Friday, December 18, 2009
My Kind of Town
Well, what can I say. I have fallen in love... with Prague. Snowflakes falling softly, violin street music floating through the air, cinnamon bread and warm mulled wine for sale at the Christmas Markets, cozy bookstores, majestic churches, holy synagogues, romantic bridges. Give me a minute. I'm tearing up. Seriously, I'm not exaggerating. I'm crying right now. Beauty does that to me. Two days in Prague were enough to convince me that, despite the expense of living there, I really need to apply to the Prague international school. I went to Prague with four of my friends, colleagues and fellow believers, who I dearly love.
On Monday morning, Stephen, Valbona and I headed out on a quick tour of Prague, while Amy and Travis went back to the airport to pick up luggage. The tour bus drove the three of us past the important buildings and then up to the Prague castle. The views from the castle were lovely. You could see all the red roofs spreading out through the city.
Our guide took us through the cathedral and we had a brief look into the palace (where in the Middle Ages, horses and knights would have tournaments). The tour was just an overview of Prague, so it didn't include all of the castle. Seriously, we could have spent all day on top of the hill. There were different museums to go to (like a toy museum and a design museum) and the Golden Street (where the jewelry stores are), but we were pressed for time.
The next stop was the astronomical clock. The clock made me think of my Uncle Ed who is a clockmaker in Sisters, Oregon. (Shameless family plug: if you are ever in the central Oregon region you absolutely must visit the clock shop, around noon. It's such a magical place. Uncle Ed's clocks are incredible works or arts which he builds from inside out.) Back to the Prague clock. Every hour, the twelve apostles pass by the top window. There are other statues surrounding the clock itself. We went back the next day, just to watch and listen again. I love simple pleasures.
We met back up with Travis and Amy just as a light dusting of snow began to fall. I kept looking at my coat sleeve where beautifully detailed snowflakes were gathering. We all headed back to the Christmas Market for mulled wine and "street treats."
Amy, Travis and I went to a small cafe and warmed up with more hot wine. Then, they went back to the hotel and I went on to the Mucha Museum. I really do like art nouveau. It's romantic and wispy. (Mucha died during Nazi interrogation). Then I went to a Kafka bookstore. I have never read anything by Kafka, but the few passages I did read made me feel like I had found another favorite author. Art in all forms makes me appreciate life. I walked around by myself for awhile, (It's very fun to be the mysterious solo traveler. Especially when cute Czech men come to talk to me. Too bad I only speak English.)and then met back up with Amy and Travis for dinner. I can't say I'm a huge fan of traditional Czech food. The dumplings were done well, but just weren't my favorite.
Tuesday, we started off with more snow (this time falling faster). Our plan was to wander to the Charles Bridge and then around the Jewish Quarter (called the "Pride of Prague" by our tour guide the day before).
There were so many charming alleyways and buildings. Prague makes me think of a fairytale. I want to live in a fairytale.
We passed by this church right before we came to Charles Bridge. I took a picture of it. Look carefully. Do you notice something unusual? Amy pointed it out to me...
Yep, there was an icicle hanging out of the gargoyle's mouth! In fact, the fire department came out to remove the icicle before it could drop on a passing tourist or motor vehicle.
And then, the bridge! The beautiful, beautiful, beautiful bridge. I am taking my husband (whoever he is) back to the Charles Bridge one day. I don't think you can possibly get the full effect of the romance unless you kiss the one you love on the bridge. This is why I encouraged my four friends to engage in some public displays of affection! (And why someday I'll go back).
After a stroll on the bridge, we found a restaurant to warm up in. Amy and I both had the French Onion soup. It had delicious croutons and goat cheese. I don't think I've ever had such a decedent French Onion soup.
My four friends walked with me to the Jewish Quarter. (They all are in Prague for a longer time, so they were savoring it, I was devouring it.) The Jewish Quarter leads you through amazing synagogues and the Old Jewish Cemetery. It's hard to process it all. My first stop was in the synagogue that displays the names of the Czech Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis. The names are written floor to ceiling, on two floors, in alphabetical order with the date of birth and the year of death. Then, there was an art display that is very difficult to see. A Jewish art teacher taught the children art while they were displaced. The art work managed to be saved, unlike the teacher and most of her children. God. Mankind is vicious. Each synagogue was a museum devoted to keeping the memories alive. I was lucky enough to be following a Rabbi and his student from synagogue to synagogue, so I learned more than I would have just by reading the signs. Basically, the Nazis required the Jews to catalog their religious relics, and then sent them off to their deaths. Only two of the eight people who worked on the "museum" managed to survive.
After this sobering experience, I rejoined my friends for dinner, then went to the Municipal House for a concert. (The Municipal House is the first picture on this post). We were expecting to enjoy the concert in the Great Hall. Imagine our surprise when we were instructed to go down to the Art Nouveau Hall. It was an intimate setting for some world class chamber music. And yes, I cried. Mozart, Vivaldi, the greats. During the concert, I was struck that I really do love the life God has given me.
I'm glad that I was able to share my first Prague adventure with friends with artistic souls. This is a city to come to for inspiration.