Two days back from Prague, and I am still not sure how to summarize the trip. A few exerpts from my journal, then, interspersed with explanations and such:

(what you can't tell is that a vast and lovely night view of the city is stretched out behind us.)

the Amsterdam Airport, a layover

I just finished an apple and almond tart which I shared with a beautiful sparrow - or some such bird - that seems to have made it his home in here. It did occur to me that it might not be wise to encourage dependent habits in the bird, but the thought came to me that it is my duty, or at least my role, as a daughter of Eve to give to those creatures of the wild as they have need. The bird was not unusually plump, and I did not give it more than two pinches of tart flakes. So I don't think it is any more spoiled from me than it would be from scavenging empty trays in the food court.

When I arrived at the hostel, 'The Boathouse,' Courtney was waiting for me on the lawn next to the river. We took the tram into the city, wandered in and out amongst tourists, ate dinner in the Old Town Square, and fumbled about with the new, confusing currency.

Before heading back and to bed, we wandered up in the fading light to the palace and took some nighttime photos:

(far away)

(up close)

Being Tourists

We met up with two Australian blokes, Rob and Will (may the rest of your travels fair well, boys! may you not lose anymore tickets, passes, or sense of direction), with whom we spent the next two days. Back up to the palace we went, this time wandering about briefly indoors, climbing over 280 steps to the top of the Tyn Cathedral and a stunning view of the city, and - to my buried chagrine - taking photos of ourselves with the palace guard. The poor man. I think I would prefer turning hot dogs behind the counter at Target to his job:

the Jewish Quarter

Yakov, under the hurtled stones,
the graveheads like the children of Sinai
surge, the silent remnants of a tectonic collision.
Is it this or that marker that means you?
Under which do you lie, your ashy remnants?
I think the rock must crush,
if you leave behind any bones to break -
though, even if dust alone remain, take heart
(you without a heart to beat
but barely soul to wait along):

Soon the sands will rise between the grasses
with an earthy, unearthly surge.
The stones will slip and crumble like bones
while your bones arise above the slipping stones,
awaking from their pieces -
pulling their parts from the grasses and the roots.
Yes, you Yakov, will walk this yard again
with footsteps heavy
and breath warm.
(and when you do, please find my face,
fallen as it is in the silence of this place
and, with your own, lift it up - a last and holy praise):

Museum of Communism, riverside restaurant, and a hike up a holy hill

I am sure this was nothing in comparison with the education Tara received while she was here. Ah well...

Two meals with little inbetween but some happy wandering and a chapel. A lovely couple, Bill and Hazel, sat with us at a table on the water and suggested a church on a hill - the basilica of Peter and Paul - which we went to too late to go inside. It is surrounded by a beautiful park, seemingly maintained by the nuns at the abbey next door.

There were several beautiful views of the city along the river from the hilltop as well. Here is one:

Wandering the city without Courtney

So, it only took me about three hours to find a place to eat despite the fact that there are three restaurants on every corner. I'm not sure what my mental criteria were, but I am becoming so difficult to please.
Regardless, I crossed the river into Mala Strana and have found myself in a small, cool courtyard - cozy relief from the burden of the sun and the cobblestones - and am being served by a hyperactive, cheerful albino fellow. The cloud cover is darkening and I am wondering if the light showers predicted by are about to show themselves. He just put up the umbrellas, so I wouldn't doubt it.
Thinking of Tara and how it would be so much better to have her leading me everywhere around here - out of the tourist areas to begin with.

Thunder and rain in Slavic measure.
I kneel before the crucifix in St Nicholas' Cathedral amd shake my hair. Still it drips on the pages. What is there to do?
the tiles and the tourists
30kC to kneel in worship with the sound of the voice of the tourguide leading her wayward crowds with trivia and tidbits of history.

Before me, you are bleeding on the cross, a bit too quiet for my taste - I, no longer kneeling, but thinking of the rain, wonder when you will rend cloud from sky and come down. Meanwhile, I am chilly here on this wooden bench.

(I think I may have just driven out a tour group by praying in here. Flustered tour guide. Huh.)

Leaving the church, a guard in a clean black business suit was keeping people from coming in the exit door. He spoke to them sternly and closed the door firmly in their faces despite loud protest - only to turn and see me quietly waiting to get out. He had a beautiful face, like the guard in St Peter's who let Chaeli pray in the pews after the five o'clock mass. From stern refusal toward those without, he saw me and transformed. Gentling laying a hand on my shoulder, he opened the door again as though he had kept the others out just to make space for my exit. Perhaps he had seen me praying... I think I could live well from the love I glean from strangers alone.

(and what would be European travel without my trusty Keens? here against the kneelers of St Nick's) :

The rain having let up without wholly ceasing, I finished off my camera batteries (which lasted probably a total of an hour) on the Charles Bridge and hopped on the tram back to the hostel. Read George MacDonald by the river, chatted with a girl newly returned from a year in Russia about Putin and the frightfulness of crossing the Ukrainian border.

