Prague – a good conference, and a big disappointment from the city

I was in Prague Sept. 24-26 for the ICANN Studienkreis conference. While the conference was in the usual great way Wolfgang Kleinwachter is organizing it, the impressions I got from Prague were quite negative.

But let’s first talk about the conference.

That was my second ICANN Studienkreis (first one was in Aarhus in 2004), and it confirmed my feeling that Wolfgang has found a niche for a unique, elite conference on issues related to Internet governance.

Many of the ICANN directors, besides me, have been participants there, and this year there were also a number of well-known people to talk: Markus Eggensperger, Dirk Kirschenowski of .berlin, Marie Zitkova of .aero, David Maher of PIR, Philipp Grabensee of Afilias, Annette Kroeber Riel of VeriSign, Andrew McLaughlin of Google, and many many more…

I liked our topic, “Will Late Starters become Front Runners in new Markets?”, where people from Russia, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia and Moldova discussed what’s the future of the Internet. East Europe has about 250 M people, who are the next wave of Internauts. Many of the ideas being developed today in this part of the world will shape the Internet tomorrow.

You can read more about the conference at its web site (linked above)

For my experince in Prague, see below.

Now, about Prague… I’ve been there several times in the 90s of the 20th Century. It was a beautiful, friendly city, full with great people, and perfect services. What misses today? The services.

The people in the service sector have been spoiled by the tens of thousands of foreigners who come to Prague, attracted by the glory of the city, and the beautiful architecture, river, beer… Well – guess what! – the famous for quality of services and food “U Fleku” is now only famous, but has no good food. Instead, it has lousy services. We went for a dinner – probably 30 people, occupying half a room. One would expect that the waiters and the chefs would be willing to see so many people. No way. The food was awful, and the waiters were behaving exactly in the traditions of the socialism. You can trust me on that – I’ve lived 21 years in Bulgaria until 1989. The common rule for bad services then was the one introduced silently by the waiters, “Why are you in my restaurant bothering my conversation with the other waiters?” Same thing in Prague.

The hotel – “Ambassador“. Same thing – some rooms are renovated, but the ones that are not remind you of socialism. And the service is the same. Breakfast at the hotel is among the worst experiences. Dirty tables, slow waiters, and not so healthy food. That’s also true for the other places I was. No wonder I’ve lost about 5 pounds while staying in Prague. There was one exception to this, and it was a restaurant next to the Karl’s bridge (will check its name and publish it soon).

The Ambassador has no free wi-fi or LAN internet access in the rooms.  There’s T-Mobile, which has wi-fi spots all over the city, but it’s quite expensive.

The positive memories are coming from the .cz ccTLDA, who made the Internet possible for the ICANN Studienkreis conference. They came the night before the conference started, and installed everything. Thank you, guys! But please, let the city know that if they continue like that with the services, they will end up with no tourists. Because Prague is not the only beautiful city in that area. There’s always Budapest or Vienna.

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