Czech it out, I'm listening to Prague rock!

Trip Start Aug 30, 2006
1
6
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Trip End Jun 11, 2007


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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

First, a note on Oktoberfest. After a difficult night, I was able to get there, and was surprised at how many young people were wearing their lederhosen. It was great. The tents opened to huge swells of people literally running to get in at 10 AM, and by 3 PM the grassy knoll next to the grounds was covered with people passed out in all manner of positions. For, you see, they serve the (very good) Oktoberfest beer in liter mugs. A waitress-type lady brings them to your table ten, sometimes eleven at a time, which I was stunned by. Other than the cultural differences, like oom-pah music, the whole spectacle was a lot like Summerfest, or maybe Mifflin Street Block Party, for those of you Madisonians. That said, the beer was very good. Then, on to Prague...

Kafka wrote that Prague has claws. This is entirely true. After only two days here I can say that it is my dream city in a way, not like I've dreamt about it, but it simply is the city I've pictured my whole life to conjure certain cherished moods, scenes, and images. The city is beautiful, and pretty indescribable that way, but it also has this aura about it, kind of like Paris. In fact it reminds me of Paris a lot. The New Town has wide streets and gorgeous buildings and statues and Baroque, Gothic, all the way up to Art Nouveau structures everywhere.

The Old Town is like Paris' Montmartre, both are built into hills and the streets are narrow and have that unique texture to their walls. Prague's old town is maybe older and was not destroyed in WWII at all, and it also is close to Charles Castle, the biggest castle in the world according to Guinness. It's one of the few places I've read is a must see place that actually is. Walking through the gardens there and hearing the hush of the city had that same magical effect as being in Central Park, except there's an enormous and stunningly beautiful castle next to them. I really can't say enough about the city, but those of you who said I would love it...Rory...you were right.

The people are interesting. There are a lot of women with mullets, and lots of women dye their hair wine red. I mean lots of them. It's weird. Czech is mostly meaningless to me, but there are lots of words that look like English, only missing a letter here or there. And some are the same as English, only with the plural 'y' at the end, making entertaining words like 'notebooky.' I heard that 27 percent of the words in Czech and Polish are the same, so there should be more adventures up ahead in not understanding a doggone thing.

One personally fantastic thing I did was visit the Franz Kafka museum, which is devoted to exploring the relationships between his writing and his life in Prague, which he was particularly attached to. It was funny because they really played up the tortured-ness of his life, and it was Sylvia Plath-esque in how they blurred his writing with his father, his job, his illnesses, and his personal demons or whatever. But they talked about the adjective Kafkaesque, and how it doesn't just mean terror in the face of society, but also that there is hope through creative expression. Furthermore, this hope is more matter-of-fact than melodramatic. That was what the museum was like, just matter-of-fact about Kafka's tortured bureaucratic life. This was interesting to me, because it makes it even more clear and also more unclear about his life. I hope you all enjoyed this paragraph.

The beer is good, tastes like Miller as I would have expected, being the home of pilsner. It is also ridiculously cheap, the equivalent of a matter of cents for a half-liter of Pilsner Urquell. I seem to be building my trip around beer- Belgium, Munich, and now the Czech Republic. That will soon change though, as I am off to Poland next and the Baltic coast city of Gdansk. It will be a wacky adventure...hope all are well, I miss you all.
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