Zlata Praha

As we were getting ready to get engrossed in the mystery of Prague which was I believe was less than an hour drive outside Dresden, we gazed at marvelously picturesque views of mountains which seemed really huge. That was not the view you might get to experience in the Alps but it was still pleasant to look at. There was no more German language, which I was determined to brush on back home. Czech has always struck me as confusingly complicated but to me as a teacher of foreign languages it was fascinating to see all those linguistic changes unravel in front of my own eyes.
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It was a couple of hours before we arrived in Prague, the mysterious and romantic capital of the Czech Republic. When I saw all those dilapidated buildings and dull streets, I thought my hopes of experiencing the enigmatic and enchanting beauty of Prague were thwarted and I was so wrong to get my expectations way too high and set myself for disappointment. We were driving round and round some really sullen architecture and it felt as though we were taken on a trip on a time-machine and found ourselves in a Soviet city facing lots of economic and social problems… I wasn’t feeling too good because I had caught a cold and even though I tried to soldier on, it seems to be catching up with me. I was getting ready to move on from what I thought was just another disappointment… The hotel we were staying at that night was a big change from that in Dresden and I was making a pretty negative impression of the city… The elevator wasn’t working properly and it turned out we would have to queue up for breakfast till 6 a.m… Was that nice, no! Even though I was feeling the way I was, I was still excited about what tomorrow would bring. It was nice to figure out how to work my new mp3 player I got in Dresden and another exciting thing of the evening was watching our president Putin on my favorite BBC World News. I suddenly felt homesick watching our president on the international TV channel in Prague… That was a perfect international experience I was thrilled about! I phoned my parents for the first time since I was on my trip to let them know we were ok. I think seeing Putin’s face on my TV was one of the reasons why I did so… We tucked in what was left of the food we got back in Dresden which was another international experience of the night and were ready to dream about what we would see the next day.
We had an early start as usual and had a bit of a breakfast in our hotel room. We were staying in a noisy industrial area of the city and it took us a while to get to the Prague railway station where we were to pick up our guide for the next two days. The building was rather dull and dreary and got me wondering again if that was the country’s turbulent past that had such an impact on its present. It seemed like the city had some really dark secrets to hide. Our guide was a lovely vibrant lady of my age and I was astonished by her level of proficiency in Russian. Some seconds later we forgot she wasn’t Russian…
So we were driving down some hill (I got an impression Prague was a bunch of slope hills). It was scorching hot and I was wondering how I was going to get through that day with my cold… But I was determined to give Prague another chance so I didn’t mind the cold as long as this city wasn’t going to leave me disappointed.
The first stop on our long way was the Prague Castle which was some walking distance away. This is a residence place of Bohemian kings and today’s President. First we were to witness the changing of the guards. There was nothing in particular about this procedure but I think it’s a must-see for a tourist because in some way it gets you in touch with the country you’re visiting. We had a good view from where we were standing so we even filmed some bits. Then we walked into the gate and saw a really beautiful fountain and architecture. The Prague Castle is one of the largest ancient castles in Europe and I wasn’t aware of that till some point. I wished I had done more research on Prague. The castle complex which is located in the area called Hradčany (Castle District) houses St.Vitus Cathedral which we will be touring later and a number of museums. It’s a shame we didn’t bump into the President taking a walk the way some other group of tourists did, according to our tour guide who never stopped to crack up jokes.
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The next stop was St. Vitus Cathedral which was by far one of the most breathtaking pieces of architecture I’d seen on my trip. It is a Roman Catholic Church in Gothic style. There was something purely magical about this cathedral. The interior was just equally astonishing. And then we heard a choir of some Chinese teenagers who as our tour guide said were on tour of the world’s different cathedrals sing. I was incredibly moved by that spiritual song and that genuinely made me want to cry even though I’m no way religious. The acoustics was just splendid and their singing seemed to have struck a chord in my heart and soul. That was purely magnificent… Then we got outside to take in the beauty of the cathedral.
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We were continuing walking the cobblestone streets of Prague and shown some other places when we stopped at a vineyard which provided panoramic views of the city which was starting to live up to my expectations. All those endless roofs were there in front of our eyes and we had some nice picture opportunities.
