gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

Tag Archives: Prague

Stories from the past

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Visiting my grandparents in New England has always been a cultural experience. They are immigrants from the Czech Republic, former Czechoslovakia, and they certainly have a rich history to recount. I love hearing their stories, but also sometimes resent them for their strict ideals and harsh criticisms, in that German/Eastern European kind of way. My grandparents got married at a young age in Prague before leaving shortly after the Russians invaded and escaped communism. They left separately, my grandmother on a a scholarship to study in Paris with the promise to return but never did, and my grandfather escaped with help from a trustworthy (luckily) spy through the woods one night with only a briefcase in hand. My grandfather spent time in refugees camps in Germany before making his way to Paris to rejoin with my grandmother, and how incredible it is that they were actually able to find each other.

I’ve heard stories about the Nazis, one Czech soldier and one German soldier, going to my grandfather’s house at 6 in the morning, searching the house, taking their radio so they could not hear the news, and arresting his father, my great grandfather. He was a diplomat and was being watched when on a trip to Sweden and then arrested when he arrived back in Prague. He spent a few months in jail before being released because he knew German and the guards were worried he would overhear what they were saying. I’ve heard stories about loudspeakers throughout the city announcing who had died in the prisons that day and people in the streets crying for those they had known. I’ve heard stories about how the communists took away my family’s possessions, as well as their house because it was a nice house and forced them to live in a place that was not as nice because the communists wanted the house for themselves. I’ve heard stories about the communists not allowing my great uncle to pursue his studies because some of his family members (my grandfather) had fled the country. I’ve heard stories about the communists forcing a family member who had been a lawyer to leave his job and work in a coal mine. I’ve heard stories about a second cousin, now a publisher, writing underground pamphlets protesting the communist regime.

It is stories like these that interest me in what my family and so many others like them have gone through under the Nazis and then the Communists. It is stories like these that I associate with visiting my grandparents in New England and haunt me – not necessarily in a negative way, just in an intriguing way. I was recently in New England and these memories and stories resurfaced, as I talked to my grandfather, who is unfortunately in a declining state and not as coherent as he used to be, but I hope to hear more stories in the future still…

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In search of a more beautiful place

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I am searching for a more beautiful place than here. Here, is Indiana. More beautiful places, for me, are many places in Europe. Last winter, I went to the Czech Republic and spent most of the time in Prague – the most magical city in the world (I think!) Prague is so beautiful and charming; it’s like a dream. So full of history, like many places in Europe, and you can really see it and feel it everywhere around you. You can tell that the people there lead, and have led, a hard life. The beautiful city they live in seems to be of no avail to them because it is simply where they live, much to their detriment perhaps (because of what they have been through with the Nazis and then the communists). But to a visitor, even aware of its history, it seems so magnificent and just beautiful.

Another beautiful place I have had the pleasure of enjoying is Rome, Italy. I was born there and lived there for the first eight years of my life. Rome, of course, is very historic and its history can certainly be seen and felt there as well. It is home to many attractions that people flock there to see, like the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, the Vatican, Campo di Fiori, Piazza Navona, etc. Places that I experienced everyday as a young child and could not possibly understand their significance at the time. Even now, I suppose I do not view the city as other tourists do because to me it was simply home for 8 years…home, 5 minutes from the Pantheon and Piazza Navona…what sounds like a dream now looking back on it.

Places like these, that are so much more beautiful than the United States, to me, are places I would like to try to get back to in the near future.

Prague, the fairest of them all

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Charles Bridge

Leaving places and people is a hard thing to do, especially not knowing when if ever you’ll seem them again.

I just got back from Prague, a sad event at that, as I miss it terribly already and there is not much I can do about it. As I’ve slowly made my way back to Indiana, I’ve thought about those I said goodbye to in Prague. The journey to Prague was not exactly a vacation, but rather a serious family matter that my mother needed to take care of. While we were there I met various family members, including my great uncle Milos, by whom I am absolutely enchanted. He is so charming and endearing that I could not help fall a little bit in love with him. He is getting older and has therefore become increasingly helpless. Enter my mother to help him with serious matters. While my mother was helping him with various things, I became increasingly saddened by his situation, which has led me to think about him often and worry about how he is doing. The hard part about leaving people is thinking about what they might be doing in your absence and whether or not they are ok.

Old Town Square

Not all of the trip was a sad affair. I fell in love with Prague the minute we got there – the airport, one’s first introduction to the city, is so elegant, and furthermore the drive through Prague down the hill from the palace to the center of town is magical. My favorite thing about Prague was simply walking throughout the city because it is so beautiful and magical. That is really the only way I can describe it, magical. It’s like a dream. Everywhere you look there are beautiful buildings and cafes, and the cobblestone streets are charming. The dogs in Prague seem to walk without a leash and are a very obedient, not to mention adorable. The crosswalks are not directed by traffic lights, so cross at your own risk (But the cars are always very attentive and do actually stop! haha). Prague at night is probably even more beautiful than Prague during the day, as everything is lit up and the lights give it such a romantic feeling. Prague at night was probably my favorite thing about the whole trip. The Charles Bridge is just as imposing as it looks in the pictures, with beautiful statuary lining the whole bridge and both ends of bridge decorated with dark towers and green-roofed domes, a combination which is quite striking.

St. Nicholas Church in Old Town Square

As a dear friend pointing out to me as I was telling her about the trip, perhaps the reason it was such a great trip is because it was unexpected. I was not particularly excited about the trip beforehand, but I was extremely pleasantly surprised by what I discovered there. It was also such a pleasure to meet family members, of whom I was not previously acquainted with and who have greatly enriched my life just in the short time I have known them. It was also very interesting to learn about some family history, as my mother’s side of the family is all from the Czech Republic and has been through so much with both the German and Russian occupations of the country. The trip was honestly life-changing for me, as I now have an even greater desire than I did before to move to Europe, particularly Prague. I miss it so much already and can’t wait to go back, but for now I often look at pictures and postcards I have covered my walls with and daydream about my next time in Prague…