The lady with the poodle (borrowing from tschekov intended)
Normal tourists get acquainted with Prague in just a few days; most certainly stay in comfortable surroundings in one of the many airconditioned and luxurious hostelleries or commodious boarding houses. They are immediately swallowed up by some sightseeing programme or other and transported bumpily by motorised toy-train through the old town. Those who wish to spend more money, use a hackney cab car, even more extravagant, a private open limousine. I myself, not a normal tourist, was able to do everything differently. My English husband, unsurprisingly as an Englishman, has already been tolerant enough to allow me to have two leave of obsences, each lasting a couple of months to stay in this wonderful city. (I have not investigated too deeply what he did with this newly found freedom!) Two years ago, already well advanced in years, I experienced a students' hostel. First of all however, I had to waft all the cobwebs away from the ceiling and clean up the carpets of dust coating the furniture, but that did not disturb me too much and I threw myself with alacrity into the musical Prague spring-awakening. Occasionolly I visited two musical happenings a day, as variovs churches offered concerts as early as 4 o'clock. Then often followed a further musical highlight in the Rudolphinum with its perfect acoustics, or in the Obecní Dům, where you could enjoy the Prague Symphonic Orchestra. During the day, I went on a photo safari and I would almost claim that in the Old Town and across the river on the Malá Strana as well, not even a single narrow alley escaped my attention. My objective at that time was to prepare for a number of lectures on Czech literature, history ond music for the night school back home, which met with great success, I am happy to say. This was followed up last year when I brought here a busload of enthusiastic tourists. And now I came back after two years to the city with which I was already more or less completely familiar, "Why Prague, of all places?", I was often asked at home. Well, the city exerts a magnetic influence upon me. In comparison to the other major European cities, it is more intimate. You prefer to explore everything on foot, cross the many bridges across the Moldou, in order to stumble across even more intimate things. Music floats on the air all over the city in the Summer; it is if you were placed middle into a fairy tale if you took a walk on a warm evening during full moon across the Staroměstské náměstí. Vou are immediately captivated by the sounds of the buskers and the illu minoted spires of the Týn Church and the copper roof of the Nikolai Church opposite it. This year I had an attractive companion, a large poodle called Nero, who accomponied me just obout everywhere. For example, we were with our friends Peggy ond Walter Albert in jazz cellars, where czechs as well as touristst were spellbound by often appearing top class musicions. My black darling was the main attraction. Wherever he was, he had to pose for pictures taking dog lovers. He is patient and quite definitely conscious of his imposing stature. Meanwhile he has become familiar with the Czech Dog Language: by dej pac! he offers a paw and by sedni! he sits down. Simpy amazing! We also has the stupendous fortune to live a few paces from the Staroměstské náměstí, in the heart of things, where the small cosy shops in Josefov are situated, of which in Germany we no longer have anything of the kind. How pleasant when even on Sunday, you can quickly fetch mineral water or beer. Thus for this reason and especially due to the small shops, where you can spend the time of day with a little small-talk, and the many book- and souvenir shops for tourists, is Prague very attractive to me. And where else can you find a city in which at every turn you can feel, smell and touch history in the wonderfully restored buildings, and where even the pavement has remained cobblestones as a result of caring restoration where you can stili find it pleasant to stroll during the hot summer months in comparison to asphalted streets? The many shady parks, including the woodlike Stromovka Park, are also delightful. I had the feeling that at the weekend every person sound in wind and limb could find his own particular oasis on foot or by tram. One is also astounded by the reasonable restaurant prices; in corner pubs you can stili get half a litre of the superb Pilsener Urquell Beer for 19 Kč. On the other hand the bill of 100 Kč for the same thing at the Staroměstské náměstí was a real shock. Prague people assured me however, that in consideration of the impending entry into the Eropean Community, the price level will gradually be adjusted to that of the other countries. That makes good sense to me, as the ci1y has become exemplary in terms of service and other amenities. Just to cover Prague on foot, however, and not to be able to understand what was going on around me, was a challenge for me as a teacher of languages. Thus I engaged a czech student (who has in the meantime become my good pen-friend Lenka), took lessons daily and diligently learned the hissing and cracking sounds. Mostly, I like the way in which sentences are spoken with a certain singsong. In other words: learning the Czech Language was the second reason for my coming to Prague. I will never forget the sense of satisfaction I felt at the end on being able to order in Czech and to say with confidence "Platím, prosím" and the singing "Na shledanou" - until we meet againt with the next Pilsener Urquell! Na shledanou - I will be back!
Monika Johnson, Wiesbaden
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