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We took some pictures of the lovely Toy Museum which had an interesting statue outside it. That was a statue of a naked teenage boy which as the tour guide said Russian tourists call a pioneer… It was considered good luck to rub a part of his body which looked pretty indicative of how desperate tourists were for good luck… I thought I’d rather not do that because for some reason it felt inappropriate especially for a teacher…
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We were now in Mala Strana (the Lesser Town) where we were shown the narrowest streets of the city which I believe not everyone in our group would be able to walk. When we saw some policemen in the street, the tour guide used a Russian slang word menty and cracked us all up because the Russian police is notorious for being not the one to trust… We were guided to the Franz Kafka Museum. This writer is much acclaimed and considered one of the most prominent one of the 20th century. Unfortunately, I’ve never read any of his works but I know they are said to be quite disturbing to the mind. I think if we had visited his museum, we would have got a better understanding into his personality and literary work. Outside the museum there was one of the most amusing fountains I’d ever seen in my entire life (and I said I had a fountain fetish). That was a fountain of the pissing men whose gentleman parts were rotating so it looked as if they were urinating on the fountain which is shaped like the Czech Republic. It felt a bit inappropriate again to come close for a better view… This seems a way to honor Kafka’s quirkiness and anguish and for some odd reason, I loved that piece of architecture because that was definitely not what I was expecting to see in Prague.
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We walked past some lovely riverside restaurants which look very inviting and it would have been nice to stop by for a few beers but of course we had no time for that…
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We were about to go up which was one of the highlights of our tour of Prague. That was Charles Bridge (Karlův most). It looked spectacular even from down there we were standing and I recognized it at once. It wasn’t packed with tourists but it didn’t feel too busy at this time of the day. The sun was beating down and it wasn’t a midday yet… You can’t just miss that sight when you’re in Prague because it is the pedestrian connection between the Prague Castle and Old Town where we will be stopping by later on. The bridge offered some magnificent views of the Vltava, the largest river of the Сzech Republic, and of the Prague skyline. I was loving the city at the moment and the feeling of love was really infiltrating the air as while I was posing for some pictures and just soaking up the atmosphere, I was thinking that would be a perfect place to be walking hand in hand with that special someone… Charles Bridge was decorated with an alley of dozens of statues that looked absolutely out of this world against the clear blue sky. We were making wishes on several occasions and one of them was definitely a return visit to Prague I was totally changing my mind about. There were also some street artists selling some art and I wish I had had my portrait done but it’s obvious why I didn’t after all…
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… I could spend ages taking in the scenic views of the Vltava and keep indulging in that pensive mood I was in but it was time to the last place of interest for the time being which was Old Town Hall and Astronomical Clock. That was when I first experienced the hustle and bustle of the city because the square was getting busier and busier with lots of people speaking a great variety of languages coming and going. We got to listen to the chime of the clock but unfortunately I wasn’t aware of the importance and meaning of the clock up until recently… But there was nothing extraordinary about what we witnessed. But that was definitely another authentic Prague experience we will treasure in our memory for years to come…
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The girls sat down on the ground to rest their feet just opposite the Astronomical Clock. I was proper tired but remained standing and did some people watching. I felt like a tiny little part of a huge crowd of tourists. That was when it hit me I was in one of the most favorite travel destinations in Europe.
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A short while later we went on a boat trip of the Vltava and saw some more magnificent sights on our way to the harbor, for example, the Týn Church, the fancy Paris Street… I love boat trips, I’ve always felt I had a special connection with water… That was an indulgent experience not just for my soul and eyes but for my stomach as well… I hate to get on the subject of food in the story of my trip but it was just amazing! Every dish was just spot-on and I grew to love the Czech cuisine. Our dinner started out with a bit of becherovka which is a herbal liquor and a traditional national drink. Then we tucked in an enormous amount of chicken, pork which was just what we needed after a long day tour of Prague. It was nice and relaxing to be watching the iconic views going by… That was absolutely magical and it felt like I was in my element down there in this boat. We even got stuck in traffic and had to wait for other boats to pass through! The boat trip came to end before we knew it and we had some time to ourselves. I wasn’t planning on anything in particular so it was pretty confusing to realize I was in such a magical magnificent city but didn’t really have any idea where to spend a couple of hours…
