Parisians in Prague
Everyone who has been to Prague says it rivals Paris in beauty, so I just had to go see for myself. I took my trusty Pentax Optio so I could snap away, to give you a glimpse of the Prague that competes for tourist attention with my true love, Paris.
Externally, yes, Prague is stunning. Known as the “golden city of spires,” Prague has architectural splendors that span a thousand years — a blend of Medieval, Baroque, and Renaissance buildings. The streets are cobblestoned, the sidewalks woven of intricate patterns set in tile, the facades of the ancient buildings are laced with delicate reliefs, yet anchored by statues that powerfully guard their doors.
Sure, the tourists flock to the most obvious spots — the Prague Castle at Hradcany that sits elegantly on the hill overlooking the Lesser Town and the banks of the Vlatava River; the 15th-century Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Hall Tower that every hour on the hour a small trap door opens and Christ marches out ahead of his disciples, while the skeleton of death tolls the bell to a defiant statue of a Turk; and the j2999efov district where lies the remains of a Jewish community that once numbered 90,000, of which almost 80,000 were killed during the Holocaust.
The Czech Republic has long been a land of mystery and magic, home to alchemists, artists and the original bohemians, all of them weavers of spells, creators of fantastic worlds of the imagination.
Internationally famous Czech photographer Jan Saudek is no exception, still surprising us with his nudes, dream imagery, time sequence and multi-panel photographs, with time and mood ranging from sentimental to tough, most often with his basement studio’s crumbling walls in the background. At the House at the White Unicorn at Old Town Square, the best of his work is currently on display.
Writer Franz Kafka, born in 1883, is Prague’s most revered citizen. His memorable words created a concept known as “Kafkaesque” — “…marked by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity: Kafkaesque bureaucracies.” His prescence in Prague is everywhere…in sculpture, in the museums, in the printed word. He wrote, “Youth is happy because it has the ability to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”
Nestled behind the walls of the Pinkas, Klausen and Old-New Synagogues, in a cemetery dating back to the 15th-century, lie more than 12,000 tombstones, although the number of persons buried there is much greater. Earth was brought in to add further layers. The most prominent person buried there is Rabbi Liwa ben Bezalel, known as Rabbi Loew, without any doubt the greatest religious scholar and teacher from the 16th-century.
For three days we explored the winding streets and arched passageways. We shopped on the chicest street, named appropriately “Parizska” (Paris). We tasted Czech game such as venison, boar and duck accompanied by dumplings and lager. We were privy to a Saturday morning service at the city’s oldest Synagogue — the women only allowed to view the service through narrow cut-outs in the stone walls from a room adjacent to the main sanctuary.
We came to witness Prague with a capital “P” — and we learned that while to fully appreciate Paris, one needs a lifetime, three full days in Prague is a formidable beginning to discovering a few of its hidden selves, of which there are many.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
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P.S. Two events with which to mark your new 2006 agenda and attend!: January 10th Parler Paris Après Midi and January 14th Parler Parlor Galettes des Rois Party!