Sarah and I decided we wanted to take an early morning walk in the beautiful city of Prague, to be able to see the streets of the old town area (without the hordes of tourists) by the light of the rising sun. We set our alarms for bright and early at 6:15 one morning, ate breakfast in the dark, and set off to see the sunrise. What we got was even better—a thick fog hovered just above the ground, the perfect melancholy backdrop for a walk across the famous Charles Bridge.
We were aiming for Prague Castle as our final destination, but our wanderings took us up to the Strahov Monastery instead. We arrived at the top of the hill just in time to see the sun burn away the fog for a beautiful view of the city below.
An Iowa Water Nymph turned Czech Opera
After our long walk through the city, Sarah and I had a relaxing afternoon and then got as dolled up as two stinky backpackers can and went to the Národní divadlo (National Theatre) for a real treat: Dvorak’s beloved Czech opera Rusalka, which has some plot similarities with Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid.” It was a lovely theatre and a beautifully staged opera—Sarah said that she was surprised at how much she enjoyed it! Opera sometimes has a stuffy reputation, but this one still felt fresh, and the music, dance, and sets were striking. It was also fun to have an occasion to wear the dress I’ve been dragging across Europe.
Rusalka even has an Iowa connection! Dvorak lived for 3 years in the United States, and spent part of that time in Spillville, Iowa, where there was a Czech-speaking Moravian community. While there, he saw a girl bathing nude in the Turkey River, presumably peeped on her for awhile…and that gave him the inspiration to write the opera. Creepy but cool, I guess?
A Surprise Peek at 1968
During our first few days in Prague, we were noticing some renovations at an intersection near Sue and Tom’s apartment. On our way back from the opera, we saw some workers putting up barriers to close off the street. Being an Iowa girl, my first thought was, “ugh, road construction.” But in the morning as we walked by, we saw that there were some tents and trailers and…an army tank! We realized that there was a movie being filmed! The whole street was made over to look like it did during the Warsaw Pact invasion of Prague in 1968.
We stopped for part of an afternoon to watch the filming process, which was interesting on a couple of levels. For one thing, it was just plain fun to see the workings of a movie set. It was also striking to step back in time a little bit and imagine what the people here experienced during those days. It has been interesting to see the different legacies of Communism in eastern Germany and the Czech Republic—those times are very much in recent living memory, not as far in the past as I always felt them to be.