Tourist Info Desk

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Departing Dresden and Puttering through Prague

I promised I'd tell you about Dresden, so I will. Dresden was surprisingly nice, even in the very brief time we were there. Since it's not very far from Jena, I'd very much like to spend more time there.

We left our bags at the train station and walked through the Altstadt, choosing our path by the main flow of traffic and what looked interesting the distance. Because of this, I can't really tell you what we saw because I'm not sure myself what it was. We did see two very beautiful and very different churches: one a cathedral, cleanly white and quietly dignified on the inside, and other, the Frauenkirche, was circular, packed with tourists, and a riot of colors, balconies, and golden trim. We started back to the train station, stopping for lunch on the way, and ended up having to run to our train.

As we pulled into Prague, the grey canopy that had covered Dresden dissolved into clear skies and cool sunshine. Although I feel a little on edge in Prague, like I'm never totally secure--maybe it's the strangeness of being utterly unable to understand the local language--I've never encountered scenery like it in Europe. Every building is beautifully painted and decorated, and whatever medieval logic resulted in the modern layout of Prague, clearly none of them had ever heard of a straight line; the cobbled streets twist, curve, merge, and diverge for no discernible reason. The effect is delightful; new vistas unfold every few feet and the streets just ooze serendipity. Setting off towards a particular edifice is a risky business if you can't clearly see it, since the road inevitably curves and sends you off in a different direction. This is irritating if you're trying to get to a particular place at a particular time, because you won't, but if you're wandering with your head thrown back, tripping over cobblestones and keeping one eye on your backpack, letting the crowds and roads carry you along, you can end up in some very beautiful places.

We found our way, in a roundabout sort of way, to our hostel, and in the evening, we set off to see some of the sights and find some food. We walked through the marketplace square and followed the tide of humanity to Charles' Bridge, one of the most famous landmarks in Prague which, besides being stately and statue-adorned in its own right, affords breathtaking views of the cathedral and palace on the hillside above the river. We were there just as the sun was going down behind the hill and setting the clouds aflame in magenta and gold. Slowly, the sky dimmed into twilight and the cathedral and palace were lit from beneath by spotlights.

We finally tore ourselves and wended our way back through the brightly lit streets to the main square, picking up a couple of döner kebap on our way. I've heard that memories are most strongly connected with smell and taste, and tasting those döner, I was instantly back in Marburg. We took a good while looking at the very beautiful but mostly incomprehensible astronomical clock, then finally staggered home.

It is certainly strange to feel that a place as exotic and convoluted as this lovely city is familiar to me, but I was here just a year and a half ago for New Year's with my friend Jewell on our way around the Continent for Christmas break. It looked very different then, of course; the market square and Wenceslas Square were packed with people and fireworks whizzing overhead, and the scents of baked goods, Glühwein, and explosives were heavy in the sharp winter air. Now the air is only cool, not bitingly cold, and the square mostly empty. Otherwise, everything looks, as far as I can remember, the same.

I guess the world really does continue to exist when I'm not there...

Written 7/19/2010

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