People joke about the name of my neighborhood: strašný means “horrible” or “terrible”, so Strašnice could be interpreted to mean “Terrible Place”. Marketing was slow to catch on here.
It’s a quiet neighborhood, even at the busiest of times. The sounds that come in through my open windows are the songs of birds and the occasional distant rumble of a tram. Today was a holiday, so I was not at all surprised to find the streets deserted when I left my flat. I moseyed up the street, and saw no one. I heard no sound of automobiles. After a couple of blocks it was starting to feel a little spooky, but when I walked through the little park on my way down to the tram stop it was eerily quiet. There were no drunks on the benches, no kids in the play lot, and, most frightening of all, there were no old men with wiener dogs.
Those who have been hanging around this blog for a while know that wiener dogs and the old men who walk them are a fixture in this neighborhood.
I was alone, Strašnice was abandoned, leaving only me and the ghosts. Perhaps the last thing my landlord had said, (which I pretended to understand but didn’t) was that all living souls were to evacuate the neighborhood today. I paused in the park and contemplated the true source of my neighborhood’s name. Strašit means “to haunt”. In recognition of the sprawling graveyards that define this part of town, my neighborhood is called “Haunted Place”. I live in Ghost Town and today, it seems, is the ghosts’ day to play. All others are gone — the wiener dogs have been packed up with their old men and shipped off to the countryside, the drunks have braved the trams to find a part of town where the beer stores are open on holidays.
Perhaps on other days, when the wiener dogs rule, you could think of Strašnice as Terrible Town. But when even the wiener dogs know better the city’s true nature is revealed. If I knew how, perhaps I could see out the corner of my eye the shades of those who had gone before, the ghosts of old men long forgotten and their forgotten long dogs.