The city of Prague is a place I’ve read and heard about since I was very young. They say that every story ever told began in Prague. While it is doubtful that every story began in Prague. I think it is correct for the art of storytelling. Storytelling was made into art here and even Disney — the great storytelling cinema company — features their iconic Tinkerbell flying around the steeple of a building in Prague. So there’s probably something here in this city every storyteller needs to discover.
After checking into the hotel and making my way through the long hallways to my room, I pull the curtain back on the window. The winter sky is filled with heavy clouds making the world’s backdrop appear in dark shades of grey and black. A gentle cold rain falls through the clouds downward and onto the buildings and streets below. After taking in the scene a few minutes, I noticed an unusual ornament suspended above the road.
A cable (or two), attached to the hotel just below the window from where I gaze is stretched across the street and attached to the building on the other side. My room is on the third floor, and I’ll estimate the cable is thirty feet above the street. Midway along the cable is what I would call a sizeable almond-shaped ornament. Being the second week of December, I assume this is an ornament for the Christmas season.
There are twenty-eight tree branches (I counted) tied at the top and the bottom and bent to form the almond shape and spaced apart into a three-dimensional ornament. I’ll attach a photo below to help with the visualization. The branches are clean. There are no stems or leaves, and even the bark has been removed. I can tell the branches have been there for some time. The bottom appears more supple while the tops are drained of sap and dried out.
Oddly enough, this was the only ornament of its kind that I saw over the next five days while exploring the city. I never asked anyone about it though. Perhaps someone reading this knows what the almond ornament is and will share the story.
After puzzling over the suspended tree branches and taking in the view of the hotel’s immediate surroundings, I’m well-rested and ready to explore. The pedestrian bridge known as The Charles Bridge is first on my list of places to experience. A quick search on Google maps and the walking directions are shown on my Samsung phone. Just two and a half kilometers away. A few zig-zags here and there through the many streets of the area identified as Praha one.
Along the way, there are hundreds of shops selling everything from diamonds to touristy souvenirs lining the cobblestone streets and polished stone walks. I stopped in a few to look and did manage to purchase a few trinkets and a couple of postcards. In the mix with the stores are restaurants, bars, and cafes. The ancient cobblestones are uncomfortable for a man my age, but they add to the decor of this magical city. Almost as soon as I realize the magic of it all, I round the corner, and there it is — the bridge.
Suddenly it is only 20 steps ahead. The pillars supporting the archway strike me with what can only be expressed as, wow. I’m only partially aware of the traffic light don’t walk signal holding me in place as I unpack the images in front of me. Then, finally, the light signal frees me and a dozen others. I cross the street and make my way through the arched gateway and onto the bridge. The rush of emotions swelled inside my head and chest. I’m aware of the seven hundred-year histories of this bridge; Oddly I’m experiencing the presence of the millions of lives that have passed through this archway.
The expanse of the bridge is further than I had imagined as it crosses the river joining people on either shore together. There are so few things in modern life that bring us together. Perhaps, I muse, a bridge should be the iconic symbol we all adopt in the year ahead—T-shirts, bumper stickers, lawn signs, email signatures, and the like brandishing the bridge.
Charles the IV has been credited with the architecture and layout for the city of Prague. I’ve read that he used the depiction and details of heaven as a blueprint for the city from the Christian bible.
The bridge is lined from end to end (along either side) with statues depicting Christian themes featuring the crucifixion cross and saintly halos. The statues’ faces tell the emotional impact felt by those captured by the sculpture in stone. The haunting eyes, suffering brows and mouths, and desperate gestures and postures resonate with the message of the need for salvation. Slowly I make my way across as I veer back and forth statue by statue.
Perhaps a hundred steps or less after reaching the other side of The Charles Bridge I stop at a cafe for a cup of hot tea. My feet and legs need a break, and something hot is necessary on this cold winter’s day. She brings me a large clear mug filled with steaming hot water. I tear open a sack of black tea and watch as it absorbs the water and slowly sinks to the bottom. Soon, the magical elixir seeps out of the tea leaves, and I watch it curl and spread, coloring the once clear water. Perhaps my next stop, methinks, will be the alchemy museum.