Glaswegian Blues Legend In Czech Republic. Honest

Trip Start Aug 18, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Czech Republic  ,
Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Arriving in the afternoon gave me plenty of time to find the tourist information center, procure a city map, guide and list of hostels, and even to sit in a bar and study them for a while, in order not to make any rash decisions. I sat, drank my beer, pondered the middle distance and watched people walking by, before heading off in the direction of the first hostel on the list.

This central hostel seemed, at first glance, less than ideal. The rooms were all on the first floor, accessed through a dingy alley and a wrought iron gate that was clearly not just decorative. The reception, off the alley to the left, had a queue extending out the door. (about 3 people). A ragged busker was sat on the kerb outside, tuning his guitar.

An English girl was in front of me in the queue, asking for a couple of dorm beds. I started to pay attention when she was told that all the beds had gone, and asked if they knew another place to stay. The busker, who it transpired was her companion, came inside to join the confabulation. In no time we were heading in convoy to another hostel, exchanging life-stories and making plans to meet in the evening and head to a jazz bar that they knew.

The Travellers Hostel, on an island in the Vltava, was ideally located with very friendly staff. The room, however, was a thirty-bed dorm with wafer-thin mattresses stuffed with rocks.

I met Hannah and Sam again in the evening and we went to U Maleho Glena, the jazz club where Stan The Man and his band play every Monday. Stan himself is a Glasgow born guitarist and singer, with the voice of Fats Domino and the accent of Billy Connolly. The club was underground, with the cosy, smokey, candlelit and crimson painted ambiance of jazz clubs you imagine. The obligatory black and white prints, some signed, of all the greats decorate the walls. Six or seven round wooden tables, each large enough for two people, lined each wall. The total capacity of the place was about 30 people, sitting cheek by jowl in a way that in different circumstances might induce violence but here just added to the convivial atmosphere. In front of the two ranks of tables, the band occupied the last 2 meters of the length of the room. The amplifiers were not really necessary. The music was fantastic.

After the gig we hung around, as Sam and Hannah wanted to chat to Stan. I don´t recall any decision-making process or introductions, but when we were finally ejected from the premisses we were led by an American, whose name I seem, unaccountably, to have forgotten, to a nearby non-stop bar. We drank, talked and played table football until 4am. Welcome to Prague.

Between the jazz bar and the non-stop bar, we had to cross the Karlov Most (Charles Bridge), Prague´s most famous river crossing. During the day, the Karlov Most is populated by hawkers, beggars and buskers. In the evening, it is the domain of young couples, photographing themselves and each other in front of the illuminated monuments of one of the worlds most romantic cities. At night, it is home to drunks and hookers.

As we were weaving accross it, the American told us the story attached to an engraving on one of the statues that line the bridge:

Once upon a time, the King of Prague (and possibly some surrounding country- precise historical context unclear) had a wife (presumably the queen of Prague). The king suspected, we know not why, that his queen had been unfaithful. Confident that if she had, she would have confessed her sin to her priest (name unknown) the king summons the priest and demands the truth. The priest, observing the sanctity of the confessional, declines to confirm or deny the accusation. For reasons unclear, he says he will only ever tell one living soul what she confessed to him. Hearing this, the king ejects everyone from the room (court? chamber? not sure) so he and the priest are the only people left. He then informs the priest that this position will be maintained until he (the priest) spills the beans. In response, the priest leans down and whispers something into the ear of the kings dog (or possibly his dog), who the king has neglected to remove. Having kept his word, he is now determined never to tell another living soul. Naturally this enraged the king, who had the priest depontificated for his troubles. The engravings on the statue are of the priest talking to the dog in the presence of the king, and the priest mid-plunge in front of a large crowd. The dog´s head and the priests body are kept brightly polished by the tradition of touching them and telling them your secrets.
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dynamo on

Re: Priests and secrets
Depontificate is, technically (according to google), not a word- presumably because of potential confusion between being de-poped, having your overblown arguments deflated, or being thrown off a bridge. However, if its good enough for Patrick Leigh Fermor, its good enough for me. I have no secrets. As you can see, my life is literally an open book...

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