August 29, 2011
My goal today was to write about the unequaled splendor of the Prague Castle and its massive Gothic church. I had been thinking of ways to describe how it majestically overlooks the city, giving the city a sense of majesty and magic. It truly feels like a combination of Walt Disney’s castle and Hogwarts, except oddly more impressive.
I wanted to share the joy of hearing an organ and oboe concert in an ancient Baroque Church (I was an oboe player and had played 2 of the 3 pieces).
I wanted to describe the fun of walking the streets on a beautiful day. I told you that our first day was 90 degrees. The next day was 55 and and rainy. The third was high 60’s with no clouds - dreamy. [Note: I am not sure I have seen a summer temperature drop like I did here. The high on consecutive days varied by 35 degrees. That is a cold front!]
I had so much I planned to share. You see, I have been writing about events that happened 24-36 hours earlier. This gives us time to look at the pictures and put the previous day in perspective.
I suspect that we will share more thoughts on Prague later, but today I must write about one of its most famous citizens: Franz Kafka.
Kafka is considered one of the great 20th century writers. His work is considered existential and often discusses the hopelessness and absurdity of life - often focusing a huge amount of attention on bureaucracy and futility. The term “Kafkaesque” refers to his writing and these themes.
It also seemed to describe today (our departure day from Prague).
We went back to the City Center of Prague for a last tour. We had a challenge getting to our parking area. Prague’s road are clearly designed by an absurdist. Several parallel streets will be One Way, but ALL in the same direction. Of course, this is not entirely accurate. The term “parallel” seems to suggest some form of grid. None exists here. Susie once told me that the streets of Boston were simply the roads cattle and horses used that eventually became paved. Now imagine these farm animals on a massive hallucinogens - wandering randomly. NOW pave it. Welcome to Prague.
But, please do not pave it very well. Some talented map reader might decipher the roads. No, to protect from this, let’s do some continuous road work. Can you say “let’s repair a major traffic artery”? I know that the Czech municipal government can.
By the time we arrived, we waited for 15 minutes in a line for museum tickets only to be told that another location could sell them faster. Another 25 minutes proved this to be true. Shame that they do not take credit cards.
Our odyssey to find an ATM took us the the location that the shop owner recommended as well as the one listed on my iPad map app. You guessed it. None there.
But we are flexible and intrepid. We bend, not break. We punted on the museum. We sat in the square eating kolbassa (huge sausages) and talking about the history of Prague. Oddly enough, I feel sure that they learned more from this intentional chat that they would have in the museum.
We decided to leave the City Center to go to the hospital to check on Susie’s lab results and to pick up out items for our trip to Brno.
The 4 mile drive to the hospital was another 30 minute ordeal. Every road I chose was under construction or had erected signs prohibiting whatever turn (right or left) that was critical to our exodus. Prague had become like a giant Roach Motel - you come in, but you do not come out.
The roach analogy then made us think about Kafka, whose museum we had walked by 1 hour earlier. In The Metamorphisis (perhaps his most famous work) a man becomes a cockroach. We felt like he was writing about us.
But it got even more absurd. As we finally found the right road, we saw a highway maintenance worker driving on the road as well. In reverse. Going the wrong way.
The hospital continued our transformation into insects. Remember my complimenting them on their unexpected professionalism? Well, I think someone from Prague might have read it and reprimanded the staff, because they were back to what I expected/dreaded.
Our goal? Pay for the urine sample test and make sure that Susie’s current medicine will treat her current infection. Not hard, right? After 90 minutes, 7 conversations, one stroll through the byzantine halls (feeling less like a roach and more like a test rat) and 2 trips to the bill collectors revealed the following: Susie does not exist. As a result, she does not owe anything for the lab. This seems appropriate since 1) she lacks existence and 2) they have no idea where here urine sample ended up. Lost. Gone.
Somewhere, Kafka is laughing. I am assuming he is laughing while holding Susie’s urine sample, but I cannot be sure.
After picking up our stuff, we had one more tango with the Prague streets in an effort to get to the highway (hey - why get away from something that you are good at), and we headed to Brno.
The drive to Brno also had its moments, but I will not list them all.
The perfect cap to the day was when I discovered that the place we came to Brno to see (the Bone Church) is, in fact, not in Brno. I felt awful breaking it to the kids, who were already in fragile moods because of the long drive and the fact that ALL the Czech voices on “The Simpsons” (our Brno room has a TV) are wrong, wrong, wrong.
I am sure that tomorrow will bring a better and more joyous day. But every day is a chance to learn. Today, we learned about Kafka and that there is a difference between “travel”and “vacation”.