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an improbable Czech memorial
Ústí nad Labem in the Czech Republic is certainly an unsung spot. hidden europe stopped off here in early April, revisiting a town that first caught our attention three years back when we found an intriguing few lines in The Rough Guide to The Czech & Slovak Republics. "Trains usually stop at Ústí for only four or five minutes, which is long enough for most people", said the guide. This seemed a tad harsh on the Bohemian town that nestles in the Labe valley about an hour north of Prague, and the Rough Guide's dismissal of Ústí prompted us to explore the place a little more.
Ústí, it has been to said, does not yield its charms easily, but it certainly has more of interest than our old Rough Guide implies. It has the remarkable new Mariánský suspension bridge, and the whole place oozes history. The town proclaims every august connection it can muster, from King Wenceslas to Napoleon and even a tenuous link with Marlene Dietrich. England's King Edward VII, it seems, was a fan of Ústí beer, and would have a few cases delivered each year for his regular summer sojourn in Marienbad. The town also asserts its cosmopolitan credentials through its road names: Parízská, Moskevská, Londýnská, and streets named after Roosevelt, Rembrandt, Churchill and Wagner. We walked them all, ending up on Bratislavská, which at its southern end has a quite remarkable memorial. There we found a huge photographic tribute to an alleged successful Albanian moon landing in July 1999. The red and black Albanian flag with its distinctive double headed eagle, and the images of helmeted Albanians treading the lunar surface showed that in Ústí, for all its drabness, there does at least remain a nice sense of civic humour.
More on Ústí in the July 2005 issue of hidden europe, when we visit Maticní Street, home to some of Ústí nad Labem's Roma minority.