by David Sturm
Most of the English-speaking expatriates who leave Prague simply return to their home countries. These include front men for multinationals whose mission was to set up a branch office and leave it with Czechs in charge, those with Czech blood who came seeking their roots and Jews for whom the city is the stuff of legend.
There are also, however, those leaving Prague whose business is the constant pursuit of greener pastures. What is the city that will play host to the next wave of nascent Hemingways, venture capitalists and footloose retirees?
Here is a rundown on the conventional wisdom among Prague's expats:
- Moscow -- J.P. Morgan's New York City. Hogarth's London. Al Capone's Chicago. Lorenzo Medici's Florence. Octavian's Rome. Jack London's Fairbanks. Take your pick.
- Warsaw -- "Destroyed by the Nazis and rebuilt by the communists," as the wry saying goes, this city has risen to become central Europe's economic powerhouse. Poles also have the reputation as some of the friendliest people in Europe.
- Budapest -- More cosmopolitan yet less tourist-infested than Prague, Hungary's capital has an expat scene as comfy and affordable as any in Europe. The cuisine is Central Europe's best.
- Ljubljana -- The buzz is building about the capital of Slovenia, a nation carved from the northwest corner of the former Yugoslavia. Beautiful, peaceful and relatively unspoiled, it's 150 miles east of Venice.
- Bratislava -- Compared to Prague, the capital of the post-"Velvet Divorce" nation of Slovakia is smaller and politically and economically less mature. But the expat community there is growing.
- Kiev -- With Motorola leading the way, western businesses are building a seawall against a tide of corruption. Once the Ukranian economy is tamed, markets are potentially huge.
(Originally appeared in The Washington Post.)
- Minsk, Belarus -- Be mistaken for a journalist and you could be beaten, jailed or shot at by police.
- Kabul, Afghanistan -- Ruined by war and in the grip of Muslim fundamentalism, it's now a place where police will arrest you for flying a kite, i.e., displaying frivolity toward heaven.
- Tirana, Albania -- They're still doing their laundry on rocks in streams.