While vacationing with Werner in Prague it’s the eve of the New Year. We walk through the cobblestone streets of the historic Old Town Square and head for the famous Charles Bridge. The charming streets are lined with quaint old buildings straight out of a Grimm’s fairy tale. Most would believe that Paris is the most beautiful city in Europe but I can’t agree after having seen Prague. Both cities share great architecture, character, layers of history and a river that divides the city. At night Prague is illuminated in golden hues that give the Art Nouveau and Neo-Gothic buildings a beautiful cast that make me feel I’m walking on a stage set. I also don’t see a speck of trash or graffiti. Even the pavements are decorated with colored mosaics.
After a long morning of walking and almost hobbling from the bumpy cobblestone streets, we go to lunch and encounter crowds of Italian tourists. The waiter comes over to greet us and after a few minutes of placing our order, he comes back to tell us that the trout I ordered is no longer available.
“Fine, do you have soup” I ask.
“Certainly, Mademoiselle” he says in very clear English.
“I’ll take a cabbage soup, but please make sure it has plenty of vegetables,” I add.
Ten minutes later, he appears again. I begin to think what now?
“My regrets, we are out of cabbage soup.”
“In that case, I’ll take chicken noodle.”
“We haven’t chicken today,” he says.
Knowing the Czechs may be have the same fatty rich diet as the Germans do which lacks vegetables, I order what I believe may be stocked in their pantries.
“What about potato soup?”
“We are out of potatoes.”
In my mind, this is beginning to sound like the I Love Lucy episode where she, Ricky and the Mertzes on their road trip to California have a hard
time finding accommodations. They locate an Inn only to find one selection on the menu.
“What do you have?”
“We have cheese, ham and bread” he says.
Werner sensing my frustration says, “A cheese sandwich for the lady and a ham sandwich for me.”
After lunch, we find a shop with records, books, and postcards. The man behind the counter is dressed in a sport jacket with suede patch elbows like a Professor taking notes behind the counter. Werner speaks to him in English and the man shakes his head, indicating he doesn’t understand. He tries German– still no luck. I speak to the shopkeeper in my broken German and we have a conversation, albeit a brief one, we understand each other perfectly!
“What did he say” asks Werner.
“He said we could look around if we wish, the maps are in the back of the store.” The shopkeeper disappears into the stacks.
When he is gone, I look through a pile of CD’s in a box on the counter. I choose one by Smetana.
The shopkeeper returns and unfolds a map before me of Prague, he begins to circle areas, “You find interesting,” he says in broken English.
Werner and I leave and locate a cozy bench to study our map. We hear music being spilled out from a nearby open window, a piano is being tuned.
Prague is a city in which classical music is the core of all life, like the air one breathes, it’s to be inhaled, and it is– either in chamber music by way of the city’s churches or street musicians or simply by what we’re listening to now, untangling the emotions, someone tuning and then playing a piano.
We head pass Josefov Street, the Jewish Quarter, a neighborhood of the past, to visit the sixteenth century Pinkas Synagogue. Our timing is off, a man with a lined face and shriveled body meets us at the gate,
“The names of the Bohemians killed in the camps are painted on the walls”
I tell Werner. Inquisitive, he replies “we should try to see it, we’ll come back.”
That night we go to see a cabaret, it promises food and wine and a glass of champagne to ring in the New Year. We are served a dry open face cheese sandwich as an entrée. I look down at my plate– biggest difference between Paris and Prague– in Paris you dine, in Prague you don’t. No doubt, I will live on stale sandwiches during my stay.