Having slept for approximately as many hours as I spent flying back from Prague, then from Atlanta, then from Seattle, I feel somewhat human this morning. No guarantees that I won’t be going back to bed after Miss Sadie leaves for her exercise day, though. If nothing else, I’ve learned that I’ll come down with something if I don’t rest.
They say travel broadens one. Literally speaking, it didn’t. Sally and I did a LOT of walking–and I managed to resist the fresh strawberries dipped in milk chocolate. On a deeper level, though, Prague changed me in some profound ways, ways I find hard to articulate in this jet-lagged state.
The visit certainly gave me perspective. Times are tough here, and I won’t minimize that. Too many people are losing jobs, retirement accounts and homes, and that’s sobering, no way around it. In the Czech Republic, though, and places like it, hard times are nothing new. They spent 50+ years under Communist rule, after all. They soldier cheerfully along, glad of freedoms we have long since taken for granted. They are well-spoken and well-educated, and somehow, through the rise of the Nazis and then the Communists, they held on to their own culture, to their stories and their history. (There are buildings in Prague that were old when George Washington took office–and most of these stand on the foundations of their medeival predecessors.)
Prague is a city of beautiful squares and stunning structures–cathedrals and castles, former private homes with amazing facades. Ancient cobblestones line narrow streets, and one has to follow a lot of arrows to find a McDonald’s–thank heaven.
The Czechs are a brave people, and a resilient one. Every place seems to have its own favorite form of execution–there, a surprising number of unfortunates have been pushed from high windows. Splat, right on the cobblestones. One lucky fellow landed in a huge pile of manure and thus survived–expect that to happen in one of my future books.
The signs were often amusing. Aboard our tour bus, there was one that read, “Keep the bus in the cleanness. Think of turists (their spelling, not mine) after you.” Another, on the same bus, the driver’s pledge to keep us safe: “I protect your lives on my own head!” A shopkeeper asked Sally, “What are you interesting for?” We chuckled over that one, coming up with a series of comical (okay, silly) answers, like, “Well, I crochet a little.”
Strolling along behind a couple on a sidewalk, we delighted in the way a brochure in the pocket of the man’s very tight jeans bobbed up and then down out of sight as he walked, with clockwork precision. In years to come, we figure that is what we’ll remember, since castles and cathedrals tend to run together after a while. I expect to remember the look on Sally’s face when her trout arrived one day at lunch, still wearing its head. I will remember how we laughed and shared confidences in our lovely room at the Imperial Hotel. I will remember taking a picture of a sign in the mall’s food court, advertising “L.A. Finger Foods”. (What appeared to be a veal cutlet on a stick–never saw THAT in L.A.)
I guess it all boils down to this. Every day is precious, whether that day is spent in Prague or Spokane–especially if you get to spend it with someone you love as much as I love my sister Sally.