Monday, September 03, 2007

Prague in Retrospect : Disneyland-esque Gilded Shadowbox

The legend says if Prague wants you, she will call to you.

Either she didn't want me, or I had a hard time hearing her. Her soul is buried under the deadweight of a million tourists. I forged the squashed streets like a salmon against the current, nerfed between loudtalking man-night-outers, half of Japan, and legions of hausfraus relentlessly price shopping oddly creepy marionettes.

But maybe not much has changed.

Prague was built with the money of foreign rulers: Holy Roman Emperors, Nazis, Soviets. In the past thousand years, there's barely been five decades in a row where the Czechs have been in charge.

Yet ten centuries of architectural wonderworks piled on top of each other is tough to overlook. You've got your rigged out medieval cathedral kicking a Bolshevik concrete bunker jammed up against some tres fancy art nouveau bauble. The overall effect is breathtaking. Everyone says so.

But not so long ago, in the abject communist 80's, only gypsies possessed the swashbuckling pluck to shack up inside Prague. The city had decayed into a condemned, dirty pit. But I wonder. Did any real live Czechs move back in when the gypsies got thrown out on their resourceful petards? When the capitalistic werewolves licked their chops and hustled to clean up this glorious golden egg tourist attraction?

I've read that neither the ties of blood nor the ties of place can be sustained without the shared effort of will.

Maybe the deathblows of this century annihilated so many strands of memory that the palpable spirit of Prague unraveled. Could be that empty the empty air of a facade filled the vacuum. Could be I got voted off the island.

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