(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:
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
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 weather.co.uk 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?