Monday, June 20, 2005

A Word on Prague

It’s past midnight and I have to be up at 8am to catch the plane to Greece, so Prague—a city already well lit with praise—will have to settle for this:

On my travels so far, three places have received the most enthusiastic and universal raves: Buenos Aires, Laos, and Prague. The Czech capital doesn’t disappoint, and when you’re on the Charles Bridge overlooking the Vlatava River at sunset, surrounded by the city’s hundred twisting spires, you have to remember all the things you love about Paris to stop yourself from proclaiming Prague the prettiest girl you’ve seen and calling an end to the contest right there.

Many of those hundred spires are sticking up from one of the city’s many churches. Mom and I were at St. Nicholas Church today, taking in the Baroque beauty after paying our 50 crown entrance fee (“Praying free 8:30-9:00am”). As the gold plated figures shined down on us I remembered something a group of Christian girls I met in Thailand last year had said. They wondered why the Buddhist temples needed to be so big, what was being proven and glorified by erecting the world’s largest reclining Buddha. I can confidently report that there’s nothing more excessive at Bangkok’s Wat Po than at Prague’s St. Nicholas.

Another religious opinion we’ve all heard is that Islam is a violent religion. I haven’t read the Koran but some people seem to think the book advocates violence while others say there are only a few such passages in a large text. Nothing in the book can be much more violent than the depictions at the alter of St. Nicholas. One statue depicts a man stomping on another’s neck while a more resourceful saint has found a pitchfork to lance an evildoer with. If you didn’t know much about Christ and walked into St. Nicholas, you might wonder what kind of religion he’d set up. “This doesn’t seem to match his teachings,” mom said.

Prague’s a peaceful place though, all-in-all. It’s a bold type name on any European map and that brings pride to the Czech people. It also brings the Czech people to Prague; “Prague-centrism,” as a country girl explained it to me. But it brings people from further away than Cresky Krumlov. They crowd onto the Charles Bridge for the long, slow sunset and take pretty pictures of the saints doing nasty things.

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