I'm interrupting the saga of Eileen and the New Book to present you a quick recommendation. Prague. There. Can't say it any faster. I'm here now, because my husband has business, and I have business.I'm seeing my agent and publishers. Yeah. Does that sound cool or what? Believe me, a girl from St. Louis does not think she has that combination of words in her vocabulary. Turns out, I do.
The Czech people are famous readers. One of their political heroes, Vaclav Havel, was a playwright. They have the largest bookstore in Europe in Wenceslaus Square. I've been there, and I can tell you they aren't exaggerating. I was on a cruise ship once, and I think it was smaller. As a matter of fact, that store was my definition of hell. Four floors of more books than I'd seen in one place in almost my life, and I couldn't read any of it.
I couldn't' even fake it. The Czech language, being slavic base, is so completely different than English that they have sounds that we simply can't make(I told one person that I think they use that sound just to prove that we couldn't). It's a beautiful language, soft and rhythmic. But terrifying at first glance when you walk down into the train line and all the signs are a variation of Vindhradska. And I'm not even adding the diacritical marks. I was paralyzed, until I realized that there was a lot of English around, and the universal symbols actually are universal. Taking the metro was a breeze(I also found that almost everyone speaks English--except all the Russian tourists)
The city itself is a fascinating mix of ancient history(I was staying at a hotel they said was "only built in the 17oos, as if that didn't count as historical)(it was haunted, too, but that's a different blog), modern progression and the remnants of communism. In fact, I think we Americans should make it a point to come here, if only to talk to people who had only recently fought themselves free of a totalitarian regime. It makes you realize how much we take our freedom and democracy for granted. It's a humbling experience.
Just as an example, if you look closely at Czech architecture, it's very ornate. Eastern rococco, I call it. Beautiful and expressive, with fantastic creatures spouting from eaves and churches topped by onion domes. Imagine that culture being constrained by another that thinks square block concrete highrises are the way to build a city. I think it would kill a soul.
Tonight we're in a business hotel in the burbs, but tomorrow we move to a hotel in the historic district, a 14th century convent that's been renovated(there seem to be a lot of hotels that were old religious houses). I'll let you know how it was on my travel page. But I can't wait, because I think that's the real Prague. I've only gotten a taste so far. And I still recommend it.
Eileen/Kathleen, the evil twins