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April 18, 2005


Last April was the last possible moment to get great deals on Czech real estate so Mirek and I took the plunge and bought the first house we looked at, in the farming village of Jakub, population 500. Then I left. The place was rundown and needed a lot of work. Actually, it was uninhabitable, but the lot was big, price low, and location amenable. I was nervous and curious to see the progress since then and finally get a feel for the village. Things turned out great. Mirek did an incredible job overseeing the renovation, there's a historic church across the street, and a great lake for swimming an easy flat bikeride away. Village life is quiet and uneventful with lots of kids and old people getting around by bicycle. I was making the rounds, thinking to myself, It's so great how there's nothing here. Then I stumbled across this brand new cul de sac gated community done in the style Czechs call Byznyz Baroka--business baroque. So, even here. With increased personal mobility made possible by private car ownership since 1989, Czechs are now intent on repeating the mistake of American suburbanization. Praha's population is diminishing as people jump ship for the country. Instead of sprawl from the city center, it's the little villages which are growing. This growth in itself wouldn't be so bad, but the newcomers are choosing commutes over community, living in appendages to villages but working elsewhere. As a homeowner I shouldn't complain--development increases property values. But it does make me wonder why quality of life goes down as prices go up.