Prague, Czech Republic: Oct. 2009
Prague is an unforgettable city, moody, dark, but playful. Its richness lies in its history, which is everywhere on display. The simple act of crossing a bridge cannot be done without slowing down and examining the statues. Charles Bridge (Karlův most), nicknamed Saint’s Bridge, is the most famous bridge in Prague for a reason. There are 30 statues of saints, looking down at passersby, mounted along the bridge on both sides, like a gauntlet, and that Churchy-feeling of judgment is in the foggy air.
The heart of the old town is the Old Town Square (Staroměstské nám) where everything is happening, and the only way to enjoy it is to acquire some potato pancakes or crepes from a vendor and wander. There are shops, performers, restaurants, and then you see it, the Astronomical Clock (Prague Orloj). The clock was installed in 1410 and was a marvel at its time, and it’s the oldest of its kind still operating. Now you must wait for it, the time … when it moves. Hourly, the hand of Death strikes the time, while the Apostles walk by. There is a legend that if this clock is neglected, the city will suffer a terrible fate.
Prague has many old legends and they feel very real when you are immersed in this city. The Jewish Quarter with its ancient cemetery (Starý židovský hřbitov) is a 15th century old layer cake of graves. Trees and gravestones join to form a beautiful symbiotic piece of art. The long arm of time feels very tangible here. Things appear out of the corner of your eye, then you look, and nothing, but you feel a presence. Could it be the Golem of Prague? Maybe the creature created out of the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water, by Rabbi Löw is still roaming Prague’s streets… Coming here at a full moon was seriously spooky.
At daylight, a walk up to the Hradcany Castle is a must, and the changing of the guard can be seen at noon daily, but the real gem is a further walk along the castle grounds down to the Stahov Monastery, the Library to be specific, where I got hooked on a little bird, a Dodo, quite dead, but so unusual looking, you can’t look away. He lives in the Cabinet of Curiosities with his friends, other old dried up shells of what they once were. In contrast to the old and dusty, there is a Miniature Museum nearby which has an incredible collection of tiny artwork, including my favorites: “Eiffel Tower on a Seed” and “Camels in a Needle Hole”. They are as amazing as they sound.
At the time of our visit, there was a Black Light Theatre showing “Aspects of Alice” and this silent, artsy performance was surprisingly wonderful in a surreal way. It was in sync with the tone of visiting this great city and helped to move a great mind to a new realization. Russ Viola, my partner in life and adventures, finally had his “aha” moment, and due to a perfect storm of ideas, started writing his first novel here, using Prague, with all its intriguing history and legends as a backdrop for his first attempt at urban fantasy fiction. All the characters I mentioned and more are present in his story, The Secret Life of Statues, and they really bring Prague to life in a way that will make you question everything you see.