Ancient city of beauty: how long we’ve waited to come and greet you! An enchanted crystal world from Bohemia to Moser, where we had the privilege of visiting the scenes of its magical craft, where global paintings are engraved onto sheets of sparkling crystal . . .
For years we waited, until God finally decreed that we would tread upon your fine lands. The buildings which fill your narrow streets open up like history books before the visitor; wherever it rests, the eye is baffled by the beauty of your architecture, rainbow-like in its many shades. . . what marvels! How can this once socialist country boast such extraordinary architecture?
Its streets resound with the name of King Charles IV, including the bridge of architectural magnificence which he built. By day, you are struck by the statues adorning its edges; by night, by the twinkling lights which illuminate its structure. The bridge has a magical effect on its visitors: many times I would cross it, muttering verses of made-up poetry, wondering how many lovers’ rendezvous it had witnessed, whose footprints and kisses were now imprinted on its corners.
This dreamy bridge crosses the Vltava River, swaying shyly like a young maid hiding in her tent. We took a boat ride to further admire its beauty, known as the Prague Venice trip. The boat idly lolled along, as though barely even moving – in my exasperation, I was torn between jumping in the river for a quick swim, or else dragging it along with my own hands to speed it up a bit! Yet the view of the cafés, restaurants and shops along the river edge was enough to make you forget its sluggish pace altogether. . .
Prague’s stunning old square pulses with life and movement and joy. Traditional foods are whipped up before your eyes: sausage, roasted potatoes wrapped in assorted ingredients, and their much-loved sweet pastry trdelník, which is wrapped around a stick and grilled. Ever bustling with locals and tourists, this square is the jewel of the capital: if you haven’t been there, you certainly haven’t seen Prague.
We also had the opportunity to visit Prague’s New Town, in particular the Dancing House, a popular tourist attraction. Designed in the shape of a lady in a short dress dancing with a man, this piece of architectural mastery, falling somewhere between the old and the new, only increases the splendour of the city.
I’ll never forget that old-young man whom we met there, bursting with knowledge like an aged knapsack stuffed with the universe’s secrets. We asked him questions about history and an endlessly captivating narrative ensued, as though an enchanted encyclopaedia had unexpectedly presented itself to us!
Around 120km from Prague is the town of Karlovy Vary. The mountains surrounding the town reach up to 500 metres, making it seem like a tiny liquid drop in a bottomless cup of coffee. Fields of humulus lupulus plants, commonly known by their flower name ‘hops’, and famed for their distinctive flavour, line Karlovy Vary’s country roads. Arranged in their rows, the hops evoked an eerie scene, like ghosts hanging from threads wound around their necks. . .
After three exhausting hours of travel along winding roads – seeing little evidence of life en route – we arrived at the town of Adršpach, just a stone’s throw away from Poland. The mountains coil around it in a helix, gradually descending into the centre, where pine trees embellish its roads like sturdy pencils.
Perhaps most striking are Adršpach’s towering sandstone rocks, whose assorted shapes and sizes invite the imagination to sculpt them into whatever fantastical forms it can conjure: human, animal . . . Millions of years ago, what was once the seabed was transformed by the forces of nature into these solid sandstone formations. At close-up, they seemed to me almost like the heads of tribal leaders, drawn together in conferral during one of their councils. Elevated, face-to-face, embracing: before your eyes, the rocks transform yet again into elephants, dolphins, apes; familiar faces and ones you can’t recognise. One rock even revealed the face of sacred beauty to me in the form of the Virgin Mary herself. I felt a divine tremor, as though some sort of baptism had taken place at this final stop on our travels.
We were told that this rock town was discovered after a terrible fire broke out in 1830, which lasted for weeks and destroyed its forests. Thereafter, its captivating beauty was revealed to all who ventured there.
In this exquisite country, you will find those who are warm and amiable, and those of the more solitary type, as in Karlovy Vary. There are those who will welcome and guide you without a moment’s thought, like the waiter John, whom we met in the restaurant of one of the many hotels dotted around central Prague. Aside from the exceptional hospitality, I was taken by a sense of the place’s past, as though it were so old that even the walls had tales to tell. When I asked John how old the restaurant was, he laughingly responded: “You obviously came here by chance, then – the restaurant’s about to turn 800 years old!” One can barely imagine the memories a place of such age must hold . . .
This was, of course, yet another example of Prague and its infinite secrets; a sealed history book whose ancient pages your fingertips can barely prise open. The people there have a rugged charm about them, quite unlike that of any of its neighbouring cities.
We visited you, Prague, and you left a drop of your splendid past on our souls. You were, and always will be, a beacon among the great histories written about this world. Your streets, lanes and alleyways all whisper the story of that beautiful day: the meeting, the kisses, and the pledge to the soul that we would meet somewhere in the past . . .