Ah, the celestial city of Prague. Castles, cathedrals and culture galore and I have been bereft of words to express my delight. Literally. What began as severe hay-fever or a bad cold in my last two days in Cairo developed rapidly into raging laryngitis and I’ve been unable to speak above a sibilant whisper for the past four days.
As I’ve said in the past, however, you can’t keep a good Boomer down, and being struck dumb hasn’t dampened my adventurous spirit. HWB and I have had an absolutely fantastic time, albeit somewhat mutely on my side.
As I write, I’m sitting on a train watching the verdant Czech countryside pass by my window en route to Munich. I’m looking forward to some German fun times, but I have to say the cumulative effect of two weeks of intensive exploring is starting to fuzz my brain. I’ve been to more than 13 major historical sites in 14 days and I think I’m beginning to reach maximum capacity (never did I think I’d say such words, but there we are). Carcassonne is now not only figuring as my writing dream destination, but also as a place where I can mercifully unload and abandon the suitcase and not have to leap forth for a marathon culture quest every day.
That said, I wouldn’t have missed a moment of the last week which has featured some truly remarkable moments. Apart from navigating the hordes of tourists at Prague Castle, St Vitus’ Cathedral and Charles Bridge we’ve really enjoyed wandering around the magical old town. I’m an organised sort of traveller, but HWB is more of an aficionado of the spontaneous ‘let’s follow our nose’ school of thought, and it was his inspiration to stick our nose into an absinthe bar.
The ‘green fairy’ has a long history, much of it apocryphal and associated with bohemian writers/artists (Oscar Wilde, Charles Baudelaire, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Vincent Van Gogh, Ernest Hemmingway) having a raging old hallucinogenic time of it supping absinthe in the belle epoch. Being banned in Australia and having such dangerous and literary associations means that absinthe has always had a certain allure and mystique for me. It felt both daring and titillating to place our orders and watch the flaming brew being prepared by our host Marek.
Let me assure you, dear readers, that modern absinthe is perfectly safe and absolutely non-psychoactive. Distilled or macerated, this anise-flavoured bevvy is produced and sold widely in France, Switzerland, Spain and the Czech Republic and, when consumed in a classical bar decorated with inspired murals in Prague, it makes for a great night out.
Only a few days into our adventure HWB had already reached his cathedral saturation point, but even he had to admit that the Ossuary Chapel of Sedlec in Kutna Hora was a bit special.
Built on the site of a former medieval cemetery, the entrepreneurial and respectful new owners of the site, a bunch of 14th century Cistercian monks, decided to honour the bones of some of the 60,000 ex-residents by using them to decorate their unique place of worship. One particularly inspired and half-blind monk dedicated himself to building four intricate and massive pyramids of bones in the hopes that this pious work would move God to restore his sight. I love my beautiful home town of Narooma, but I have to admit it has its limitations – you won’t find one of these chapels round the corner and it’s amazing to be able to revel in such historical wonders.
We wound up our week with an overnight flit to the truly exquisite
Český Krumlov, three hours south of Prague. A UNESCO world heritage listed baroque town, it’s nestled in two oxbow loops of the Vlatva River, and is a cobblestoned, towered, frescoed wonder.
Our itinerary in Munich is likely to be somewhat more modern. HWB is in charge so don’t expect reports on any more castle visits. I don’t have a very clear idea of his intentions, but there has been mention of something called Frühlingsfest which I believe is a smaller but no less rollicking cousin of the Oktoberfest. I might have to go shopping for a dirndl.
Following in the absinthe-flavoured footsteps of Oscar Wilde is about as literary as I’ve been this week, but I’m now intensely aware that my writing apotheosis is only days away. Very soon I will sit at my Carcassonne window, my fingers quivering over the keyboard and the moment of truth will have arrived. As I’ve been gazing on onion-domed churches and munching goulash and trdelnik I’ve been conscious every now and again of a mild and quickly suppressed panic at the thought of my impending date with destiny. I guess in next week’s blog we’ll discover if I have found my voice …