Seth and I just had the most wonderful day in Prague. We started our morning by crossing the Charles Bridge to the west side of town. We walked up the hill, past rows of national embassies, before stumbling upon a surprisingly stunning view of the city. An older woman saw us gazing at the buildings below and asked us if we would like our picture taken. After she confirmed that it was no trouble, we agreed. She mentioned she was born and raised in the north of Prague but had been living in Holland since she was twenty-four years old. After a short chat, Seth and I walked ahead in search of an ATM and some lunch.
After assembling some cash, we settled upon a quiet Czech restaurant with a small, hidden terrace. As we looked onto Prague and sipped our Pilsners, the woman appeared! Once we noticed all of the other tables were filled, we offered her a spot at our table. Luckily, she accepted our invitation. Our newfound fairy Prague-mother told us about some of her favorite spots in the city and about her life before and after her move from Prague. When she was twenty-four, she was newly married. The Russians had become increasingly oppressive, so she and her husband left their homeland in search of work elsewhere. Without a job or any knowledge of the language, they packed their things and moved to Holland. Shortly after, the husband got a job with a university, and they were able to raise a family. They raised both of their children to speak Dutch, and they did not teach them any Czech. When i asked why not, she simply said, “What was the point? When you move someplace new, you have to assimilate as soon as possible. And who speaks Czech anyway? Only the people who live here [in the Czech Republic].” With that one thought, she answered so many questions I had had about my own grandparents. Why didn’t my mom know Czech? Why didn’t my family ever speak it? When I told the woman I had family from Moravia but I didn’t speak the language, she understood. It took her understanding for me to understand my own circumstances. Strange, isn’t it?
When Seth and I told the woman we had just graduated from architecture school, she was immediately excited. Both of her daughters are architects. (Well, one is a city planner, but still.) We told her we were looking for work in South America, and she was delighted. She understood all of our reasons, as she has heard from her daughters about the lack of work in Europe and The States. She wished us luck with our futures.
As much as I enjoyed our conversations about life and work, I also very much enjoyed my lunch. I ordered a traditional Czech dish called Svíčková, which consisted of braised beef, a sort of sweet gravy, cranberries, and whipped cream. Oh, and of course, bread dumplings were involved. As you might imagine, the dish was somewhat sweet but very hearty and filling. I have a feeling there will be many more meals of meat and bread in my future.
After lunch, Seth and I walked… everywhere. We shopped for gifts, and Seth bought me a beautiful antique garnet ring. (Bohemia is famous for its garnets.) Then, we walked west until we lost sight of all tourists and signs in English. We sat down at a restaurant for a beer (Seth) and a frappe (me) and rested our feet. After regaining some strength, we headed back into the city and walked along the old city walls. Thanks to our Fairy Prague-mother, we found ourselves in a beautiful park with amazing views. From the top, we could see both Old Town (where we are currently staying) and the communist cinderblock housing. We promised ourselves we would visit the latter tomorrow.
After weaving through the park, we made our way back to our hostel. Just nearby, we spotted an adorable beer garden. We stopped in for a beer each and a plate of traditional Czech cheese. The cheese was soaked in oil, vinegar, spices, and banana pepper. It may sound gross, but it complimented our Pilsners perfectly.
It was only ten when we left the beer garden, so we decided to stop into an Italian bar to listen to some jazz piano. It was quite romantic. (Italian bars, restaurants, and ice cream shops seem to be everywhere in Prague. There is even a Czech-Italian festival happening in the city sometime soon.)
Today was probably one of the best days of my life.