The Carnival of Prague

Trip Start Sep 09, 2013
Trip End Dec 16, 2013

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Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Prague is a world city. What a city!

Entering the central district of Prague is like walking into a three dimensional work of art... a visual feast of architecture and craziness and colour and cobble stones. I realized right away that one would never, ever, ever be able to take it all in.... for a moment I was even worried that I might miss something and I hadn't even started!

For some reason, the first book I have chosen to travel with (on my iPad, no less!) is a depressing social expose about urban and social decay in the modern Detroit of post-industrial America. The counterpoint to this is certainly Prague, which under communist rule for fifty years was allowed to deteriorate and fade to grey, only to be revived to some glorious splendour in the aftermath of the Velvet Revolution of 1989. (However, the amount of graffiti and tagging in Prague does suggest a certain amount of post-modern urban disaffection).

Prague is like a carnival of contrasts and curiosities. There are nightly performances of Mozart, Dvorak and Vivaldi in grand auditoriums right beside black light theatres - some with fairy tales and some with bizarre and disturbing themes. There are chocolate museums and beer museums and museums of medieval torture. Bach, Beatles, and Bieber are covered by a string quartet, not in a concert hall but busking on the famed Charles Bridge. Delicious four star meals for two, with drinks and dessert, can be had for $30 in funky restaurants - but a tub of apparently authentic Czech cuisine - potatoes, cabbage, and bacon - might set you back $20 from a street vendor. In the markets are blacksmiths plying the ancient trade complete with foot bellows and coal fires making candlesticks for the tourists, beside vendors selling fridge magnets (the picture is Prague but you know it comes from China). Everywhere beer, and coffee, and laughter and music.

In the Old Town Square, I watched a young woman in flowing clothes with a giant bubble maker creating rainbow spheres to the delight of onlookers. Some bubbles burst right away, others lingered and drifted into or above the crowd, adding a kaleidoscopic accent to the ancient gothic spires which surround the square. And then I got it. Prague - the political and spiritual epicenter of the real Bohemia - requires a "headspace" to be appreciated. A headspace of moments, some fleeting, some lingering, some to remain unknown.
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