Let's not kid ourselves. It is not very attractive living among high grey buildings, looking into neighbours' kitchens and running through a muddy shortcut to catch a bus. But the 300 Czech panelák housing estates, with almost 3 million residents, are getting a makeover. The grey is being replaced with colour. The buildings are being covered with thermal insulation, and the even the parks are turning green with trees. Predictions that the communist-era paneláks would be taken over by thieves and drug dealers have not been fulfilled. Years of freedom have brought another scenario – residents of these so-called rabbit hutches are buying their flats, repairing them and claim they enjoy living there. And their politicians are trying to figure out a way to make the open spaces between the buildings more human friendly.
No way to escape
An endless line of windows is reflected in Chomutov's Kamencové Lake. The water is whipped by the wind and the reflection is broken. The same applies for at least half the nearby buildings. The Chomutov panelák housing estate, or sídliště, Březenecká has around 4,000 residents, but the windswept gaps between the houses are empty. Nobody likes the eerie weather at the end of winter. „This is normal,“ says one of the old-time resident, Mr Slavík, as he returns home with his grandson from kindergarten. Slavík came to Chomutov from eastern…
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