When I launched the first edition behind the former Iron Curtain country Hungary, as was my tradition, I had invited all European editors to attend the inauguration. We were all staying at Hilton up the hill on the Buda side of the Danube. Once it must have been a luxurious hotel and it still boasted five stars, but at a closer look you realize that the place has long been neglected and is in dire need of repair with peeling wall paints and battered and old cheap looking furniture. Sad remnants of the glory long past of the Austro-Hungarian empire of fin-de-siècle. When I get out of the shower and am getting ready, I realize that I have run out of my hand and body lotion and hope to buy some from the lobby shop downstairs.

Just then I hear a knock on my door. Standing outside in his pajamas is our German editor-in-chief Andreas Odenwald. He is holding in his hands a mangled and squeezed-out of-it-the-last-drop, a blue tube of Nivea moisturizing cream.

‘I need some cream.’ He says.

‘I do too, I’m afraid.’ I grab the empty plastic bottle from the bathroom, turn it upside down and squeeze it to the hollow sound. Not a drip. We break out laughing.

Having checked out the hotel kiosk and not finding any, Andreas and I venture out in search of Nivea. I still remember looks on our faces as we stood in the middle of the empty shelves of a drogerie. Forget about the imported Nivea, there wasn’t anything there that even came closer to a hand cream. Such an unnecessary bourgeois waste!

Little over a year later, I am in Prague. I split my stay between Forum ( now Hotel Corinthia) which is five star modern, prim an proper like any other international chain and then at U tři Pstrosu, a small boutique hotel on the Mala Strana.  It is certainty a charming little place. Followed by even a smaller and cozier jewel box of seven room B & B, U raka, near the Prague castle. It is owned by a husband and a wife team. He is a photographer and his wife, an artist. The main floor, which is also a large open hall, showcases both of their works. Quite impressive. The place is a walled enclave with well groomed small Japanese garden and even smaller detached structure by the huge main gate that serves as the reception, the breakfast room, the lounge and the kitchen. It’s a true B & B where they take your breakfast  orders the night before. The husband gets in his car every morning, drives to the closest German border and picks up fresh supply – mainly fresh fruits and other produce. My friend Susi from Munich has joined me, who’s crazy about fresh fruits, yogurts.

But in-between, probably at Ivan’s recommendation, I want to try out one of the communist era’s landmarks, Hotel Praha. When Ivan tells me that prior to the party bosses having decided to build themselves a concrete monument, the property was a vast and a beautiful park called Petschkova zahrada, loved and enjoyed by everyone. He remembers the park fondly and with a certain sense of sadness – the place he used to visit during his childhood. There were of course many protests against them razing their beloved park. But to no avail. As my good old Mom would have said: prudence doesn’t work against the power. Or as Joni Mitchell so aptly sums up in her song: They paved paradise, to put up a parking lot.

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