“The best fantasies pull aside the velvet curtain of mere appearance. … In most instances, fantasy ultimately returns us to our own now re-enchanted world, reminding us that it is neither prosaic nor meaningless, and that how we live and what we do truly matters.”
~ Michael Dirda
Snapshot 3. A Visit to the Prague Castle
After brunch on the second day, I took spent the afternoon wandering the Prague Castle and Strahov Monastery, and I wanted to see the Castle all lit up at night, so I climbed the hill to the castle twice: once in the afternoon, when the sun was still high in the sky, and the city was vibrant, brilliant copper roofs and eggshell whites, verdant green gardens dotted with pale pink flowers against the bright blue sky. And once again in the evening, when the sun was sitting, casting a warm, dreamy glow over the entirety of the city and the day. Just when I thought that the city could not possibly become any more beautiful, I’d turn a corner or climb up past a vineyard, wander down Golden Lane, the name illuminating with the evening sun, and up towards the sun-drenched sandy wall, to a view that would take my breath away every time.
The Medieval city cobblestones could tell you deep and dangerous secrets if you looked past the charming stalls filled with artwork and jewelry, baskets of ripe strawberries and dusty melons, past the bustling restaurants and pretty delicate cafés, to dwell on the shadowy past: the Nazi invasion of seven years, the medieval torture chambers, the armour room with heavy, blunt weaponry that even the orcs in the Lord of the Rings would be proud to use. There are traces of when the city was under Soviet rule. The twisting, turning, challenging mind of Kafka, and Jan Polak in Wenceslas Square, running aflame down the main street in protest to Communism. And central to the Prague Castle, the sharp Gothic steeples of St. Vitus Cathedral pierce the sky, gargoyles hanging haunting from the gray and shady stone sides. There’s an element of darkness to this city, a past that can’t be ignored; Prague carries with it, magic, sin, spite, scandal, obscured amidst the charm of ornately painted buildings and luxurious tree-lined streets.
Nevertheless, Prague Castle is completely enchanting as the sun is setting, the lights of the castle slowly coming to life as the sun sets. The place seems to capture all of the lilac, the rose, the gold and the navy blue of sky, and encapsulates it, drawing it in slowly inch by inch, as day turns to night; and suddenly, the castle is standing tall and proud, majestically reflecting all the colours, as if to say, “Look, I’ve captured the jewels of the sky. Don’t they look wonderful on me?”
And I loved every part of that day, wandering up and down the hill to the castle, taking my time in the Monastery, pausing to frame a picture of poppy-red tulips in beds of perfect, pure white pansies, and then stopping to observe the many swans by the St. Charles Bridge, as they floated and fought and dove for food, white wings and graceful necks causing disturbance in the gently rolling river. Prague would be the black swan, I think, in the timeless story of love and loss.