We have been enjoying tantalizing(ly short) tastes of spring. For a few hours each week, we have been graced with the presence of a warm sun, a clear blue sky, temperatures that dare to break the 35-degree glass ceiling, and hordes of tourists that seem to materialize out of thin air.
It’s incredible what a difference beautiful weather makes for one’s morale; but it also makes it really hard to stay inside doing reading and homework! So, what to do? Go outside, of course! After a delicious snack of fresh strawberries and cold juice, my Czech roommate Zuzana and I headed out towards the Petřín Tower, the “mini” Eiffel Tower replica I’d been eyeing for weeks. (Fun piece of trivia: Because the tower is on top of a hill, the elevation at the very top is actually higher than at the Eiffel Tower in Paris!)
Though the picture below is not from that visit, it should give you a sense of what the Tower looks like from the Prague Castle complex. (It’s the one in the center of the photo, not on the right side).
To my surprise (and delight) there was so much more to the area than just the Tower! When we first stepped off the tram, we saw the zombie-like memorial to the victims of communism, which was unveiled only in 2002. (Sidenote: it seems like a lot of the memorials, whether to the student dissident Jan Palach, or to the Jews sent from Prague to Terezin, or to other political prisoners, have only been dedicated in relatively recent years).
The climb up the hill to the base of the tower looked daunting, so instead we opted to take the funicular, which accepts our regular public transportation passes, and decided we’d walk down afterwards. Though the top of the hill was nice, it’ll be even prettier when spring really is here to stay, because the dead vines crawling up the trellises will be filled with bright, colorful flowers and singing birds! But I’m getting a few weeks ahead of myself… I think it’s wishful thinking.
At 55 Kc, (about $2.75), there really was no good argument against buying a ticket to walk to the very top of the tower. About three-quarters of the way up the 299 steps, I finally figured out why no one had passed us in the other directions: there are two sets of staircases, one for up and one for down, winding around each other like a double-helix!
The view from the top was incredible! It really was the cherry on top of an already great day. We could see the entire city for miles around, and the sky was so clear that we could see out into the boonies, where the buildings stop. The coolest part, though, was realizing that I’ve been in Prague for long enough to be able to recognize various parts of the city and to identify buildings (Narodni Divadlo, where we saw the Rusalka opera, the Tyn Church in Old Town Square, the Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, etc).
Enjoy the view!
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Submit a video (five minutes or shorter) by 11:59 p.m. (EDT) on Wednesday, April 17. The winning videos will be featured at the 2013 Annual Conference & Expo in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Visit the contest home page for more details.
“What is he looking at?” I thought as my professor stared intently out of one of the massive windows, which define so many of the FAMU classrooms. I say this rather metaphorically. I knew what was outside; it was the longest river in the Czech Republic named Vltava, which bordered the magnificent ridge known as Petřín (both depicted in a picture below). It was an impressive sight. Still, from the gleam in my professor’s eyes and the truth of his words, I felt his actions were beyond simple admiration for the view. He seemed to be waltzing around in his head, speaking through his heart and his soul. The lecture was unscripted, honest, and informative. And how refreshing…the words flowed and weaved, much the shape of the river outside.
This was the Czech way. And I like it.
It dawned on me. Is this why so many people in the Czech Republic smoked cigarettes? To appear more pensive and furthermore, to attain an aura of mysterious contemplation? I can see the allure (but I’m no smoker). I heard a joke once how it is easy to judge a tobacco-less loner staring into the distance at a social function. But if that man were smoking a cigarette, yet still alone, he would appear as a distinguished philosopher. No wonder this city seems to be crawling with such bright minds…
But besides its terrible health consequences, cigarettes have often been used as a symbol of luxury, individual freedom, personal reflection, and as an aid against hardship (at least it is in film). It is natural then that a society so recently repressed by war and politics would indulge in vectors so closely tied to self-expression and cathartic release. In fact, the smoking metaphor seems spot on for this city and its people. Prague appears to still be redefining itself. Without the presence of tobacco, the landscape, the architecture, and the people seem to personifying a sort of cinematic beauty and curious inexplicability.
I’m observational. I like to pass the time by taking a moment to absorb my surroundings and try to understand them. When I’m packed into a crowded tram on the way to school or stuck in the grocery checkout line, I think, “What lies beneath these stoic faces and often tired eyes? What are you saying when you chatter in a cryptic, yet beautiful language? And what do you think of me?”
It is a pleasure then, to sit for a few hours a day and absorb the lectures taught by compassionate Czech mentors. They help fill the gaps that are created in daily life while living in a foreign country. The talks are full of new perspectives, harsh and enlightening truths, and best of all, the secrets of film.
Like I said before, this is the Czech way…
Stay tuned for videos, more pictures, and a detailed excursion to the hidden contemporary art spots around Prague!
“Choose your house, choose your car, choose your job, choose your friends, choose happiness, choose love, choose passion, choose your future, choose life”. While this may not be the exact quote from Danny Boyle’s film Trainspotting, it’s one I’ve learned to live by here in Prague. Life is all about the choices you make and the longer I stay here in Prague, the more I realize it is the best choice I’ve ever made. My interest in people and the interactions and relationships between them has increased tremendously since being here. I think “people-watching” is a common term used now and I find myself doing it more often than not. Just observing people and how they go about their daily tasks. Whether they’re as mundane as walking to a tram stop or shopping in Tesco, seeing 3 little kids crammed on one seat in the metro and being perfectly happy with it, or a person’s dog behaving scarily like a human.
“People-watching” has become a new sort of hobby of mine because it lets me into the culture here more than I could have ever imagined. It’s a bit of a culture shock to tell you the truth. I come from a small town in Washington state, so I always knew there was a bigger world out there. Stepping into my Acting Theories class for the first time gave me a wake up call that made me realize my big world is, in fact, so small. On my first day of class there were about 50 of us in a 20-person limit class. Some people had to stand because there weren’t enough seats and the air was so thick because of all the warm bodies in a rather small room. My teacher, who strikes an uncanny resemblance to Annie Hall, had us all go around and say our names and where we were from. Typical first day stuff, nothing unusual. I was sitting towards the front so when I turned in my seat, I had a view of every student in the classroom very clearly. I tried scouting out the cute boys first, as I always do, but then I realized that everyone got my attention. Not because I thought they were good-looking, but because everyone looked so exotic. As people started saying their names and where they’re from, I got a sense of how big this world actually is. There were people from all over like Argentina, Finland, England, France, Portugal, China and Macedonia. I didn’t even know where Macedonia was until I went home and looked it up!
The thing that shocked me the most was that although we are all similar in age we are connected by something else. We are connected through our love of films. We all want to make them and be a part of that experience. So although we are different in where we were raised and how we view things, we are similar by such a powerful connecting factor as films. That’s when I realized my big world is so small, yet so interesting. We don’t have to speak the same language to communicate to one another that we just love films, plain and simple. We’ll all form friendships because of this and then it becomes true, that film has it’s own language. So yes, I choose happiness, passion, intelligence, cultures and everything in between. I choose life because life is worth experiencing.