It wasn’t long before I fell in love with Prague. It was fate that had brought me to this enigmatic city and like many others, I had stumbled upon this beautiful place unexpectedly and over time was finding myself becoming continuously attached to its slow paced, relaxed and in some ways, more backwards way of lifestyle that gives it that alluring, authentic and honest aura. Maybe it’s because of the history of this country, that its people are more compelled to lead a life that follows the mentality that ‘shit happens’ whereby ‘what you see is what you get’ and people don’t cut corners or find the time to be so judgemental in your style or way about life. Prague’s easy going and spontaneous rhythm of life style is one of its greatest characteristics that it effortlessly bestows, which had me captivated and has kept me fascinated.
Its aesthetic beauty gives it a dream-like and sentimental feel. The rich maroon red and orange rooftops clustered together against its mint green spires and turrets that stand disordered against the skyline, are constantly unveiled to the eye in the distance of every wide, hill-top road for which you stand. Dark outlines of its silhouettes stand out prominently, as if someone were to have withdrawn a black ink pen and traced a perfect line around the outlines of these gothic and baroque styled buildings against the blazing pink and orange sunset, that never fails to emerge at the end of a summers afternoon.
Its pastel colours of purple to pinks, to blues, greens and yellows spread themselves over the city, yet you always come to discover a difference between each building from the intricate hand painted décor, sculpture or statues, or its balconies occupied by its diverse inhabitants, each balcony exposing a trace of one of the intriguing characters lives that walks the cobbled streets below.
I see road workers, their hands as withered and as dry as a sanded desert head to toe in red work ovals; their long, wiry grey hair tied up behind their backs laying out cement on the newly made area of roads. They are pausing to have a break and seek shade, sitting along a wall next to one another, chatting, laughing sheltered by the trees, smoking cigarettes and drinking cans of beer.
I see elderly woman, sitting on street benches dressed in matching patterned skirts and blouses of vibrant patterns and colours, that look as if they were originally worn in the sixties. Clutching trollies of food shopping in one hand and sitting back watching the chaotic streets of rush hour that lie before them. There decrepit old faces are filled with nostalgia and resentment, looking confused and lost by the changing ways of life that surrounds them. You can see the frustration in those stubborn, beady eyes that dart across the array of passers by. Sometimes I would be on a tram returning from the centre of town and the same elderly characters would be found stationery in the exact same spot and two hours will have already passed.
I see the homeless hoarders, wondering the endless streets like lost souls. Pausing at every corner with their large, blue plastic bags, diving hungrily into bin after bin to dig out waste food, newspapers, clothes, books, blankets, kitchen appliances and later, I would spot these characters grazing in the blazing hot sun of Karlova Namesti Park. Lying beneath the patches of shade, their bodies curled up on their sides, clutching at their blue bags that behold all the possessions they own, guarding their life with their life whilst resting in the peaceful tranquillity of this space.
I see parks in every district I walk, beautifully preserved and looked after, with outstanding view points. Another effortless element this city adds to its charm.
I see groups of the youth, others that have just finished a long day’s work, runners, guitarists, ex-pats, groups of athletes and acrobat enthusiasts all gathered to take a beer, smoke a joint and watch the sun set against the viewpoint of the old city. Diverse crowds of people coming together to appreciate the beauty of this place as much as I.
And it is often happening, that I will find myself forgetting that Prague is a capital city which for me, is one of the most distinct and unique rareities it beholds.
Unlike any other capital city I have walked through, I don’t feel stressed by its people compared to other places where locals would barge past and hundreds of crowds of people will continue from morning to night to take up all the space upon the majority of the streets. One thing I observed that occurred to me during the first few months of my time here, was that the majority of the city was at its most emptiest and quietist on the weekends. This is because many shop owners and their families or partners will go spend their free time in their holiday houses elsewhere within the Czech Republic. As I have found myself walking through Zizkov or Vinohrady on a Saturday or Sunday, I was always curious as to why it was noticeably so much more quieter and subdued compared to weekdays, but after having asked a few locals, I soon understood why. This really put into perspective for me, how small this country of ten million is. Where would you find in any other capital city such a weekend as quiet as in Prague? The answer being, you wouldn’t.
The fact that this countries so undiscovered and low key and being in the very center of Europe fascinates me even more. It is still a hidden treasure for which I hope it shall remain to be. As locals inform me that Prague is continuing to expand in size, I am curious to see how or if it will change dramatically in years to come.
From its obscure, eccentric open minded people, to its well reserved outstandingly beautiful buildings both in the suburbs and inner city, to all the natural beauty in all of its parks and by the riverside, and to the creativity its inspired within me and that constantly surrounds me,
This is Prague.