Prague, a gorgeous, romantic, and somewhat haunting little city. Wander down one street and you're in awe of the beauty until you turn the corner and find yet another pretty street. The Czech language is crazy to listen to, and is the second most Atheist country in the world, (Japan is #1, according to some statistic). The people of the Czech Republic live with the mentality that life is short, don't be angry for too long, enjoy yourself. I believe in this too of course, through adventure, through following your bliss, make the best of it NOW. What are you waiting for?
As I stated in my previous "ADVENTURE!" blog, I am traveling around Europe with a goal: to find an accordion to play, and maybe even perform.
Upon booking my trip to Prague, I needed to find a hostel. I have the Lonely Planet's "Europe on a shoestring" and I went through the list of hostels in there, and easily settled on the Hostel Elf.
Gnomes and elves are a good omen to me, their presence is known within my family, and so seeing that this hostel was named "Elf", I quickly made a reservation.
A great thing about staying in hostels is you get to meet interesting people from all over the world. On my first night I met and American Opera singer, named Catherine. She informed me of a great antique shop that had a few vintage accordions sitting on a shelf.
She gave me the business card of the shop, and the name of the owner. After my 3-hour city walk tour I went and found the shop.
The owner, Milos Gavrilovic, was very welcoming and happy to have me bring life to the accordions in his shop.
I then learned about how Antonin Hlavacek's "Hlavacek Accordions". Milos had one Hlavacek accordion on his shelf, but it was a button accordion and I play the piano accordion. So, I played his Hohner instead!
The daughter of Antonin Hlavacek rents this retail space to Milos for his shop, and across the alley way, on the second level was where the workshop for the Hlavacek Accordions once was. I was tickled to learn all of this, and Milos shared that this daughter would probably be thrilled to hear about me. I think he enjoyed my playing, as he hummed the melody I played for him off and on while we had our visit.
I had a very nice visit with Milos. He offered me tea and cookies, and a nice piece of apple pie too. He is originally from Yugoslavia, and I loved listening to his accent as he gave me a history lesson and showed me beautiful pieces of jewelry.
My Mother's Mother was born in the Ukraine, but within a German community. Her accent was never noticeable to me, but I knew it wasn't a typical German accent, but with more of an Eastern European sound to it. I know this because the more I hear accents near this region, the more I hear my Grandmother's voice.
One of the entertainment manager's at Disney's Epcot, Dora, was from Bulgaria and I loved hearing her speak. The way she would say my name was spot on with how my family, and my Grandmother would pronounce it. Milos accent was similar, and made me realize just how comforting and connected to the Eastern European countries I am.
An absolute coincidence occurred on my second night... I came down with a lame cold the night before leaving for Prague, and it's hard to get healthy when you're traveling and spend the days on walking tours, and wandering around - so on this night I went to bed early, began writing this blog, and who walks in? Another female accordion player.
Her name is Sophie, wearing a piano keyboard-printed dress. What are the odds of that happening? I'll have to find that statistic through one of my mathematician friends.
I highly recommend checking out the Sandeman's Tour's. I did both the free City Walk tour of Prague, and the Kutna Hora tour.
Yes, the Chapel of All Saints - Sedlec Ossuary aka The Bone Chapel. This place was incredible to be in the presence of. I felt dizzy and nauseous at moments. It's overwhelming to say the least. Our tour guide, Lauren, told me some people on her tours have sometimes just waited outside because they can't handle it - it's too much for them.
I personally loved it. It was reminiscent of an Indiana Jones movie, or the Pirates of the Caribbean ride - only *real*. That is something that is always blowing me away with finally being in Europe and traveling around, that there is so much history, that it is authentic, that there is meaning and importance and isn't just a Hollywood creation.
I am admittedly morbid, and find death interesting and curious. I think it goes hand in hand with wanting to live life to the fullest. Live life now, because death does await you.
Sorry, was that too dark? I don't mean it to sound dark. I just mean, well, you know what I mean...
I feel absolutely blessed for the time of year I have chosen to come here. I can't imagine Prague in any other season, other than autumn. The foggy days, the changing colors of the leaves, the crisp air - all adds the perfect atmosphere to this wonderful little city.
All the stories I heard from my Grandmother (we knew her as "Mutti"), during my childhood, about her life over in the Ukraine and Poland always looked somewhat like this in my imagination as she told me her tales. I imagined mysterious gray skies, thick with fog and cold air.
As I walk around Prague, and remember her stories, I see her eyes in peoples faces, I see her face in their expressions. So much so, that when I went into the convenience store across the street from my hostel, I was approached by a little woman - who asked me something in Czech, and I replied with "Bananas?" but was startled with her younger version of a resemblance to my Grandmother. I left quickly because of this, and the tears began. I walked into my hostel and saw one of the new friends I've made, that was also staying there, and let loose the tears on him - telling him how much I love Prague and how I saw my Grandmother in the people there. "I hardly know you!" I said as I cried my eyes out to him. It was a beautiful day :)
I listened to my dear friend Joan, and made sure to visit the John Lennon Wall. It was an emotional place to visit, and I of course left a message on it :)
What is a visit to the St. Charles Bridge without a parade of Hari Krishna's?
A fantastic musician from South Africa came through the hostel one evening, and performed his music for us. It was a nice treat for us all.
I had a love affair with myself in Prague. Myself and I are in love, and toured around this romantic city. Friday night I took myself out on a date to see "Casanova" by Laterna Magika, an avant-garde multimedia theater company. Things are inexpensive in Prague, the food, beer, and entertainment. I spent not even 15 euros to see this performance, and loved the show.
Seeing the Tančící dům, aka The Dancing House or Fred & Ginger building was a major highlight for me to go and find. I quite like Frank Gehry's designs, and all of the architecture is mind-blowingly gorgeous in Prague, and this deconstructivism building fit into it all fabulously.
Another highlight was spending some time inside the Alphonse Mucha Museum. Definitely worth visiting :)
This Romanian gypsy band was KILLING it on Friday night. I was pretty excited with getting to see/hear them perform. They were fantastic. The venue for them was this little bar located beneath my hostel, which acts as a cafe, bar, gallery, clothing store... very "Prague" to say the least.
I have loved staying at the Hostel Elf. It felt like life was a movie in there, and the script was just writing itself with all the characters and plot lines happening around the place. I will miss the new friends I have made, I hope to run in to them again, and I have a feeling I will see a few of them again soon. Being there was like having instant family, and a lot of fun. I don't know what my trip to Prague would have been without all the people I met while I was there :)
If Berlin is "poor and sexy" then Prague is "romantic and mysterious", and COLD. It cooled off by the time my adventure there was finished, and so I hopped on my bus and saw a very snowy landscape as I headed towards Budapest.
I loved becoming more familiar with my Eastern roots through my time in Prague, and now I am off to discover my Hungarian heritage.