I live here!
“It’s snowing in Prague. On the tram on the way to dinner, we drove across the Vltava River and the city opened up to reveal the Prague castle, lit up in all it’s glory, and I actually felt like I was in a magical fairy land, or Disney World, or both.”
The above is an excerpt taken from my journal, written on my first night here in Prague.
I can still remember the sense of absolute wonder as I looked out over the water and saw that castle twinkling back at me. My roommate Becca and I, exhausted and jet-lagged but elated nonetheless, made eye contact and semi-squealed, “We live here!”
It’s been 5 weeks now, and I have to say the sense of wonder has only slightly faded. True, I’m not constantly craning my neck to look up at every single breathtaking, unique and ornate building anymore—sometimes I even catch myself looking at my feet instead—and yet I still find myself surprised every day. With the glitter gone from my eyes, I instead find myself pondering the things I encounter every day. For example, the cobblestone streets. This week I was walking down my street in Holešovice (a working class neighborhood across the river from the city center; I call it the Brooklyn of Prague), marveling at the beauty of the multi-toned stones that residents have been walking and driving on for centuries. Prague is pretty big—approx. 191 square miles, in fact—and almost the entire city rests on these old cobblestone streets and sidewalks. I think it’s interesting that we discuss the dating of buildings throughout the city, but completely overlook the streets. How many years did it take the citizens of Prague to lay down each individual stone that forms the foundation of their home? How old are these streets, what revolution and evolution have they witnessed?
It’s the small things like this, and getting lost only to find the David Cerny mural I saw in a book, stumbling upon anEnglish-Czech bookstore, successfully communicating with a white-bearded bartender in Czech, eating street sausage named after Vaclav Havel (former Czech president and playwright), and watching an 80-year old Scottish man wail on guitar in a tiny Czech jazz club that keeps me in pretty much a constant state of awe, curiosity and appreciation. And every day as I take the tram over the bridge and look out over the castle, I still whisper to myself, as a reminder to never take it for granted: “I live here.”
There are countless other beautiful nuances and oddities I could describe in an attempt to characterize this place, but as all things in Prague, I really doubt I could do them justice through words (or even pictures). To illustrate: In our Art In Prague class, we’ve recently been discussing Medieval and Renaissance art, and how in those days art was far more immersive than it is today. Namely, it was not limited to the visual and was instead designed for complete sensory immersion, including taste. Examples of this included expansive sculpture gardens with running fountains and pungent flowers, or large and extremely ornate cakes made to resemble castles or family crests. The city of Prague is sort of like an indulgent work of Medieval art. At every turn one is bombarded with sights and smells and noises (not all of them pleasant) and even unusual tastes. The feathery snow that falls from the sky almost constantly in the winter feels different than American snow, and somehow, magically, almost never reaches the ground. The bars—authentic ones, anyway—smell of wood