This blog is still in tourist mode as the Reverend Mother and I roam Prague seeing the sights, trying new food, going the wrong way on the tram and trying to figure out how to pronounce words with four consecutive consonants. There’s nothing like seeing a billboard in a completely incomprehensible language to make you feel “foreign”. Fortunately it’s not too disorienting as there are a few billboards in English, and even more that are in the international language of boobs.
My holiday is almost over, however, and I will soon be back “working from home” – but from Prague rather than the Twin Cities. This is like a dream come true for me; when I travel I like to try and experience what it’s like to live in a new place rather than just barge through with a camera in front of my face, heading for the next attraction. This probably goes back to my first trip overseas when I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend a semester at Reading University in England. I rented a room from an English family and hung out with more English kids than American ones at the “Off-Campus Student Hall”. The hall had showers, a laundry, social and studying areas, and even it’s own pub which was staffed by students. I took up darts, a tweed cap, and a liking to real ale. I even took a turn tending the bar.
Later our best times in Italy where when we stayed at an agriturismo in Tuscany that was also a working olive farm and winery. When we went to Spain we spent a week with the Pueblo Ingles program, speaking English to Spaniards who’d signed up for an English Immersion week to improve their language skills. It was a well organized and interesting week and we learned so much about the country, it’s culture and history by talking to the “students”. After the program we rented apartments in Madrid and Barcelona rather than going to hotels in order to get closer to “street life”. Going grocery shopping, doing laundry and other common things while also sight-seeing has been a great way to get a feel for a country from, perhaps, 5,000 feet instead of 10,000.
The other thing I always do when I travel is to stand at certain spots and try to imagine what happened there, from the epic to the mundane, in the past. Sometimes I imagine spooling time backwards like a movie rewind. How great would it be to stand on Stirling Bridge and watch William Wallace rout the English, or sit in the plaza in tiny Dicomano in Tuscany on market day and imagine the sights and sounds from 500 years ago? This urge is especially strong in Europe where so much history is layered so densely in relatively small spaces. This is certainly true of the Czech Republic as well, with the added texture of so much more recent and world changing history. Today (Nov. 17) we stood in Wenceslas Square as the country celebrated a national holiday in honor of the Velvet Revolution in 1989 that freed the country from the Soviet Union, made all the more poignant by the non-velvet iron fist of USSR’s crushing of the “Prague Spring” in 1968. The history here beats, breathes and bleeds all around you and I am eager to immerse myself in it over the next 8 weeks.
I am also eager to share the experience with you here through regular postings that will be part travelogue, part monologue, and hopefully part dialog. Please feel free to share your comments and especially your questions in the posts here. We’re not going to have time to look up distant cousins for you, but will try to respond to your curiosity!
Click to enlarge the photos below.