The Language of Signs: Prague

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In the previous installment of The Language of Signs, we took an interesting trip through the streets of London. For English speakers it was a snap to read each sign and follow directions, but what happens when signs are in a language we don’t understand?

I found myself in the middle of a language barrier when I visited Prague in the Czech Republic. If it weren’t for the excellent guidebook¹ I had in my purse, I might still be wandering through a maze of medieval streets.

That being said, Prague takes special care in making sure the throngs of tourists who visit can find their way to various sites around town. This is particularly true in the Old Town District of Prague where poles with brown signs can be found on almost every corner. They are written in Czech, but there are images on each sign to ease the language barrier.

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Follow the sign to get to Charles Bridge, Kampa Island, or a tourist information office.
Photo by: c.b.w. 2008

Like London (and most of Europe), street name signs are located on the sides of buildings. However, in Prague they are usually bright red. Aside from the street name, they also include the name of the Prague district where it is located. Additionally, there are often two additional tiles near doorways or windows that indicate the street number and city registration number (often associated with the address).

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Kozna Street, Located in Old Town, District 1
Photo by: c.b.w. 2008

Traffic signs are also a bit challenging in that Eastern European traffic symbols and colors are a little different from the West. While some symbols are universal, others can be tricky!

One of the easier signs to understand is a typical warning sign for children as pedestrians in a roadway. A little higher on the same post is a very European sign indicating the location of a public Water Closet (WC) or toilet.  A little word of advice: public toilets are not free. Be sure to keep a few coins handy at all times just in case nature calls!

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Watch out for children!
Photo by: c.b.w. 2008

Another easy sign to translate is a Parking sign. I love how they always seem to be blue no matter where I go! In this instance, this section of the street is reserved those with a parking card. Further down the street, there’s a yellow diamond indicating a main road along with a blue right turn ahead sign.

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Parking is no easy feat in Prague!
Photo by: c.b.w. 2008

It’s tough to see but beneath the right turn sign, is another sign that warns of a pedestrian crossing. Here’s a better look:

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Crosswalk!
From Wikipedia Commons

There are a number of street signs hanging out on this corner! The red X on a blue background took me the longest to understand – it means no stopping. Above it, the blue arrow sign means one way. Up the street is another yellow diamond, along with a no right turn sign. Off the to right are signs indicating bus stops. On a side note, I wonder who left their hoodie hanging on the sidewalk barrier?

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Don’t even think about stopping!
Photo by: c.b.w. 2008

This street has a lot going on, too! The blue sign with a red line running through it means no parking, (or waiting).  Behind it is a sign listing Czech cities to which the road travels. Then, those yellow main road diamonds pop up again, along with signs indicating lane direction and changes. Towards the middle, there’s a blue circle with a diagonal arrow that means keep left.

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Yikes! So many signs!
Photo by: c.b.w. 2008

Last, but not least, the Czech people have a brilliant sense of humor. In an attempt to keep sidewalks and streets clean, signs are posted with a dog on a toilet to remind people to pick up any “presents” their dogs might leave while on a walk. Beneath the sign is usually a box filled with paper bags that have the same symbol. I didn’t get a shot of the sign, but I did snag one of the bags for a souvenir. I’ve said it before – the best souvenirs are free!

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Line 1: Not meant for storing food
Line 2: Dispose of waste into any trash. Not a hazardous waste.

Anyone up for a drive in Prague?

Happy Traveling!

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1. DK Eyewitness Travel: Prague – There’s nothing like colorful visuals to help you navigate through a foreign place. Aside from Rough Guide Maps, I never leave home without a DK travel guide.

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Just curious . . .

I don’t recall spotting any speed limit signs in Prague. Do they exist? If so, what is considered fast or slow?

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Previous New Familiars posts:

Grocery Shopping in London

Lunch In A Chinese Home

The Language of Signs: London

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c.b.w. 2013

16 thoughts on “The Language of Signs: Prague

  1. I love their signs! As you mentioned, most of them are rather easy to understand. I tried to guess what they meant before reading the descriptions, and I got some of them right. I thought that “Kampa” was perhaps the word for a park, and who knew that “tourist information” would look so similar. (Or maybe it’s just me and those linguistics classes I took in college.) I love this series!

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    • Kampa Island is park in the middle of the Vltava River. It’s gorgeous! 🙂

      I think some of the language similarities come from the development of modern terms. I don’t think tourist would have been in the Czech language until the latter part of the 20th century!

      I had to run the bag lines through google translate because I had no idea what they said. Total gibberish to me. However, I loved listening to people speak – the language is quite lovely.

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  2. Loved seeing all those signs! Thanks for the tip about the WC and bringing change. That’s not something to which I’d have given much thought. The ‘doggy bags’ are hilarious but a great idea. More cities should offer them to dog owners who carelessly leave their bags at home.

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