Amsterdam airport again

I am grateful for the young man at the information desk in Prague, though initially brusque (since I was asking for help an hour and a half after my plane had taken off), who was kind to me in my confusion. Especially when chasing after me with my passport, which I had left behind his little window. 'Take it easy,' he said, and then brought me to a special lady to check in ahead of the others.
So, I had pulled out just enough crowns to pay for a cab from the hostel to the airport at four in the morning, then slept in a full hour and a half - obviously missing my taxi. Took public transport, by this time up and running regularly. Took the Metro the wrong way, wandered around baffled that there would be no sign for the airport shuttle, almost took a cab the whole way, asked a handful of people who didn't speak English, and finally found a hidden ticket window where the woman there told me in frustrated gestures that I needed to ride the Metro back the entire length of the line. So I was late.

What's a good vacation without a few unnecessary travel woes? And spending twice as much as planned? And feeling a slight sense of relief that, despite all the beauty and happiness, you are secretly glad to get back to the familiar work of research and writing?


A quick update before I go on my way . . .

1. After about eight months of ridiculous inconvenience, I have finally purchased a belt. I'm pretty sure this is the first belt I've ever bought in my life, though it's only the second or third that I've owned. I've been wearing it for a grand total of ten minutes, and already I feel better. Note to self: do not purchase brand new jeans immediately before making radical changes in physical lifestyle (i.e. walking alot).

2. I got my hair cut again by a lovely professional named Lisa. She's a senior stylist at Mosco, but since I booked with a junior stylist who fell ill, I got the better experience for half the price. It looks more or less like it did last November, so there's no need to upload fashion photos or anything. Besides, there will be pictures enough when I return from my trip to . . .

3. Prague! On my way there sometime tomorrow morning. It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment decision to go, but I'm glad that I made it for several reasons. For one thing, it's Prague. For another, it gave me a good mental deadline for some important initial dissertation research (which I will be spending most of the rest of the evening on). Furthermore, my travelling buddy and flatmate Courtney, who left this afternoon, had made her plans with someone else who just dropped out a couple days ago - so I'm glad to keep her from wandering by her lonesome. I am headed to Prague with next to no knowledge of the city, its history, its sites of interest, or its mother-tongue. Mostly, I just want to sit at cafes, walk around and smile at lots of people, and learn how to be a tourist with humility rather than shame.

4. Oh yes, and I finally bought another alarm clock. Jess, you can keep your bouncy ball of indecent morning energy, that explosion of sound, your alarmclock to yourself. I thank you for your sacrifices and your generosity.


Here's a sampling of what I'm writing dissertation-wise:

The clothing of socio-political concerns in a mythic narrative, or any narrative for that matter, is hardly the sole habit of the Enlightenment. Even Macpherson himself, in the dissertation with which he introduces the 1762 publication of Fingal, writes: ‘This is the true source of that divine inspiration, to which the poets of all ages pretended. When they found their themes inadequate to the warmth of their imaginations, they varnished them over with fables, supplied by their own fancy, or furnished by absurd traditions’ (xi). Whether Macpherson is subtly identifying Ossian’s own heroic tales as fables or accidentally giving us a hint towards his own manipulation of the epics might be too presumptuous to assume. Regardless of the specific applicability of the statement, the assertion remains – fables, myths, and all tales of more imaginative than realistic content serve the purpose of embodying those ideals which in plain clothing would be difficult to recognize and lessened in their moral effect.

These are only some of the concerns that went into the composition – translation or manipulation – of the Ossian epics. Their source was a thematic concern, not a narrative interest, and the product of these issues clearly reflects such original emphases. It would be doing both Macpherson and his writing an injustice to claim that these were the only interests driving the epics. That national concerns and curiosity as to the nature of social humanity found their form in an interest in ancient poetry may say as much about the poetry itself as the more social motivations. In an age of passion towards anything ancient, it is only natural that national and philosophical motivations would find themselves embodied in a wider intrigue. Unwritten history, fragments, unburied artefacts, vestiges of things forgotten – the romance of the past provided a popular vehicle for the exploration of these more academic and political concerns.


In case anyone wonders what I do every day here in Scotland, I swiped some photos from friends off of facebook to illustrate:

Standing over the oven...

Baking somewhat crazily... (the saucepan on the left serves as a mixing bowl, and yes, I am cracking the egg into a wine glass. you learn to be creative when resources are few.)

Possibly one of the most attractive meals I've ever made, this could not have been completed without Courtney knowing just when the salmon and asparagus were done. And oooh, wasn't it tasty. That's a butter sauce with lemon, basil, red onions and garlic, topped with reduced balsamic vinegar and diced tomato. A variation on the scallops with kataifi served at our Greek dinner a year ago.

I know, I know - that's a different outfit. And a different dessert, too. This strawberry shortcake (half a teaspoon more salt than there should have been, and not enough strawberries by half) was the featured dessert for my birthday, now weeks past. But since the theme of this blog entry is 'what Molly does in Scotland,' any photo of me and a baked good will do. What does all this have to do with Ossian, mythology, and the Scottish Enlightenment, you ask? I haven't got the slightest idea.


Can someone please explain why my Quicktime isn't working? Anyone with prophetic awareness of my little Atlas, none so old but recently behaving so?
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