Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Mystical Praha

Prague Castle
Have you read this book by Laini Taylor, I would ask? A beautiful tale of how a devil and an angel fell in love. Of romance, and dark spires, of fumes of magic and colours of life mixed in an imaginary pallete.
That is exactly how I would describe Prague. The living beating heart of Europe, streets bustling with life and music. The city of a hundred spires, looming towers and clocks, of masks and bridges, art and culture.
Needless to say, Prague had always been on my to-do list, I had to stand at the exact spot where Akiva and Karou had flown down on the Charles Bridge, and just soak in the fantasia of magic and dreams.

A complete romantic, yes that would be me. Would I waste this space to narrate how Praha is? No. Hundreds of enthralled tourists will do that for you. You would need to hear about that magical realm from a rosey-eyed dreamer like me.
Prague’s public transport is surprisingly easy to get, and there are no dearth of blogs helping you out to figure out the transit from airport. The best part of the city is how you can traverse on foot to all the monuments on your checklist. Of course there are nostalgic trams that cover the city, and give you a nice view of Praha’s districts.
But where’s the fun in that?
So there we were, two friends celebrating their ten years of friendship, of battling adulthood and adolescence, daily headaches of jobs and the struggles of life. In our best clothes, our cameras and the best walking shoes. Ready to explore. Step into the trip of our lifetime.
St. Vitus Cathedral
What Laini has done incredibly well in her book is painting the city in her words– the enamor, and the faint scent of mysticism of it. And she was right certainly. I cannot emphasize enough what the spirit of Praha does to you, as it quietly brews into your subconscious, lulling you into an ethereal plane of dreams, stories, and fantasy. You feel like there was an elf that was following you perhaps, or a gargoyle watching you as your crossed the street. The cathedral and the castle towers piercing the sky, bathing the city in the hallowed moonlight, as stories conjure up in the shadows of the night.

Fairy tale city. Just the right amount of sorcery, wishes and darkness.

We weren’t ready to be awed by each of the corners we took, or the streets we walked on endlessly. It almost felt like every building spoke volumes, captured history worth tens of books, a different character in its spires, murals and carvings. The colours and lights, and especially the old cobbled streets, full of stories about alchemists and magicians who would have roamed around years ago, or how the streets witnessed as invading armies stormed in during war times. Parts of the city remains untouched by the monstrosity of modernization, or from the twenty first century quirks. Dominated by hundreds of beautiful gothic spires, the city has a breathtaking view no matter where you turn your head. Of course the Old town square is the liveliest part – street performers, musicians, the incessant buzz of the tourists and flashing cameras – you get the idea. 

Frankly, I don’t know which of the monuments I should list down as a must visit for future tourists. What I can say, is go without a set plan, or a very rudimentary one. What Praha has established splendidly is the element of surprise, even in its deserted corners. You cannot get lost in its magnificent streets. And you will run out of time, and you will not stick to your plan. You will want to explore the daylight avenues, and lit up bridges at night. We did have an itinerary, but we had more fun simply breathing in the air of the throbbing city.
The Petrin hill is a nice quaint spot that you shouldn’t miss out on. The rose garden is gorgeous, and you are spoilt for choice of photo ops. The view from the Petrin Hill Observatory Tower needs a mention. You see the Vltava River, crisscrossed with bridges, and the red tiled houses in daylight – even from that distance the Charles Bridge stands out – it looks like the travelling wizard who is back from his battles with his scarred, fatigued yet cheerful face, brimming with stories of joy and horror, of tales of beautiful people and lands stored in his veins. If you are an escapist, spend endless hours on the bridge alone, with the tourists, artists, the river below, and the dazzling Prague castle lit up at night. It disconnects you from your woes, your worries and transports you into a different realm altogether.
The weather, thankfully favoured us throughout the three days we spent in Prague (too less, if you really are there for the vibe and not just to check it off your list). We covered most of these areas on foot, cameras clicking incessantly, as we just couldn’t get over how charming this small city can be. And just then, when you take a right turn after the endless walking, you come to graffiti wall. Nothing out of the ordinary you would think?
John Lennon Wall
An entire wall dedicated to the Beatles, and more to John Lennon is what you see. The Lennon wall in itself spewed so much exuberance in its colours, its hard not to be cheered up when you see it. You have people singing the Beatles hits, and some leaving their own impressions on the wall. Most of these sights are best viewed in daylight of course, but then that’s taken care of by the sun setting at around 9 PM.

Czech cuisine is meat heavy, and I loved it. Don’t forget the Angelato, of course – the tiramisu flavoured gelato was drool worthy, and worth the wait in a very long queue after a long day of walking.
I fell in love with Prague, with its bohemian waves, with goulash, and the touch of alchemy in its air. The ability to make dreamers thrive in its hidden cool corners of the Gothic towers, walk a million miles on its cobbled pavements and not feel a thread of exhaustion. It makes you feel like you are exactly where you need to be, right now, at this moment in your life. Where you need to flee, taste a morsel of free air, and bite into the beauty of art as it seeps into your taste buds forming permanent memoirs to be ingrained in the lines of your palms.

Prague gets stored in your mind like a page from an old book that you have reread several times, that one page which made you feel happy, and safe, its words touched your heart, as love triumphed, and hope conjured the magic of stardust,  each time you read that page with the need to escape.