There is a history in Prague — and the rest of Europe — which suspends these places in time. Freezes them in moments only my brain can whisk me to.
Old communists blocks in Eastern Europe, bombed out buildings in the former Yugoslavia which wear their pock marks like badges of honor, of a reminder of the dirty past, hopeful future and the cruelty and beastly tendencies of man.
Here, in Prague, the former capital of Bohemia (it even sounds so whimsical), the winding Vlatava River etches its vein through the city. Graffiti sprinkles crumbling brick; old apartments with grand chandeliers hang in the entry ways to apartments where people who have their own stories and will never meet live; the contrast between what goes on under the veil of darkness and the light of day is apparent and beautiful.
Last time I was in this grand city, I spent days wandering. Meandering down alleyways, standing open-mouthed at the churches, the modern and vibrant art scene set against the history which kissed me at every moment. Staring, in awe at the art nouveau, the baroque buildings juxtaposed against new works of art from Frank Gehry and more.
Even now, in May, when the weather is cool (and absolutely freezing for someone coming from the jungle), there is something which lingers in the air that just intoxicates me. It wraps around my body, dives deep into it, and settles into my blood. It gives me something I haven’t felt in a long time — a sense of belonging. A sense of warmth, despite feeling the need to bundle up.
The air is fresh. Crisp. “Football air,” I remark to my friend who I am staying with as we walk, wind blasting our faces, down her hill and towards Wenceslas Square, towards our late breakfast which has now morphed into a heavy lunch to warm up our chilly bodies.
At night, well beyond my normal time for dark, the sun lingers low in the sky as people get ready for bed. At 8:30 when we head to dinner, the pink and orange and green and yellow and blue colored buildings lining the streets have golden lights glowing from windows, while below, neighborhood bars with chalkboard signs and tiny groceries invite people in to warm up, to unwind with some mulled wine and fried cheese (OK, they invite me in to do that). A few people scurry past, along the all but silent street, clad in winter coats, sucking nicotine into their bodies.
We don’t warm up until we find the smoky, dark restaurant which serves up typical Czech food — rich and hearty — and Pilsner. Here, there is a mix of young and old, both ages not even adding up to the age of the actual building where we dine. So much character permeates the air. The red brick walls, the windows opening up to the darkening street scene outside, to the world.
My first night in Prague reminds me of its lure. Of its beauty. Of the history. It reminds me why I love the city, why I love the country … why I love Europe: its two worlds, clashing together into a swirl of beauty, of awe, of life.
It’s good to be back.
This post is part of the D Travels Europe series. Stay up-to-date on all of my European adventures by following along on Twitter (#dtravelseurope), Instagram,Trover, G+ and Facebook. And, for a look at the health and wellness side of European travel, be sure to follow along at The Comfort Zone Project and on TCZP’s Facebook.