The One Thing
Prague. The city where traffic lights turn green once in a blue moon, and pet owners let their dogs run free without leashes. I mean, can you imagine what amazing dog whispering techniques the Czechs must have in order to walk their dogs without leashes and not have them run away at a moment's notice? The Czechs are completely enamored with dogs. One time, I even saw a lady pushing a pram with a dog sitting in it! Her child, a mere toddler, was walking next to the pram and was pampering the dog by combing its fur and petting its head. Granted, that was not in Prague but a town near it, but that's love for you, no doubts about it.
A word of caution: do not bring high heels. The paths are paved with cobblestones. There is a reason why you cannot walk in public for five minutes without spotting at least one person on crutches, or in a wheelchair. This is sincerely not an exaggeration. I have, never in my life, seen such a wide variation in broken feet. If you have a story that includes a twisted ankle, or a full-blown leg injury, Prague is definitely a city worth visiting. If not for broken-feet-research, then for the food and drinks.
Chicken stuffed with cheese and herbs, the most amazing vegetarian nachos I have ever tasted (worlds apart from the soggy chips and cheese goo that they serve at cinemas), beef covered in sauce and raspberry jam with a side of bread dumplings, simple but addictive garlic toast tinged with spices...the list goes on forever. Not to mention the flavored beer they have here, which includes chocolate, coffee (a definite must-try), cherry, nettle and banana. That's right, they have banana-flavored beer.
Listen, near Old Town Square, not far from a restaurant that has live "gypsy music" performances, is a series of green storefronts. On most nights, in front of these shops, there comes an old lady in a wheelchair. She is somewhat thin, but in a way that accentuates her black formal dress and full head of white hair. Leaning against an armrest of her wheelchair she would begin playing the violin. Old romantic tunes, and songs that seemed to be freshly plucked right out of Prague's night atmosphere. If she is in the mood, she sings sometimes. Operas, love songs, one half of a duet...the most endearing thing about her is that she never stops smiling. Even when a drunk approaches her and kisses her on the cheek.
If you were to come here in the day, the neighborhood in Old Town is full of locations, activities and sights to discover. There are marionette stores (something I find personally creepy), a museum of torture, a wax museum with an oddly shaped Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter at the front (when his head still somewhat bore the semblance of a soccer ball), and a museum of sex machines. God, that was unforgettable...let's just say the two words to describe very first thing you see while walking by that museum (note: not into it, but by it) are: watermill and fingers.
What? Get your head out of the gutter! Think churches! Think cathedrals! Think towering stained glass windows, and intricate carvings of saints adorning pillars. Or the numerous spires that decorate Prague's landscape. There is a reason why it is known as the city of a hundred spires after all (though technically it is five times that number now). Well, let's face it, architecturally speaking, Europe's rich history lends itself in Prague's favor.
While walking through downtown Chicago, or any other city, have you ever tried looking up at the tops of skyscrapers, just to see how they looked like from down below? You crane your neck all the way back, and your head starts to swim from vertigo. Do you remember that feeling? That sensation as if you were about to fall down an endless pit? That is what walking into a cathedral feels like. The statues are twice, thrice one's height, and the ceilings decorated in the most awe-inspiring paintings and murals. No, I am not the religious type, but its magnificence cannot be captured in words. Heck, it can't even be captured by a single photograph.
All in all, I am sure this has been said many times, but its repeated utterance in itself does bear testament to its meaning: I am not able to do Prague justice through mere words and pictures. Frankly, I do not know if this is a city for hopeless romantics, or if it is even worth considering for diehard consumers of the internet. But, as a city overflowing with culture both ancient and modern, if there was one thing I got from this memorable trip it is this: Prague is a city for writers.
Photo No.1: Taken by David Sim Wei Lun. Street leading to Wencesclas Square.
Photo No.2: Taken by Sidney Reuben Lim Ming Han. Old lady that plays the violin every night at Old Town.
Photo No.3: Taken by David Sim Wei Lun. St. Vitus Cathedral, with (in order from the bottom left) Lauren's titillating checkered cap, our lovely Mika, the sassy Virginia, a rambunctious Sidney, and our wonderful and eloquent tour guide.
Photo No.4: Taken by Sidney Reuben Lim Ming Han. A view of Český Krumlov, a small city near Prague that was one of the many unforgettable organized group excursions held during the trip. We later climbed the tower in the background, and walked through the edifice on the left. All that is missing in this group photo was Matt, Don and Mark!