‘Take ze bus!’ growls an Igor-like old guy behind a bullet-proof window.
‘What bus? Where?’
‘Ze bus! Take ze bus!’. Igor scowls and waves at me to get lost. These idiot tourists, he’s probably thinking! Do I have to explain what a bus is?? Welcome to Prague!
Now this IS a city you can get properly lost in. In fact, maps are practically useless (or at least, I’m practically useless with maps) because the streets go every which way and are usually not labelled. It doesn’t matter much because if you keep going long enough you end up where you started, having passed lots of kooky little bars with gargoyles and mysterious candle-lit basement restaurants and men with interesting eyebrows on the way. Most of the cafes used to be frequented by Kafka and Trotsky, or if not, they should have been. All this would be just perfect for romancing (noise of teeth being ground to stumps – why couldn’t I have dumped him AFTER the trip).
Prague-dwellers strike me as quiet and slightly disgruntled. Actually they remind me of someone I used to work with, sort of earnest, sweet-natured but slow (and partial to very red lipstick).
‘Here is your computer. Now I am going to show you the keyboard. So. You know how to use a keyboard? And the mouse. So. Alright? Tell me if I am moving too quickly for you.’ (hello E. You were a sweetheart, really) They don’t generally speak much English in Prague, which serves me right for being Australian (and therefore not having bothered much with languages, other than Latin).
On my first day I go on a ‘free walking tour’ where we look at the outside of various monumental things (the inside is not free, I guess). The tour starts from the Clock Tower, in centro citta.
People stand outside it and every time the clock does its thing, on the hour, they all cheer (different people, I wonder? Or just the same ones, with a high boredom threshold?). The whole square is littered with Japanese brides, posing in meringue wedding dresses next to those horses that give tourists carriage-rides (one nearly got bitten) and imposing masonry. I didn’t see any grooms though, only photographers (perhaps they WERE the grooms. Perhaps they all married their photographers – so much cheaper!).
Even my normally constipated emotions are stirred when the guide tells us about the Czechs waking up one grim morning to find Prague’s Wenceslas Square filled with tanks (1969) and twenty years later, 200,000 Czechs waving their keys in the air to symbolise their demand for freedom from Communism (the Velvet Revolution in 1989). There’s something about people standing up for Liberty and Freedom that make me all misty-eyed, maybe the concepts of Law and Order and the Free Market have a similar effect on the considerably-right-of-centre Mr F.
Maybe I’d better mention somewhere here that Prague is just STAGGERING! Your mouth falls open. Your heart beats faster. Your eyes widen and your pupils dilate. Go there!
And that Kafka, like me and so many other bloggers, was an unsuccessful author spurned by his contemporaries (but adulated after his death). Kind of gives you hope. Shouldn’t though.