My very first European city, Prague. If you count landing in Munich, Germany first before the connecting flight to Prague, then second, but I count it as my first because it is the first city outside the States and Mexico that I have traveled to. We arrived at sunset, I was traveling with my high school orchestra. I had been playing cello for 9 years at that time. We were on a tour bus, and there were about 55 of us who chose to come on the trip. It was expensive, especially for just 10 days, but now that I see the costs of everything we did, the cost seems reasonable. We got off the bus, where our tour guide Karl, told our bus driver to stop. He led us up a brief hill and we came upon quite the scene, the entire city of Prague, all laid out in from of this flowing vista. Orange roof tops, coopered turquoise blues, rich yellows, and green fields for miles on miles. It was a bit chilly being mid March, but the air was crisp and clear, much easier to breath in than our humid suburban air. Prague is gorgeous and I could not get enough. We continued to walk around the area, down the cobblestone ways, and stone lined homes and buildings. There are magnificent fountains around each corner and not a statue that I wouldn’t stop to marvel at. How had I gone 15 years without seeing this aged wonder, all this history, all this beauty, just all this, just waiting for one to acknowledge its wonder. It was like, BOOM, I am here.
We stayed in a hotel that was only a bus ride away from the center of the city. We started off at the Charles Bridge the next morning. We had breakfast in the hotel that morning, consisting of baked goods and coffee. The Charles Bridge is magnificent. It is the portal to the center of Prague. With Gothic influences and statues throughout the walkway,the bridge itself is a work of art along with the people who populated its sidewalks. Sidewalk merchants set up their stands along the bridge walkway and sell their products ranging from glassware to little wooden clogs. It was a mixture of culture along with what a tourist would be most interested in. I did not buy anything, I was busy being determined to find a post office to send out a post card to my mom and dad.
We pushed our way through the crowds, there was the Easter celebration festival occurring right in the middle of our visit. This is one of the best events to happen in Prague each year and we just happened to be traveling right in the middle. We reached a giant clock, ornate with bright teals, eye popping yellows, and intricate metal work. At each hour a trumpeter would appear at the top of the tower to sound in the hour. It was magnificent. I always have found an interest in sound related to architecture. I do not know much about this specific clock, however, I do know about bell and clock towers. They are strategically placed throughout a city so when a meeting needed to be called, an alarm needed to be heard, or the time needed to be told, these towers would deliver the message. Florence, Italy is most know for its intricate bell and clock system, however, I found the similarities in Prague as well.
As I roamed about the main square, our tour guide Karl made sure we knew where we were in relation to the directions we needed to be at in two hours; yes, 15 year old Kelsey was now given two hours to do exactly what she wanted all by herself, and it was magical. I felt so free and mature. I have a pretty good sense of direction, so I knew I would be fine. Most of the group went back to the Charles Bridge to indulge themselves in trinkets. I, however, was on a mission. A post office, it should have been a simple thing to find, yet it in a completely different quarter of city it was not. I brought a few of my friends along for the adventure. We walked down some of the most beautiful streets in the city. Tall buildings lining the street with many architectural styles. This city is so lively and vibrant. I notice an intrusive amount of graffiti along the bricked walls and concrete sides of buildings. We passed one of the only Jewish temples in the city and it was covered in post war propaganda, which was surprising to see that the drawings were not taken down; someone noticed me looking puzzled and came up to explain. He spoke some English and told me that it is a reminder of what happened in the city during that time, and how Prague has been one of the slowest cities to recover from the war because it was right in the middle of everything. It made sense to me and looking at more and more of these drawing I could see the pain that was expressed through art and it was, in a way, beautiful. As we winded through the streets to the post office, which I had conveniently seen a sign for along the way, we stumbled upon a small cafe. We ordered and I got a tomato filled with rice and a sweet and savory sauce, it was absolutely delicious and I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the dish, I should have kept a more complete journal on this trip… it’s fine(aka not really fine). We continued after lunch to the post office, which we finally found once we turned a corner. It was regal looking with high pilasters and wide entrances. I walked in as I knew my business, and presented my post card to the teller who promptly told me that I needed to buy an American stamp and then get it certified and more and more things that I simply just did not have the time for. Mission, failed. However, once we got back to the group we soon found out that we probably had the best adventure out of anyone, so I was quite satisfied with how we spent our time.
The next day, we started off at Prague Castle. Like the rest of the city, I marveled at the architecture. Mostly Gothic, yet some was finished in the Renaissance period, which you can tell by how the towers on some of the buildings have a flat crown, rather than the classic Gothic high pinnacle. As we went through the castle grounds, we saw the guard change at the entrance to the palace, we observed the meanings of the carvings on the castle. The dragon/lion figures posted on each side of the castle was a way of symbolizing protection for the city. Next was Old Town, filled with shops, and miniature door ways leading into the unknown. There was this old apothecary shop where the scent of lavender, pine, and citrus radiated from this store front as it was almost putting a spell on you to come in. We did not have much time to really explore, however this scene could have been taken right out of a storybook town.
That night was our last in Prague, we played at a beautiful church, right up on the altar. We barely fit on the stage, the cello section was a bit squished, but overall it was a successful performance. We had an amazing crowd turn up and they clapped so much, it was insisted that we do an encore performance, so we played the last movement of our closing piece. Prague brought me this sense of wanderlust. I do not think I will ever get tired of it. I think I will keep wanting an encore over and over again. Traveling is my love, and what I find along the way will make up my life.