I walked to my panelák one evening, and though I walked along a lamped sidewalk, I could only see about 100 metres ahead of me.  The air seemed harshly bright as the light of the lamps reflected from the moisture in the air.  Shapes were indistinct, and I couldn't see whether any light was shining from my 11th floor flat or not.   I wanted to believe that it was mist or fog, but the bitter taste in the air testified otherwise.  I once protested to my Czech teacher, "To není smog, je to mlha!  Jsem optimistka." (It's not smog; it's fog!  I'm an optimist.)

He replied,  "Jste optimistka, ale to není realita."  (You're an optimist, but it's not reality.)

When I first learned I was coming to Ostrava, the first comments Czechs made to me were, "It's an industrial city."  One of the nicknames of the city is the "steel heart of the republic."  Another that I've heard is the "black star."   An English Wikipedia page on Ostrava calls it one of the "most polluted [cities] in the EU."  The Czech Wikipedia page, it states that in 2005, 160 days of the year the dust content in the air was in excess of acceptable limits.  Moreover, it states that the pollution has raised rates of respiratory disease, allergies, and other diseases.  This is the place I call home.

Yesterday I was introduced to a website which monitors the levels of air pollution throughout the Republic.  (Scroll down to "Kraj: Moravskosleyký" to find the rates for Ostrava.)  All of the Ostrava districts were given ratings in red, level 5, "špatná" (bad).  Level 1 is best and level 6 is worst, with 3 being satisfactory.  Before you fret yourself about my quickly shortening lifespan, I will mention that I live in one of the neighborhoods with better air quality--away from the city centre and industrial areas.  Moreover, all of the Ostrava levels are at 1s and 2s today.

Yet, despite it's smog, and various other disadvantages, this is what I call home, and it has grown on me.  So when I hear a song like this cover of "Empire State of Mind" about Ostrava (the chorus calls it a "black jungle"), I can't help but grin.  It's all shot in Ostrava, so enjoy this introduction to my city:

I have become endeared to Ostrava, and tongue-in-cheek songs like this reinforce that sentiment.  Nonetheless, I'm happy for SMS messages like the following "Hi Charity,would you like to escape smoggy Ostrava tomorrow and go to the mountains?" or "Hi Charity, another Saturday escape from Smogostrava?"  (I think it would be accurate if I listed my city centre office as my during-the-week address and the Beskydy Mountains as my weekend address.)  So, in contrast to the smoggy beginnings, here is a photo from a recent airing out.


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