
"And I realized that there are very few if any sites that would sort of offer that, and because I would send these links over and over, I figured I’ll just start a blog and summarize, just for my close friends and then maybe anyone else who is interested, the sort of modern things you can find around Prague so that you don’t associate Prague and the Czech Republic just with post-communism, great culture and classical music, but that’s it’s also something that is very much nowadays and happening.”
On the homepage of your blog, there is a little disclaimer that says something to the effect that the first thing that comes to mind if you hear Czech Republic is not trendy, cool and hip. Why do you think that is?
“I think it’s, and I might be wrong and I think that this perception is slowly changing, so I don’t want to say that that is the only stereotype associated with the Czech Republic, because there are a lot of designers and intellectuals coming out of this country, and if you are an expert in one field or another, you know this. But I think the general public and the “common” tourists that come here or would be interested in travelling to this area still have the Czech Republic associated with post-communism, Eastern Europe…
"For a long time, this location was cheap, great beer, sexy women and that’s about it. And I still feel that from the way I’ve been asked about my country when I lived abroad, surprisingly even among educated people and professors, the questions I got were surprising, in the sense of: Oh, you are moving back? How is it there? You know, with a sort of worried tone of voice. So obviously, this perception is still out there, to what extent I’m not sure, but I wanted to change that.”
Now, twenty years after the Velvet Revolution and the end of communism, do you think we’re still catching up, have we already caught up or are we simply going in a different direction in terms of design and style and culture than the Western countries in Europe are going?
“I think in a lot of things we are still catching up, I do think, however, if you look at Prague, then it’s a major city in Europe, just like any other. I think a lot of people, tourists, when they visit Europe they think of Berlin, Paris, London, and when you say Prague they don’t necessarily know what to expect once they come here. A lot of friends who came and visited me were surprised, it’s a big city, it’s historical, it’s modern, and it’s living.
"So I think Prague is at a very comparable level with Western Europe. In a lot of things, we are catching up and in a lot of things we are simply different because of the way the market evolved. So I think what will be interesting to see is which way Czechs and culture decide to go and I would very much appreciate if there was more attention paid to the young talent, designers, chefs and so on, also in the Czech media and the social scene. Because I think that we have some great talent that is already appreciated abroad and sometimes not even heard of back home.”
And lastly, what are your hopes and plans for the future of your blog? Are you planning to expand it to include other cities as well?
"I’m not sure, like I said, it’s just started as a spontaneous idea, I do want it to be about the Czech Republic, and I’m finding that is a bit difficult. For one, I am from Prague and I do live here, so there is that bias and that is the location I know most about, but I want to discover those great, nice places for young people to see all over the country. So that’s something that I set out as one of the goals. And what else? I guess we’ll see. I definitely want to pinpoint gastronomy a little more and a lot more on architecture then I have done so far, but I’m open to any ideas."
Was there any nice feedback so far, some unexpected reactions?
"Yes, actually, because as I said, I really didn’t expect this, I’m not doing this to become famous or generate a lot of traffic, I really just used this first as even just a diary for myself to remember the nice places I liked and share it with my friends. And I was contacted by OneTravel, a blog in the US, if I could be a guest blogger, and it was definitely nice to see that someone is interested in this region and interested in me writing about it. So even if I get one comment in three months like that, I’m happy if that changes at least that person’s perspective on that region, or if I can communicate my perspective a little further outside Europe, than I am happy.”
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