Revisiting Koh-i-noor

Today, we walked past the same buildings in Vršovice that I’d photographed way back when for the Fluffy Spectrum post:

In the original post, I misidentified these as ministry buildings, but one of my students subsequently pointed out that they are in fact (and this is much more believable) the headquarters of the art supply company Koh-i-noor. (The ministry buildings are behind them and look predictably institutional). This is how they looked back in mid-June, when the world was young, the blog was but two weeks old, the sun was shining, and Felix had just come home from the hospital nine days earlier.

Here’s how they looked this afternoon:

Poor technicolor dream buildings… you never really had a chance against the all-enveloping gray gloom of Prague’s February.

The late winter months have been problematic in every ‘four season’ city I’ve lived in, but they seem particularly brutal here. Somehow, every year at this point, I become convinced that there are far-reaching reasons why I should leave this part of the world and return to San Francisco… reasons which, I’m convinced, go well beyond the weather and in fact have a deep structural underlying basis. But then, eventually, spring arrives and I forget about all these ideas instantly (and the instantly aspect really can’t be stressed enough). This year, I’m holding out against this feeling, but it’s still creeping up on me… and I definitely got a melancholic glimmer while passing the poor beset spectrum buildings.

While we were away in the U.S., Prague got its worst snow fall in 30 years, the last of which actually fell the day before we returned. Clambering through the gloom to get to work the next morning, I was puzzled to see large areas of sidewalk blocked off with police tape and homemade signs saying (here is how I understood the signs with my fluency in Czech): ‘Warning: AFFFIUADFFHH SKKKKERWED snow and ice WEEEERWWW WEFWEWEEEE’. It turns out that giant masses of snow and ice had been sliding off rooftops and literally killing passersby below. Good times! Apparently, it’s a combination of (a) super-heavy snowfall, (b) peaked roofs built at too steep an angle and (c) an unusual sequence of extreme precipitation followed by sudden warmth that’s responsible.

After the falling ice floes claimed their first victim (‘a man in Ostrava’ as he’s invariably referred to), it subsequently came to light that Prague by-laws apparently hold property owners liable for any such injuries experienced by pedestrians. This revelation has made things almost more dangerous, as you suddenly had random shmoes up on rooftops hurling the snow off their properties as fast as possible in order to rid themselves of legal liability.

Here’s to a mercifully short winter, and the return of little fluffy clouds over warm Koh-i-noor.

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