'I've never seen such a fast implosion,' says an American who ought to know: not only is he a veteran of the Great Dotcom Crash of 2001, he now makes his living guiding foreigners around Prague's brothels.
'I have my graduate degree in economics,' he assures me.
Lena and I have come to Prague just a few days before St. Stephen's Day on the 26th of December.
And while many sex clubs blame the lack of trade on the season, my guide says the slump is worse than that.
'It's a classic supply-demand imbalance.'
|Good King Wenceslaus looked out, on the Feast of Stephen...|
While women in other Eastern European capitals offer sex tourists ever-cheaper bangs for their bucks, he reckons Czech prostitutes are in danger of pricing themselves out of the market.
'For two to three hundred euros an hour, you could just as well stay at home in London, couldn't you? But some of the Czechs still haven't mastered capitalism. They think if they lower their prices, people will think there's something wrong with the goods.'
He makes this observation while hustling across Wenceslaus Square, muttering 'Nyet, nyet' to the rival touts on the street trying to lure us into their clubs. ('Nyet works better because the Czechs are still scared of the Russians.')
Up at the top of the grand, rectangular promenade stands the horsebound statue of the Czechs' patron saint, an impotent sentinel that's witnessed the Nazi occupation, the Soviet invasion and the Velvet Revolution.
|Vaclav (aka Wenceslas), meet Vaclav |
(Matej Divizna, The Telegraph)
Nowadays, when good King Wenceslaus looks out—on the Feast of Stephen or any other day—he sees a neon parade of clothing chains, restaurants and cafes.
And if you follow the saint's gaze far enough, down past the strip club marked GATE TO HELL, you can see what he's focusing on: a voluptuous, illuminated dollar sign revolving outside a casino.