Rozloučení, Praha

Looks like I have a couple hours before I need to jump on a train for Dresden. I am off to visit a city that was once called the Venice of the North. In February 1945, over three days, the US Army Air Force and the British Royal Air Force made four bombing runs over the city. First, pounding it into kindling, then dropping incendiary bombs that created a firestorm which killed around 25,000 people. I am curious about how it was rebuilt under the DDR, and any further changes made in the post-unification period.

My primary ‘tourist goal’ is the Vonnegut Tour. Kurt Vonnegut survived the bombing of Dresden as an American POW, and incorporated his experience into the great novel, Slaughter House 5. Like many college students in the 1970s, I became a voracious reader of Vonnegut. His bitter-sweet insights into life helped shaped my world view.

Yesterday, at the Kafka Museum, I realized that although I was familiar with Kafka as a literary figure, I have not read any of his books. Strange, because I can relate to him as a person. Given my experience yesterday, The Castle looks like a good place for me to start.

Short of binging on writings of Samuel Beckett, Henry Miller, Steve Erickson, and Gore Vidal, I have read very little fiction since I graduated from college (well, not including fictional news, but that is another matter). My principle reading for pleasure has been non-fiction: histories, geography, philosophy, and travelogues. But even that interest has faded over the last 8 years, as my reading shifted to tech, while consuming daily web-nuggets on politics, art, and history. Equipped with a smartphone and wifi on this trip, I have maintained a steady diet of such web content, mostly accessed via Twitter.

I am continuing to work daily in my journal. Lots of pages, but nothing substantial at the moment, which I feel compelled to publish via this blog. I will definitely be pulling things together back in my office. For years, I rushed creative projects. I no longer want to live that way.

Finished a week in Prague. And I have mixed feelings about it. Having survived WWII fairly unscathed, Prague is a lovely town, with much to see and do. The Czech name, Praha, means ‘threshold’. Prague is a threshold or gateway between Western and Eastern Europe, with all of the religious and ethnic dimensions that offers. Albrecht von Wallenstein, a Bohemian general during the 30 Years War, supposedly referenced Prague as the “Hub of Europe”. Heydrich likely thought the same, and sought to build his power base here. Fortunately, the Czechs got in his way. The Czech people have struggled a long time to come into their own, amidst the swirl of European absolutism, nationalism, and the ebb & flow of numerous hot and cold wars. I wish them the best going forward, hopefully within a unified Europe.

But Prague is really not my kind of city. The National Gallery is closed for renovation for the next two years, so that was skipped. There are more money changing booths than either coffee shops, museums, and book stores combined. There are casinos, but no craps (the only casino game I enjoy). And while it has wide pedestrian malls, Prague can be very crowded, particularly in the Old City, and on the Charles Bridge. The crowds here approach the level of St. Mark’s, Venice. Just not very comfortable for me. Also, I am a bit out of the tourist mode right now, and am happy contemplating being home next week.

Tags and links to come later. Time to run for the train.