Thursday, July 17, 2008

Greetings from: PRAGUE, Charles Bridge, Kampa

Anyone who hasn’t played “gay or Eurotrash” should really give it a try. It only more challenging once you’re in Europe itself; the men are generally well-dressed and wear interesting—if not always great—shoes. I guess the feeling of foreignness is endemic to travel, especially when faced with a language that has strange diacritical marks over non-vowels. On the bus ride from the airport, Matthew pointed out the old Soviet-style block housing, Communist tenements, before Prague finally gives way to its own storied history and red-tiled roofs.

Our hotel, the Hotel Kampa Garden, is a stone’s throw away from the garden itself, a verdant path, where couples lie in the grass, the girl’s head on the guy’s stomach. Our room overlooks a small canal used for grist mills. In the direction away from the garden, the Charles Bridge stands across the Vltava River, and it’s a major tourist draw, lined both with statues of religious icons bearing gold crosses and street vendors selling glass jewelry and caricatures. At the moment, however, it’s under construction, with part of the Western edge fenced off, and workers in lime-green t-shirts mingling amongst the crowd. At one end, you can pay 70kc to ascend the tower, which allows you some astounding views of the city—you can trace the path of the river as it makes its way around. You can, as well, watch to other tourists as they gather below for group pictures or simply pick their way over the cobblestones.

In Kampa Square, at the foot of the Charles Bridge, there’s a busker festival going on. Thus far, we’ve been treated to jugglers, puppet shows, marionettes, and even mimes. Sadly, they didn’t wear whiteface a la Marcel Marceau, but they did have skin-tight white gloves that went well past their elbows. It seems to me that the secret of good miming is not getting trapped in an invisible box, but being able to carry a narrative on facial expression alone. Though the box does seem important as well.

I was exhausted in the evening—a full day’s worth of transit. The sun hadn’t gone down yet by eight, but evening was cool, and I could still hear applause for the performers in Kampa Square.

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