DAY 31: Second Day in Prague
I found what I was searching for; What I was after within myself. The ultimate purpose behind this trip. I know the conclusion of my journey is on the horizon. I can feel it. I’ve decided to extend my stay in Czech Republic. I’m inspired. Constantly. By the art, the people, the city.
I took the tram towards Prague Castle. Felt obliged to begin today’s journey at one of the city’s most iconic tourist attractions. I walked through the parks beforehand. Admired the well-kept greenery and ancient statues. Found a greenhouse nearby known as the Orangery in the Royal Gardens. Semi-cylindrical structure running maybe 200 feet in length. An old woman greeted me at the entrance. Helped me with a few words in Czech; I love the language. I wish I could breathe air of this quality at all times. Probably appeared as though I was hyperventilating; I couldn’t help consuming deep breaths of this air again and again.
I continued toward the castle along a small facility where a painter was capturing a surreal view of the rear of the castle. Her angle was perfect. I wanted to snap a photo of this particular view but she was precisely where that shot resided. Anymore to the left or to the right and the castle would be obstructed by branches. I didn’t want to disturb or undermine her hard work.
I approached the entryway to the castle where a guard in full camouflage carried an MP5 automatic submachine gun around his neck. These men were stationed throughout the perimeter, keeping watch of the integrity of the grounds. I didn’t make it to the castle yet again. I could hear music and laughter hidden beyond the trees below to my right. Festival of some sort. Last day, in fact.
Knight armor stood erect and cohesive for photo opportunities next to the ticket booth. My curiosity wouldn’t let me forego forking over the measly 200 crown entry fee. I followed a declining dirt path and as I neared the bottom, the foliage opened up to reveal a small stage surrounded by tourists and locals. Four men were sword fighting before the audience; Comedically so. They performed goofy, Three Stooges-esque acts dressed as musketeers. The laughter of children throughout the crowd never ceased. I’m not sure I didn’t have a smile on my face the entirety of the show myself. A musical group with guitar, bagpipe and drums took the stage afterward; They sounded fantastic.
Walked further down the festival path where I found authentic Czech food. I opted for the sizzling kielbasa sausage; Juicy and divine. Many of the children wore mock wooden armor. There were small areas dedicated to the kids, where they pretended to be knights jousting through a battlefield, riding a broomstick with a flat horse head and ramming a staff into standing wooden targets.
Then, an announcer dominated the ambience. He was standing behind a podium at the center of a battle arena set-up for jousting. I couldn’t make out what he was saying in Czech but I didn’t need to. First, two gorgeous Czech women on horseback rode in, representing princesses for their respective teams. Their entrance was followed by a larger group of armored men on foot then another set of knights on horseback with colorful garments. We watched the knights on horseback joust one after the other. Felt as real as you’re ever going to get to a real joust in person. Every knight remained in-character, encouraging the audience to cheer for them or acted frustrated upon (intentionally) losing.
Occasionally the jousting would cease for sword battles between the knights on foot. Like watching Gladiators in the great arena minus the gore. This presentation continued until concluding with three of the six knights on horseback vanishing for a costume change. They returned wearing red long-sleeved silk shirts and black pants, screaming “Arriba!” Each rider, including one of the princesses (what a woman, let me tell you…), would initiate their horses into a sprint and perform various tricks, ranging from hanging upside off the side to flipping all over the horse’s back.
More than a few of the audience members were recording this event on their mobile devices during the show, from beginning to end. This reminded me of a similar instance where I was walking through Tate Modern contemporary art museum back in London and there was one particular younger gentlemen trailing through each exhibit and compulsively snapping photos of the art pieces. He hardly stood within their presence for longer than a second. I’m weary of this behavior. That’s what I’ve taken away from this whole trip: embrace experience.
Forget about recording every second of what's happening on an 8 megapixel mobile device and pay attention. I want to give my surroundings the attention it deserves. Absorb where I am and allow those experiences to shape who I am. Cell phone's are a distraction. Facebook friends will survive without full coverage of whatever it is I'm doing. They’ll probably watch five seconds of it and move on to the next post anyway. They will not get the same experience that I will receive by being there in-person.
I felt transported at this festival. I left and viewed Prague Castle finally but it was a depressing journey comaratively, so I didn’t linger long; I’ll return. I crossed St. Charles bridge. Many homeless congregated here. Beggars in Prague were numerous and they take on a specific stance: crouched on their knees, in fetal position. They'd have their heads buried in their forearms with their cups held out for spare change. But the bridge contained hardworking people simultaneously. I scanned the products offered by merchants, or the drawings and paintings from artists creating portraits of tourists.
I’ve fallen in love with Prague and I'm glad I extended my visit. Inspiration is everywhere if you're paying attention.