The Spirit of Prague

Ivan Klíma wrote the following in The Spirit of Prague – For me, the material and spiritual centre of this city is an almost 700-year-old stone bridge connecting the west with the east. The Charles Bridge is an emblem of the city's situation in Europe, the two halves of which have been seeking each other out at the very least since the bridge's foundations were laid. The West and the East.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Visual Riches

How is it that one day can contain so much? I have experienced an embarrassment of visual riches. Friday the 4th was just one of those amazing days Europe offers travelers. Our class group went on a field trip to Konopiste castle in the day... led by our awesome, mellow, down to earth guide Zdenek, the group had a marvelous time. The weather was perfect (70, sunny, perhaps even a bit too warm in moments for our NW sensibilities). The castle is in the French style, with towers at the corners. It was last owned/occupied by Franz Ferdinand (whose assassination is often cited as the start of WWI), an avid hunter. It is estimated he killed 300,000 animals in his time (according to the guides, it would be about one per every hour he was alive!). 

We took the train, walked through the town of Benešov, and to the foot of the hill where we had a break (I got a doppio espresso), and then trudged up the hill. The castle, the inside tour (the armory was phenomenal), the outside gardens, all peppered with Zdenek sharing his knowledge of the history and his people. It's such a gift!

I feel blessed and fortunate to have such great people guide us, coordinate our learning, and offer such amazing trips as part of our package. As you can see from above, the students also had fun (and there were pheasants and peacocks all over the garden area!).

Upon returning, everyone was exhausted. But I still had a hunger...for more, and Prague didn't disappoint. It rarely does. I went to dinner at a lovely little French bistro (the leek soup was to die for, and the dessert!), and then decided to hop a tram up to the Prague castle area. I got there about 9pm on a Friday night, and was stunned.

How is it that I had this place practically to myself? It is hard to put in words. The first is my solitary approach to the castle. The second is St. Vitus Cathedral at night. Again, I had the place to myself! They say it's trite to call Prague magical... it's a cliche. But, the city does cast a spell at night, and I cannot help be entranced by what I stumble across regularly here.

On a side note, there was a guard at the end of that empty street. I smiled, nodded, and walked right through that tunnel as if I knew what I was doing. I assumed he would stop me if it was zakázaný (forbidden). And that second picture? The Cathedral? I took that leaning up against the wall of the office of the President of the Czech Republic. This castle that surrounds this cathedral has been the home to the leader of the Czech people for over 1000 years, and still is the office. Even the Nazi
Reichsprotektor (Reynhard Heydrich) had his office here (until his assassination by two Czech parachutists, a story I will revisit and a history I will explore in person while here).

Yes, it may be a cliche, but I hope this embarrassment of visual treats keeps casting its spell on me. As I sat there last night practically alone (others did arrive, but in such small numbers, a couple or two, a young woman taking pictures, etc), I thought I'd never get tired of looking at this place on a warm, Spring night. Despite the centuries of existence, I hope this place never gets old for me.

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