February 6, 2011 - Today was my last day in Prague, a warm, mostly cloudy, gently spring-like sort of day. I decided to walk the Charles Bridge to visit the Old Town Square and the art nouveau Municipal House where the Modigliano exhibit is, and Wenceslas Square. There were a lot of Asian tourists about before noon, not so many Caucasian faces.
Today was my last day in Prague, a warm, mostly cloudy, gently spring-like sort of day. I decided to walk the Charles Bridge to visit the Old Town Square and the art nouveau Municipal House where the Modigliano exhibit is, and Wenceslas Square. There were a lot of Asian tourists about before noon, not so many Caucasian faces.
I managed to walk to the Old Town Square and found a park bench to sit on. There were many tourists milling around the astronomical clock, but I literally couldn’t stand waiting for the clock to strike the hour with its parade of characters emerging from the stone tower. I watched a security guy on a Segway, and then a whole tour group, each on their own two-wheeler! They looked slightly self-conscious but were obviously having fun.
From the Square I took myself to Rebublicky Namestie (Square of the Republic), where the beautiful Municipal House is, with its art nouveau stained glass and metal decoration. Twenty years ago, I walked by in the early morning when it was made brilliant by the sun, but today the cobblestones of the square looked tired and grimy. I had to sit down so I crossed the street to the subway entrance and was asked immediately “Speak English?” by a dubious looking group hanging out there. A man came and sat beside me, asking me where I was from and where I was staying. He saw a circle on the map which was thankfully not where my flat is. I told him I am flying home tomorrow. He said a quick goodbye, and relieved, I went for lunch at a nearby restaurant and had a lovely if expensive club sandwich and fries. Then next door to the Modigliani exhibit.
Modigliani was an Italian painter who was one of the Paris group which included Picasso and would highly influence painting in the 20th century. He was in ill health and died quite young, leaving an even younger fiancee Jeanne who, eight months pregnant with their second child, killed herself the day after his death. Some of the drawings of Modigliani included in the exhibit were beautifully simple and elegant, but they did not move me the way the photos of Modigliani and Jeanne and their compatriots did.
From the Municipal House I made my way to Wenceslas Square. It was recognizable but much changed. There were some restaurants but no pastry shops I could see, though Starbucks and McDonalds were plainly visible. I walked up the square to an Italian café where I had an outrageously-priced Machiatto and people-watched. I felt I was paying for my pleasant vantage point. Afterwards, a trip to the book store with signs in Czech, Russian and English, and then to the Muzeum subway station near the sculpture commemorating King Wenceslas. It seems to me that in that area there used to be a memorial to a young student who set himself on fire and burned to death in protest against the Russian Invasion of 1968 after the heady Prague Spring. Perhaps I did not walk far enough toward the museum but I didn’t see the ring of candles weeping wax that marked the spot 20 years ago.
I took the subway to the Baha’i National Centre where the 19-day feast was being held. Only five of us came to the apartment which has a Baha’I library and spacious meeting room, so we had a very short devotional, an abbreviated administrative portion, and a longer social portion. Irena, the host of the feast, had bought some Middle Eastern food. I talked books with Jan, Baha’is from Southern Bohemia with Pavel and everything else with Petr.
Later, I walked back to the mall before six to buy some fresh baguettes for tomorrow and then caught the subway to the stop near my flat. The escalators are positively scary in the subway stations- steep and long, and loud… there’s something hellish about them. Luckily no one fell because I had visions of rolling down the escalator knocking people over as I went. I gritted my teeth and clutched the handrail which seemed to travel at a different speed than the stairs! And got out safe and sound, caught a tram to MalostranskeNamestie. My legs lasted ‘til I got home and I will go to bed before 9 pm, with my romantic vision of Prague slightly tarnished but with a new, and slightly more grown up, appreciation for its charms.