If you search Google for â€œThe Most Beautiful City in Europeâ€, thatâ€™s where I was last weekend. Prague is famed to be one of the few European capitals untouched by both World Wars and as a result, its old world idiosyncrasies have homogenously coalesced with modernity to form a vibrant city with an ancient past.
With its Gothic architecture imposing and crepuscular in the amber-tinted mist, its unadulterated medieval grandeur evokes a sublimity that cannot be easily described. The castle and cathedral overlooking the Charles Bridge are monoliths that stand as a testament to an archetypal epoch in European history, one in which knights rode steeds across the golden hills and besieged strongholds stood defiant amidst a flurry of bolts and arrows. When walking down a cobblestone street lined with the shops of marionette purveyors and street artists of all kinds, my imagination ran wild thinking of all the generations that had walked those very same steps and all the different things to which they had the privilege to bear witness.
We had the opportunity to see this city with a few friends, two of which grew up in Prague. Every chance I got, I marveled at what it would be like to grow up in a city like this. We stayed at our friend Hoangâ€™s apartment in the Branik district and had home cooked Vietnamese meals prepared by his mother (his family is from Vietnam, but has been living in the Czech Republic for 20 or so years). We were introduced to his friends from high school and went to a few of their regular bars where we were educated in the art of foosball, something about which I thought I already knew a fair amount. They quickly showed me the error in that belief.
At night, we toured the historic areas in Old Town, visiting shops and taking advantage of the relatively weak currency and strong spirits. We were able to meet up with fellow EBS students one night and enjoyed the ambiance of the evening in the company of good friends and a beautiful backdrop. One night, we were even able to get lost by taking the wrong bus stop to some scary warehouse encircled by dimly lit, tree lined paths; the dense fogged being pierced by the barking of German Shepherds just behind the fence nearest to us. Somehow, even that experience was surreal. I was able to appreciate the beauty of the moment, something I very quickly should have overlooked in favor of my concerns for self-preservation.
After surviving our weekend, it was now time for the car ride home. I had the fortune of driving from Bavaria back to Oestrich-Winkel on the famed autobahn. It was unfortunate that I was driving an economy sedan with five people through construction zones at night. It was still an experience, however, to get passed by Porsches traveling at twice my speed. However, it was probably a good thing that my aspirations for speed were thus thwarted because I was rusty after not driving a car for three months. But we returned safely to a mundane and studious existence void of the excitement to which I had grown accustomed. We wonâ€™t be traveling again until December, so my only option at the moment is to study, which isnâ€™t entirely negative, but itâ€™s not exactly Prague.