Wedding in Prague

Trip Start Jul 01, 2007
Trip End Nov 25, 2007

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

You must all be wondering how come I went to a wedding in Prague - well, the short story is that Alice was to be the bridesmaid for a very close friend(Jano) who had decided to have a romantic wedding in Prague (to Jeromy), and I, having nothing better to do, decided I may as well go too.
So, one grey Friday morning we hop on a train in Ljubljana for the more than 12 hour journey to Prague. We share a carriage with a young Slovenian man, who had the disconcerting habit of using moisturised towelletes to wipe his shaven armpits and spent much of his time texting on 2 mobile phones and reading a book with a title like 'Gay Reference Guide to Europe'. Unfortunately he also had stinky sports shoes and we had to keep the cabin door open as much as possible. When we got close to Prague he changed into tight leather trousers and texted frantically as we were an hour late and we figured he had a hot date that night.
A lot of people got on and off the train at the many stops and it took a determined effort to prevent them from coming into our cabin - at every stop we would lie across all the seats (except the gay guy's), feigning sleep (we excused our behaviour on the basis that we were doing the whole trip and needed to rest and sleep).
We got into Prague after 10.30pm and stayed at a hostel in the station called Hostel Vesta. The guy behind the counter looked like he had just had a big dose of tranquilisers, and after we had seen our room and Alice had been to the bathroom, she flounced back and pronounced the immortal phrase 'I'm too old for this'. After she had calmed down and I had apologised about the absence of servants, gold taps, and the lack of other luxury amenities, we had a fitful night's sleep, as it was on a major road.
First impressions of Prague were not good - Hostel Vesta, Central Station has seen better days, difficulty in finding a taxi, etc. We eventually found one and went to meet Jano, the bride, at their hotel by the river. The contrast between Jano and Jeromy's hotel and ours from the previous night could not have been greater. Theirs was probably 6 stars while ours would have had trouble registering on the scale at all.
Jano took us down to the foyer and ordered strawberry juic and she and Alice excitedly talked about all that had happened in the past few weeks, while I looked on fascinated as this man and woman walked in - she seemed to be a local and had big blond hair and was wearing a strip of tight stretchy white fabric around her hips (you couldn't call it a skirt by any stretch of the imagination) that just barely covered her bum, and as far as we could make out, this part of her anatomy was not hindered by any undergarments (if you get my drift), and she proceeded to eat her breakfast (scrambled eggs with salmon if I recall correctly :) while seated with her legs somewhat akimbo (ie her knees were not demurely together).
After this we went to the apartment Jano had organised for her mother (Anna), great aunt (Maria), and mother's friend (Teresa), hereafter collectively called 'the ladies', and her sister Joanne. The 'ladies' are all Lebanese Maronite Christians and Jano was a bit concerned about their reaction to having a man in their apartment, let alone one who often takes his shirt off :). So when we were introduced I was my most charming self and kissed them on both cheeks and told them I was a fellow Mediterranean, etc and resolved to curb my habit of walking around in my underwear or coming out of the bathroom with just a towel on.
The wedding was only a couple of days away so we had a busy time rushing around buying presents, and I had to buy a suit so as not to lower the tone of the wedding. Dear reader, Prague is drowning under invading hordes of tourists (including us) - the main square and all the little alleys surrounding it are thronged with people and at times you can only move at a snail's pace. There are so many Bohemia Glass shops, and they have so many displays of glass in every colour, shape, size and ornamentation, that shopping fatigue quickly sets in and you need to retire to a cafe for coffee and cake to revive you, which of course we did.
Miraculously we found lovely presents reasonably quickly, and a suit for me (black, self-striped, single button), then we met the rest of the wedding guests (who had flown in from Australia and other places) under the clock-tower at 5.30 and went up to an outside rooftop bar with great views over the city to mingle and get to know each other.
