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Tuesday 26 September 2017

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How pink was my Felicia? Prague city tours the Škoda way

A 1959 Škoda Felicia convertible

Tour the Czech capital in cheeky style – in a 1950s Škoda cabrio

The domes and spires providing the romantic backdrop to one of Europe’s most breathtakingly beautiful cities have inspired poetry, literature and music for centuries. The very air around Prague, the magical Czech capital, seems filled with monsters and ghosts; even the name conjures images of fantasy and intrigue, Bohemian hagiographies and bargains with Satan.

And each visit to this thriving, ancient metropolis, situated in the very central basin of old Bohemia, only seems to enhance its ethereal charms; intensify its mysterious aura.

One of the first of the central and eastern European countries to reinvent itself as it emerged from the iron grip of communism, Prague has embraced the vagaries of change stoically, celebrating the good and bad within its rich cultural heritage with a fatalistic flair.

One of the iconic legacies from the country’s post war austerity was the suffocation of its car industry. Emil Škoda’s luxury marque was reduced to churning out modest little jalopies, usually rear-engined, as an economical way of mobilising the people. A shining, modern day example of survival, albeit with a massive injection of Teutonic cash, Škoda always retained its own quirky designs even during its darkest days. Obsolete square boxes no longer fashionable with stylish Italians were not going to be resurrected under licence in this Soviet suburb. Offerings from the proud little factory in Mladá Boleslav would at least be original, if a little utilitarian.

But Škoda remained strong, with an army of western devotees who demanded cheap, reliable motoring bolstering sales throughout the Eastern Bloc, and with a business model strong enough to attract Volkswagen interest. Nobody really jokes about the sophisticated Škodas on today’s roads, but one can’t help feeling that, good as they are, the raft of Octavias, Fabias, Roomsters and Yetis are all rather sterile, along with their German stablemates.

Despite limited funds, classics still emerged. The little Felicia cabriolet manufactured in the late 1950s and early 60s was a prime example, and still sported a front-mounted engine. And bringing the quaint and quirky together in one fell swoop is Czech native Ondrej Rejzek. Introducing himself simply as Andrew, this budding young entrepreneur has teamed up with business partner John to offer tourists a Škoda-eye view of Prague. But here you’ll not find the elegant old thoroughbreds of the 1920s and 30s that make up the staple of vintage car sightseeing in the city, but a cheeky 1959 Felicia convertible in deliciously hot and thoroughly shocking pink.

You can’t help but smile as Andrew spirits the little beast up a blind alley here and a curious ginnel there, attracting looks of mirth and astonishment from onlookers as you take in the sights of old Praha, feeling the wind in your hair like a true Bohemian. The forty-five minute tour is over all too quickly, but the novelty of your conveyance remains with you, creating one of those special memories that slip easily into trip-culture, and are fondly recalled as a highlight for years to come. You’ll get round all the favourites, including Castle Hill, Wenceslas Square and the stunning Charles Bridge (although you can’t, of course, actually drive over it) but the star of this little show remains the Škoda. Think of it as ancient splendour meets retro pop art meets theme park ride, and you’ll get something of an idea as to why this is the only way to see the Czech capital.

To book your tour, contact Andrew on +420 723 377 758

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