Sunday, January 22, 2006

Back from Eastern Europe

And very happy, I might add, to see the grimy streets of my beloved New York once more. To see its modern buildings and its people of many colors. It's refreshing, after such a thorough bath in old country ways.

I don't know if this has ever happened to you, but it has happened to me in more than one occasion. You visit a city you've never been to before. You spend more than five days walking around. They speak a language you don't understand. I don't know if it takes time for one to get used to a new culture, but I always seem to find the locals far more likeable just as I'm about to leave. I don't know if they can sense I'm on my last days in their city and therefore start acting cute all of a sudden, or if I start discovering their charms just as my trip is coming to an end. In any case, this is what happened to me in Prague.

Yesterday, for my birthday, I went to see a famous church on the outskirts of Prague, decorated with 40 000 bones of some people who died of the Black Death in the middle ages. This has got to be the church in worst taste in human history (not that churches are the epitome of understated elegance, what with their predilection for storing sundered body parts of saints and other bloody objets). Still, it was a great day trip to the beautiful town of Kutna Hora, a place where many movies have been shot because it is so well preserved and picturesque. We had lunch in a great tavern with a fireplace and it was all so authentic I almost expected someone to burst in and burn me at the stake.
This is what happens in Prague. One walks on the old cobblestones among creepy gothic churches. One thinks of Kafka and the Golem and centuries of torturing the Jews and the hardships under Nazism and Communism (no wonder everyone's gray). The creepiness is then compounded by the godawful blight of tourism. There are many groups comprised only of men, who come to Prague to get cheap sex. They all loiter around Wenceslaus Square at night, negotiating with black guys who advertise for the whores, who, at least in winter, are nowhere to be seen.
Question to guys: can't you get a proper girlfriend? That would be even cheaper.
Then you have the freaking souvenir stores, and the tourist trap restaurants and black light and puppet theaters and the pickpockets who look like characters out of Dickens, you can spot their evil intentions a mile away.
With heaviness in my heart, I thus report to you dear readers, that even though I loved treading foreign asphalt and discovering the crazy town of Prague, even though I loved the beer, and the trams that are painted red and beige and some are still from the sixties, I marvelled at the architecture and liked the Lucerna Cafe and the Saint Nicholas and the Montmartre, I still could not warm up to Prague as much as I would have liked.

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