That night the best man, Ivan (who is Croatian) took a few of us to the inner suburbs to try and have an authentic Prague experience and we stumbled into a small dingy pub. When I tried to ask what types of beer they had on tap (there were only 2) the barmaid, who didn't speak any English (why should she?), rolled her eyes (I could see the thought bubble above her head saying 'stupid foreigner'), so we ordered some of each - mine was called Velvet, a very appropriate name as it was very smooth and tasty.
Later we had a typical Czech meal - high on salt, fat, dumplings and sauerkraut, then I walked back to the apartment with Ivan (who was staying nearby) and Ivan had a soup while I had an apple strudel and a schnapps. I tell you this because Ivan later told me he had this weird experience at the time where he was wondering how come he was sitting at an outside table in a street in Prague with a stranger eating soup at midnight - jet lag, having had too much to drink, and only having met me that night may have had something to do with it, I think.
The weddding day dawned bright and sunny - Anna and Joanne and Alice were up early and gone to assist the bride by the time I woke up at 9am (the wedding was at midday). My very important mission was to ensure Mary and Teresa were at the church by 11.45am. The wedding service was held in St Nikolas on the Square, and independent Czech Hussite church with lovely baroque features (Hussites are followers of Jan Hus, a Czech Protestant who was burned at the stake in Constance in the 1500's).
Sorry for the religious diversion but it's fun to consider that a New Zealander (Jeromy, I don't know his relgious affiliation, if any), was marrying a Lebanese Maronite (they have their own Patriarch, who is loyal to the Pope, although confusingly their services use the Orthodox rite), and among the guests there is the son of a Sicilian Baptist (me), and the wedding is being held in a Czech baroque Protestant church.
The wedding was small (16 people), simple and lovely, then we went out on the steps and crowds of tourists took photos of us.
A fleet of taxis took us down to the river where we boarded a luxury motor cruiser and slowly wended our way downriver, under bridges, through locks, etc, except truthfully I can't remeber much of it as I was fending off determined efforts by our drinks waitress, a blond bombshell in a clingy black top and tight white satin trousers, to keep my glass permanently full of Veuve Cliquot - every time I took a sip, or turned my back to chat to someone, my glass was immediately refilled. Can you believe I actually resorted to asking her not to give me so much champagne?
After several hours of this we disembarked at a riverside restaurant where our wedding party worked our way through a 5 or 6 course meal (can't remember) accompanied by complementary wines, a number of heartfelt and funny speeches, and a good time was had by all. I have been to many weddings in my life (my first one was as a page boy when I was about 3 years old) and this one was certainly the most exotic and lavish I've been to.
The next day we wind down by going to an art exhibition (MAJ57 - May 1957 by artists who defied being told what to paint by the communist government), visiting the Jewish Quarter (several synagigues, Jewish Cemetery), climbing the clocktower on the central square, etc.
That evening dinner is at La Perle de Prague, an upmarket restaurant on the 7th floor of the so-called Ginger (Rogers) and Fred (Astaire) building, designed by US architect Frank Gehry. One of Teresa's sons, a restaurateur in Sydney, organised the whole thing from Australia, and Teresa has very kindly invited us along. This part of my trip is certainly much more luxurious than usual.
The last day in Prague we hire an Opel Zafira people-mover and took 'the ladies' to Cesky Krumlov, around 130 kms away to the south. Cesky Krumlov is one of the best preserved medieval towns in the Czech republic, and was the seat of a family that ruled the area for many hundred years. There is a huge castle high above the old city, which is a delightful melange of buildings of all styles and colours, and almost looks like cutouts from a picture book. Particularly delightful is the ballroom in the castle, whose walls are completely covered with colourful theatrical characters. The guide asked us to imagine a ball where the guests would wear masks and dress like many of the characters painted on the wall, eg Scaramouche, Arlecchino, etc, and in the dim light of candles it would be hard to distinguish the real from the fantasy. Sounds like amazing fun.
So, after a very fun and interesting few days in Prague where to next? Stay tuned for the next exciting episode.

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