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We had a bit of a shopping spree and did some souvenir shopping. I was majorly surprised to find out that a lot of sales assistants in the market spoke good Russian. We were about to buy some traditional Czech waffles and I asked a sales assistant if I could try them and she sounded a bit offended when she said she spoke Russian. I was a bit embarrassed that my degree in English was too much in the face. It seemed for a while we were back home because we heard lots of people speak Russian. Czech souvenirs were the most fascinating ones I’d come across throughout the entire trip. It was nice we took some Czech things back home…
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We had some more time to kill and finally stopped by for a few beers which were surprisingly cheap. It’d be a crime to leave without shooting a few I think. As I was sitting there people watching, I think I’d seen so many different faces that I haven’t seen in my entire life and was exhilarated to be one of those faces in the streets of Prague which seemed to have let me in some of its secrets… As we were taking a stroll, we saw some man dressed in a white sheet looking absolutely motionless. As we were walking past him, I turned my head to get a better look and suddenly he came alive to give me a courteous bow and wave me a kiss. That certainly put a smile on my face and made me sad such gentlemen didn’t occur often back home…
We did some food shopping and spent the rest of the time relaxing our feet and letting the world go by in Wenceslas Square in the New Town which was a venue for major historic events in the history of the country. It felt like home after a couple of hours we spent here. My sister was enjoying some more beer and at that point I thought was bringing a huge disgrace to the Russian nation… My friend was having a good time feeding local doves and some more people seemed to join her too.
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Before the end of that long day in Prague, we were scheduled to visit one of Prague’s Black Light Theatres. We were to watch the Wow show which involved the performers using light techniques to create visual illusions to tell some stories of everyday life. That one we saw was of a man facing his fears. We were seated in the front row and I swear never in my life had I been in a room with people from so many different countries. The whole message of the show didn’t quite come across to us at that point but it was definitely nothing what we’d seen before as we felt water drops falling from the ceiling, saw some creepy spiders popping up out of the blue. The show was interactive and my sister even got asked to blow some bubbles… We were joking it was the beer that got her involved in the show in the first place… We were really moved and perplexed by what we saw…
The last event of the day was a visit to Křižík fountain, a one-off water show where dance performances, music and water are synchronized together. That night Black Swan by Tchaikovsky was staged. My sister detests opera so she felt a bit disappointed. The darkness was falling and that was a truly magic time to spend in one of the most magical cities of the world… The place seemed to be in the middle of nowhere and it was nice our coach took us there, otherwise we would have definitely lost our way. I was excited to see Black Swan and happened to see it played in our local theatre just weeks before the trip. As the music started playing, I felt butterflies in my stomach! The choreography and music was just beyond incredible and I genuinely enjoyed every second of the show even when it started raining and we had to look for a place to hide because the last thing I wanted is to have my cold get even worse… Standing there in the rain watching the beauty unravel was purely romantic and of course I wanted someone to share this moment with me… Just as I did in Dresden, I felt I got in touch with the kind of beauty that is often blurred in the everyday drudgery and was elated by the experience…
It was time we went back to our hotel to spend one more night in the city which started growing on me through the course of one single day. I went from being utterly disappointed to being utterly amazed and enchanted… I pretty much experienced every emotion in the book that day… First impressions can be so painfully wrong and can really affect our judgment. I’m happy I wasn’t meant to be disappointed by this city that seemed to have shared so much with me that day that I felt absolutely shattered by the time we got back to the hotel. I was ready to admit Prague was “a dear little mother whose claws never let go” as Franz Kafka said in one of his letters to his father…
The next day was going to be a new day…
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Author: Olga

An English teacher and translator, a keen traveller

One thought on “Zlata Praha”

  1. Olga, you must write that the actor from Black Light Theatres told me WOW! for my blowing. Beer rules:-) Your sister

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