Monday, June 06, 2005

strolling through abandoned streets at midnight

If I’m here and the castle’s there ... surely it can’t be that far of a walk.

Armed with my trusty map of Prague, I left my apartment and looked out towards the city. Just down the hill, off a ways in the distance, stood Hrad Chany ... Prague’s impressive castle. It should be simple enough ... just walk down.

Barely bothering to glance at the map, I set my legs in motion and headed toward medieval Prague. As I approached the quaint alleys of the ancient town I made a mental note to one day return to that restaurant boasting baked chicken with melted cheese on top stuffed with ... banana. hmm, curious. I walked further on and to my right I stumbled upon a building in which I could one day have an office: the Czech Republic’s United State’s Embassy. ... maybe ... one day.

I glanced at my watch, hmph, only 30 minutes from my place to Charles Bridge. I can’t say that I’d want to make the trip back up the hill, but the trip down was actually quite nice. I’ll take the bus back.

I wandered about the city avoiding those boasting a germanic language (i.e. Americans, British, and Germans). My goodness! They were so obnoxious. So loud! Obviously they’ve never heard of “practicing good OpSec.” Roaming Charles Bridge felt like Scotty had transported me to Disney World--groups of loud American teenagers, Japanese tourists, and venders peddling their artistic wares. Are there no Czech’s here?! I have a feeling they tend to avoid the popular tourist attraction.

Ironically I decided to go to Bohemian Bagel for lunch. Obviously this is the hub of expatriate activity. I walked in and saw one of my classmates, later two others came in to check their email. Behind us was a booth of American college students roaming Europe for nine weeks. To my right was a mother and her 13 year-old son plotting out the next destination for their vacation.

Later, I sat outside a cafe enjoying a lovely dish of pasta just watching people walk by. Americans ... British ... American ... Germans ... LEBANON? I saw another one of my classmates, Annie from Lebanon she had been taking advantage of all the lovely shopping there is to do here.

At 6:30 I strolled up Wenceslas Square to the National Museum where I was to meet Jennifer. The elongated square was crammed to the gills with the results of free enterprise: Currency Exchange kiosks, cafes, restaurants, McDonalds, department stores, bookstores, hotels, shoe stores, Nike. I peeked into one of the open pubs to see what all the yelling was about ... In the upper right corner of the pub was a medium sized television screen. Below it, scores of kilt clad “football” enthusiasts were moshing and chanting and just downright yelling. Certain that this was no place for a lady, I continued trudging up the hill.

This night was special. All of Prague’s museums were opened for free from 7 p.m. till 1 a.m. Jennifer and I had decided to meet together and take advantage of the opportunity. While the National Museum is a jewel to look at, its contents are not quite as spectacular. Oh sure there was the newly revealed stuffed polar bear or the skeleton of a whale, but I have little interest in gazing at display after display of minerals and plankton.

Desperate to escape this crowded facility, Jennifer and I headed to the bus that would shuttle us to our next destination ... the Charles University Museum of Man. So we crammed ourselves into this moving sardine can and we were off to wait in a massive line to get into the museum. Once inside, we were astounded at the collection of skulls and skeletons and molds of men and women’s faces. In 1900, a Czech scientist was determined to study the difference between the races. There were molds of Australian aborigines, Eskimos, African Americans, Chinese, Native Americans, and so on. In another room there was a chart showing similarity between species at the embryo stage. Some may attribute the similarity to evolution, however, the first thought that entered my mind was ... Wow! what wonderful proof of a common Creator!

After the fascinating science lesson, we headed toward the river to climb the tower of Charles Bridge to gaze at the Castle all aglow in the night. Spectacular. We were fortunate to be there at midnight when fireworks were shot over the river.

Strolling across the bridge at night is a much more enjoyable experience that in the daytime. Here and there Bohemian musicians shared their craft with those passing by. Ah, this was the authentic experience I was looking for.

At the end of the bridge Jennifer and I parted ways--she to the metro and I to my climb up the hill (my bus stopped running at 11:55). It was a beautifully cool night as I made my way briskly up the side of the hill. Streets once crowded were now empty. It was just me, the moon, and the streets where history was made.

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