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Smokers' Paradise

5:17 PM, Jun 23, 2009 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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Prague
At the Kolkovna bar and restaurant, upon telling the waiter I preferred nonsmoking seating, he looked at me with slight hesitation before saying that section is located not outside along the sidewalk or in the back of the room but rather in the basement. I chose the smoking section. It is easy to forget in our health-conscious culture that so much of the rest of the world, particularly regions like Eastern Europe, enjoys a good smoke. Residents are not shoved into a confined space or forced outside their office buildings (and in some instances around the corner or in a back alley). Not that there is smoking inside every building, but certainly you can still have a cigarette at a bar. And at Radio Free Europe's new digs, there is a special roofdeck where the workers can light up, gather around, gossip, and further conduct business.

(The new building is sleek and modern and as secure as the Pentagon. And unlike the old building, the former communist parliament, there is air conditioning. "Some of us had ice buckets under our desks for our feet," one staffer recalled. But some of the journalists do have a complaint-namely that many of them once had offices but are now thrust into a bullpen like the newsrooms we see on television. The horror!)