Saturday, May 17, 2014

Prague

The first thing that a solo traveller will notice about Prague is beer. A beer bottle for 29 crowns is cheaper than water, and says a lot about the love of the Czech for their beer.

However, judging this city by its drinking habits and fervent nightlife is probably an injustice to its great Bohemian past. Founded about 1100 years ago, Prague was the seat of Bohemian kings who also ruled as emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. Considered one of the most charming and beautiful cities in Europe, Prague is dotted with numerous bridges, cathedrals, and churches.

For me, revisiting the city after 9 years is like walking inside a fading memory. With some new friends I met in the train to Praha, I walk back to the historic Charles Bridge on the Vltava River — named after the 14th Century emperor Charles IV, who personally designed most of the medieval quarters of the city that have inspired countless artists over the ages.

Fortunately, Prague remained largely undamaged during the World Wars, and its cobbled streets replete with walled courtyards and gold-tipped towers proudly reflect its enviable Gothic charm to this day. We continue our walk towards the majestic 9th century castle, and pass by the Old Town Square, where the Prague Astronomical Clock of the Old Town Hall installed in 1410 is still working, and announces the time with its own magical parade of apostles and a bell-ringing skeleton every hour. Looking at a bird's eyeview of the city from the castle, I recount the words of Milan Kundera and Franz Kafka who probably gained inspiration from this beautiful skyline.

"And therein lies the whole of man's plight. Human time does not turn in a circle; it runs ahead in a straight line. That is why man cannot be happy: happiness is the longing for repetition."

Today, Prague is a modern and vibrant city full of energy, music, cultural art, fine dining, and nightlife that can cater to the burgeoning tourist influx. Drinking through the night to modern music and numerous people in a rather unknown pub in a basement with unplastered walls and extreme graffiti, I reminisce on my fortune of being here a second time. In the same lifetime.



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