City-breaks are a gift from God or whatever deity you pray to during office hours. You should not waste them. Never, ever. And when you do hit the shut down button and pack your bags, please leave all worries behind. Just enjoy the time off and once in awhile let serendipity work its magic.
That’s what I did for my 3 day trip to Prague. The plan was to wander around the streets and visit some of the lovely street cafes, have late brunches and taste the famous ale, maybe visit a castle in the sun and tread along Charles bridge. As it happens, I did some of that. But rain was dripping as wind and thick fog clouded any landscape and dampened us to the bone. So I could tell you about castles, brick cobble and twirling narrow streets, I could do listicles on where to go and what to eat. I won’t. For one simple selfish reason – those are not the best memories I have of Prague.
When I talk of this city, I always recommend the hottest nachos at Agharta jazz club, on Zeletna street, near the big city square. Placed in a building born in the 14th century, the club is a red dimly lit brick basement, a perfect place to have a taste of the local beers and enjoy music performed by some of the leading lineup of international jazz artists. To be honest, we did not know any of that beforehand. My sister, the mastermind behind this trip, just bought us tickets as a birthday gift for me, she saw it was jazz, knew I enjoyed the genre and took a chance on it. It turned out to be one of the best experiences I ever had – just look at the photos below and you’ll get a glimpse of the pub and its atmosphe
We listened to an amazing quartet. Vladimir, the pianist, caught our eyes with passionate keyboard playing while one contrabass player – I swear to you, he was my neighbour’s doppleganger, pulled on his instrument strings like there was no tomorrow. Loved them, just loved their passion, the moment in time, the soft golden light that touched the artisan beers and … yes, the nachos! My God, they were the hottest, tastiest nachos I ever had. I can only imagine they make them that hot so you can appreciate the soft, creamy texture of the beer even more.
Ok, now that I’ve told you about the nachos, can I turn to the serious stuff? The question: who are you? I found some answers in Prague. Not THE answer, but an art exhibit that pushed my limits and made me reconsider its importance. When you meet a new person you identify him/her by name, gender, age and nationality, probably by occupation. It’s the easy way, you can turn to existing stereotypes and therefore know how to handle your relationship with him/her.
Jaroslav Andel, the curator of the exhibit ‘Where is my home’ housed at the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, challenged more than 400 artists from across the globe to answer this question by analyzing what made them feel at home. How do YOU define yourself? Is it by the city you were born in, your ethnicity and its traditions? Or maybe it’s the objects you own, the possessions you choose to display in public or in your private space?
This exhibit talked about the constant search/definition of your own identity and that of others. The 400+ answers to this one tricky question urged me to reach out to others and at least ask the question, to not let stereotypes define my relationships with strangers.
All in all, this was what Prague taught me in one short city break: nachos and jazz on Zeletna Street and philosophical questions at DOX Centre for Contemporary Art on Poupetova street. Why? in this day and age of building walls the museum motto seems to hit a chord:
When growing numbers of people tend to think dangerously alike, art´s capacity to suspend, even for a moment, our habitual ways of seeing may well prove to be of its greatest value.
Useful trip information:
- I stayed at Hotel Lippert, Mikulasska 2, in the middle of the old town square, a great place to gaze through the window at the city life. Three nights amounted to 100 euro/person, we were more than happy with the room and services.
- I got there by plane ticket – Romanian airline Tarom has promotional offers for some of the European capitals. It cost us 100 euro return ticket from Bucharest, but I am sure you can find even less expensive solutions.