In the courtyard of a church, Prague

I’m feeling guilty. There has been a lot of travelling behaviour and not much study behaviour on this trip and I do have a thesis due in four months. Does that sound far away? It doesn’t feel it!

I have installed myself in a cosy little cafe called Bio Zahrada. I am looking out on a lovely green garden and about to bite into a chocolatey smelling double espresso. A very adept violinist has begun to practice in the room next to me. The stage is set for study.

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But first this blog post…

I had a very productive day yesterday. I began the day with a walking tour of Prague. The guide was a very small and pretty blonde woman named Katerina who smoked constantly. Strangely, my guide in Berlin was also a small and pretty blonde woman who smoked (slightly less than this woman).

The tour was a good ease into Prague, though it did not thrill me as much as the day-long tour or the alternative tour that I did in Berlin. We finished up at the imposing Rudolfinim, on the river. I’m sorry to say all I remember about this building is that the German Nazi Heydrich stayed there and demanded that the statue of Mendelssohn (a German Jewish composer) be struck from the edge of the building’s roof. The two men charged to do this illustrious job did not know which statue was which and going by length of nose, removed the wrong statue. A job well done.

From here I took a few steps to a little cafe looking out over the river and sat beneath the shaded drapery of a tree. There I ate and drank wildly overpriced food and drink (coffee with cream – because really how can you get better than this? – and a caprese salad) which I enjoyed immensely. The river is rushing and brown, one of the only signs of the flooding in the centre of Prague.

I noticed the worst damage on the train from Berlin. Many small homes near the river had muddy water marks halfway up their outer walls and the foliage was painted brown with mud many metres from the edge of the water, which still looks swollen from its original banks. There were a lot of people piling up ruined furniture, possessions and debris.

After my expensive meal I strode across the nearest bridge – the Mánesüv most – and headed to the Kafka Museum, which was fantastic. They have captured his tortured spirit, in both his writing and his personal life, very well. I was particularly struck by the winding corridors of floor to ceiling filing cabinets they had installed, representing how trapped Kafka felt by his profession (law) and the time it took from his writing as well as his disillusionment with the bureaucracy of the regime in Prague at the time.

I then wandered back over the Charles Bridge (it was closed only last week due to the floods) and wound my way through the streets to the Mucha Museum. Wound is the correct word for the streets here. Very few run straight – they prefer to turn sharp corners on themselves, curling and turning this way and that. The Mucha Museum was enchanting. I may have bought things.

Prague is deliciously small compared to Berlin. It was only a short walk across town to the hostel. I had dinner on my way back and though I didn’t speak the same language as the waitress, we communicated with smiles and inarticulate noises and I was perfectly content with this. We understood one another.

20130615-192302.jpg There is a different smell in Prague, a different feel to the air and the people. It is softer here, less reckless perhaps, more compliant. Berlin was filled with a breathless sort of rage, a vital energy. Prague feels more content.

When I leave the cafe, thesis 2000 words heavier, heart 2000 words lighter, I find a little festival (Kongreszen) in the courtyard of a church, Kostel Svate Ludmily. Three women are singing, haunting and beautiful, accompanied by a man on what looks like a curving didgeridoo. Their voices at times mix into each other, at other times ring out starkly alone. It is a gentle and lovely end to the day.