My first morning in Europe.
There aren’t any words to describe the feeling of having stepped into a myth, yet here I stood, and I took this picture to document the moment.
This is the Charles Bridge, in Prague, Czech Republic, the last week of the warm, foggy November of 2003. I’d just landed the night before, never been to Europe, to be met by Ari who was kind enough to buy me dinner at the Square Restaurant in Malastranske namesti, in what had been a kavarna (coffeehouse) where Brod and Kafka used to hang out. “Welcome to Prague.” After an exhausting flight, with a huge layover and delay at Heathrow (which was worse on the return), I was too strung out to appreciate yet where I’d landed that evening. (Thanks, Ari. Our first face-to-face and you helped me get my feet on the ground that night.) Social demands and fatigue obscured any sense of place or occasion, so my personal epiphany waited until the next morning – alone and outside before breakfast – before coffee!
I stepped out of the tiny hotel on Kampa Island, U Zlatych Nuzek (I wouldn’t consider staying anywhere else, now). A small cobblestoned plaza. Thirty meters to a double-stairway of stone onto this 650 year old wonder of a bridge with its life sized statutes of knights, bishops, saints and matyrs, as well as real Czech people walking through their city to schools and jobs. . . .
I snapped just the one picture you see, just because I knew I needed to have the keepsake; then paused to savor the moment.
Thirty-plus years it took me to get there. . . . So it wasn’t London, Paris or Rome – great cities of immense fame and history . . . .
There were people I knew and wanted to meet here in Prague. And there’s history enough as well. Behind me as I snapped this picture, is Hrad Prahy – the castle – from whose window imperial emmisaries had been tossed, in 1618, in a dispute of religious bigotry masking the usual grab for power and for supremacy, and specifically about the destruction of Protestant churches. This was the second defenestration of Prague, and why is it important? It sparked the Thirty Year’s War – quite likely third only to the Black Death and the Second World War in the utter devasation wreaked on Europe. (Legend has it the the Imperial messengers survived, having landed on a dung hill.) Beneath another window in this city, on March 10, 1948, is where Jan Masaryk was found dead. “Suicide,” concluded the investigators. “Murdered by the communists,” says popular belief. If you’re wondering, the first defenestration of Prague happened in 1419, and precipitated the Hussite Wars.
Beware of windows and angry Czechs. . . .