After our time in London and Paris, my best friend and I decided to spend a few days in Prague. I know that as an avid Kafka lover, I should really be writing about rewalking his footsteps in Prague. But Kafka was not the main reason why I insisted on visiting. Prior to our trip I had been captivated by photos of the Sedlec Ossuary, a chapel decorated by the remnants of 40,000 humans.
The ossuary is located in a little town called Kutna Hora, about an hour away from Prague. Its distance from the city, albeit inconvenient, was brilliant. Only those with a burning desire to see the ossuary would bother making the long pilgrimage there (same goes for the New Jewish Cemetery, where Kafka is buried). If it were relocated to the heart of Prague, it would certainly become another breeding ground for touristy claustrophobia. When we arrived there, it was empty to the point of desolation.
Upon leaving the ossuary, we hopped onto a Prague-bound train and headed for the castle.
We walked the entire length of the Charles Bridge and finally all the way up the hill…
There is a closure to certain European cities that encourages indifference to the outside world. Despite the beauty these cities have to offer, one constantly feels trapped. Unlike many European cities that are confined behind elaborate walls and ornate decor, one can seek speedy exile in Prague by discovering the heights that grace the castle.
Prague delivers beyond itself, with an open river and lofty hilltop. Those who reach the heights and stand at the very edge will feel their hearts fluttering across civilizations… I lost myself in the moment, standing against a vibrant, saturated sunset blossoming over the city and a landscape showered with rusted copper and mint green.
One cannot claim that Prague is beautiful without abandoning generic notions of beauty. Prague’s beauty is unconsciously Romantic, encompassing the grotesque, the awe-inspiring, the foreign, and the unknown. The city serves as a manifestation of Edmund Burke’s treatise on aesthetics: there is no love of Prague’s art, architecture, literature, and beauty without loving the grotesque and sublime.
The river gets to me. The warmth. The beauty. (At this point I am close to murdering beauty by using the term too frequently.) Paris is beautiful, but its aesthetics do not grapple me with Prague’s intensity; Paris is a little too refined, a little too polished for my loving. I fell so ferociously in love with Prague because despite centuries of erecting these artificial and grandiose bastions, the city’s aesthetic is honest and organic: the civilizations that have conquered and faltered do not attempt to obscure their religiosity, their god-fearing populace, their subservience, or their megalomania.
Camus wrote about Prague in A Happy Death. His description was so brutally honest, so beautifully executed. Re-reading it has left me struggling to find the words to describe this city without consciously (or subconsciously) plagiarizing from him…For now, all I can say is that Prague affected me, and I yearn to return. But first, I must explore more Eastern European cities; the mentality of this region seems to hold a particular toll upon me.
All photos of me were taken by Tippy Hung. All other photos were taken by me. You are more than welcome to share and reblog them, but please credit The Stranger and provide a link back to thestrangerblog.com.