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Prague: ARTĚL Style

Expert recommendations and insider tips for first-time visitors and locals alike from ARTĚL’s founder, Karen Feldman, who has lived in Prague since 1994. Click on the links below for detailed reviews – from Feldman’s own unique perspective – of all the best that Prague has to offer...





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Frequently Asked Questions

Published on April 17th, 2014 in Basics



ARTĚL's Graphic Collection Votive Holders in Black 


What is the history of the name “ARTĚL”?

The company takes its name from an early-20th century collective of Czech artisans whose dedication to preserving traditional methods of handcraftsmanship led them to reject industrial production techniques. ARTĚL carries on the spirit of these artisans and their commitment to producing – entirely by hand – lasting objects of impeccable quality, design, and functionality.



What and where is Bohemia?

Bohemia is a historical region occupying the western two-thirds of what is now the Czech Republic. It is culturally distinct from Moravia, which occupies the eastern third.


Bohemian Countryside, 1953  



Can I drink the water?

Yes, and you’ll be absolutely fine, as was officially confirmed for me on a recent visit to the Prague Water Works. That said, you will not be able to order tap water at a restaurant, so try my two local favorites: Mattoni (I find it superior to both Perrier and San Pellegrino) or Bonaqua. Be sure to clarify whether you want it with bubbles or not, as flat water is not the norm. In most grocery stores you will also find Aquila, another favorite of mine. If you purchase water in a store, you will need to be familiar with the following terms:

Perlivá: Sparkling; cap usually red
Neperlivá: Still; cap usually blue
Jemně perlivá: Medium sparkling (my personal favorite); cap usually green




How much should I tip taxi drivers?




How much should I tip at restaurants?




Can I negotiate prices in stores?

In antique stores absolutely, and I encourage you to try. In general you can expect to get about 10% off the marked price, especially if you pay cash. However, for general merchandise, is it not normal to negotiate for a better price.



What is the difference between the blue and red numbers on the buildings, and which one should I reference to find an address?

The numbering system dates back to 1805: Blue numbers are for street addresses. These are the numbers you care about. The lowest numbers are always closer to the river, a fact I only recently learned. Red numbers are used by the cadastre office (land registry) in each district in Prague. Each building or house has a specific number in its district.


Bohemian Blue & Red Building Numbers - Kožná Street, 1910 



What is the significance of the city numbers that appear in address listings (e.g., “Prague 2”)?

Prague is made up of ten districts, and the number signifies the district. Most of the tourist sites – and the recommendations on the pages that follow – are located in Prague 1 (which includes the Malá Strana, Staré Město, and Nové Město neighborhoods), while many of the “further afield” listings are in Prague 2 (Vinohrady).



What is the local tax rate?

Value Added Tax (VAT): 15% and 21%
• Corporate Tax: 19%
• Personal Tax: 15%
• Mandatory social and health insurance payments are based on an employee’s gross salary; both the employer and employee contribute.
• Employer contributes social tax of 25% and health insurance of 9%
• Employee contributes social tax of 6.5% and health insurance of 4.5%



How much do you pay for your apartment? How big is it?

I pay $635 (12,700 CZK) a month for a very comfortable one-bedroom apartment that is 75 sq. meters (807 sq. ft.). My rent represents what a Czech would pay versus what a foreigner generally would – a real bargain in comparison with New York City or London, but it’s important to remember that the average salary in the Czech Republic is only $1,216 (24,319 CZK) a month; in other words, in proportion to salaries, rents are actually very high in Prague. This is somewhat resolved by rent control. For example, I am the only foreigner in my building; all of the other tenants have been there since before the fall of communism, and their rent for the same size apartment is approximately $171 (3,410 CZK) per month.


Currently, this is a big issue between landlords and government. It’s almost impossible to make capital improvements (desperately needed after 50 years of neglect) when the income from rent does not even begin to cover the apartment itself, let alone the building.



Where do all the Czechs disappear to on spring and summer weekends when the city seems so empty?

Virtually every Praguer has a country house (whether a modest chata or a more substantial chalupa), where they escape on spring and summer weekends. It was one of the few things under communism that the government was not interested in controlling. East Hampton it is not! However, there are advantages: roosters wake you in the morning, fresh farm eggs from the chicken coop across the way, apple and cherry blossoms each spring with a bounty of fruit soon to follow, and most importantly, one of the most picturesque and unspoiled countrysides I’ve ever seen.


Chata, c.1974



How did people get jobs under communism? Were they able to change jobs? Did people get fired? Did everyone earn the same amount?

There was zero unemployment under communism, so getting a job was not a big accomplishment. High schools were specialized for particular trades – carpentry, glassmaking, hospitality, etc. – and coursework included on-the-job training at a local firm; after graduation, it was typical that one would work for that same firm. 

Firing, as such, did not exist. This perhaps is not surprising, given that the goal was 100% employment. However, it was possible to be put in a lower position with less pay. There were only two reasons someone would ever be let go: either for “political reasons” (i.e., being foolish enough to express anti-communist views), or for stealing “too much” from the company (everyone stole). As my Czech friend Kristýna noted, “Everyone stole under communism. I don’t think anyone bought a single brick. If you look at people’s chatas (country houses), you can tell where they were working at each point in their building process – the railways, say, or the glass industry – based on the various materials utilized in the construction.” 

Job-hopping was not possible, so if you were unhappy at work you were basically out of luck. Salaries were not equal, but the differential was not based on talent or efficiency. If someone was a member of the Communist party, they could be paid more than double what a non-member in the same position would receive. Interestingly, manual laborers such as coalminers were among the highest paid people in the country – which makes sense if you consider the philosophy behind communism.