Saturday, September 22, 2007

Stumbling on Memories

Prague is a gigantic little city, and I have yet to explore all of its wonders. On Wednesday, however, I discovered a world that occupied a small part of my memory. When we lived in Prague for two months, I had wanted to do some of the things that a kid does during the summer in the United States. I remember wanting to go to the swimming pool, to go on picnics, and especially to go to an amusement park. Our family kind of had a tradition that we would go to Valleyfair once during the summer. During my summer in Prague, I also wanted to have a typical American past-time (I was still young and didn’t have the ability to understand the value of experiencing new traditions and life styles; even today I have troubles shaking off the desire to live the life I’m comfortable in.)
Luckily, our family friend Milena knew of a amusement park in Prague. The children, especially Anna and me, were extremely excited. We thought of how cool Valleyfair was, and we expected an even bigger and better park since we were in a bigger and better city. We were quite mistaken. The amusement park was actually just a collection of dusty old rides, and we seemed to be the only people visiting. The highlight was a single roller coaster that was fast, but quite short. I am not sure if I could recall this memory so well, if it hadn’t been for my stumbling upon the park again on Wednesday. It was exactly how I remembered it; in fact, the rides were entirely the same. In all this time, it still has not been renovated, and I do not understand how it makes enough money to stay open. I didn’t go on any rides, but I my return to the park was incredibly more satisfying the second time around.
The amusement park is right next to the grand Prumyslový palác, which is a grand palace in, I think, Art Nouveau style. When I was younger, this entrance fascinated me because I thought a spectacular theme park lay ahead. However, the building drew me forward in a different manner in 2007. The architecture is fascinating, and many of the neighboring buildings are also in the same style. They all are somewhat neglected, but I discovered that there is a marine life aquarium and a museum located in the buildings.
After studying the palace, I walked around to the back where I knew there were giant fountains. These fountains had originally brought me to Praha 7; I knew that there was a spectacular view of a beautiful building somewhere north of the center. I found the fountains, but unfortunately they were not running. I think I have to return at night to view a show...
However, this was not the end of my adventures. The entire region around the Prumyslový palác is, architecturally, very interesting. Surrounding the fountains is a massive structure that must have been built during the communist era. It is an ugly white concrete structure that sprawls out like a spider across an area the size of a football stadium. I was there quite early, I had just finished my 8:30 class, and no one seemed to be around. Out of nowhere, I had this urge to climb, and I tried to climb up the stairs to the top of the structure. However, I could not reach the top, it was locked, so I decided to explore the edifice. It is so abandoned and isolated. Everything that you see from the communist period has this feeling of despair. I could not stand it for too long, and eventually continued with my exploration.
Next to the white spider, there is a huge black cube. I walked all around it, but could not figure out what its function was. It is some sort of building, but covered in a very strange stringy material. It looked like it could be a interesting modern concert hall, but there was no way to be certain.
There was also a great pyramid shaped building. At first, I thought that it was abandoned as well. There were a bunch of signs around it advertising musicals, like Les Mis and Miss Saigon, but looking through the windows, it looked quite deserted. However, as I was about to head out after failing to open the doors, a man ran out of the pyramid and started yelling at me in Czech. I was quite worried that I had done something wrong, so I said the first thing that came to my mind: chci koupit listeky (I want to buy tickets). His mood changed immediately, and he invited me into the theater. It was not abandoned after all, but seemed to be in the middle of changing shows. The guy led me through the theater, past dressing rooms, past the costume shop, and into the back, where another employee helped me. I don’t know if it was my excitement at finding this theater in the middle of nowhere, but I was able to talk with them about when the shows were playing, where I could buy tickets, and when they are playing Les Mis, all in Czech. I am thinking of buying some tickets in December, as it would be interesting to see this musical performed in a foreign language.
After this self-guided tour of one of my new favorite places in Prague, I decided I should start back home. First, however, I wanted to explore the park that I saw nearby on my map. It is adjacent to the palace, and probably one of the biggest in the city. It stretches on for what seems a mile, and there is a beautiful lake in the center filled with wildlife. There are also huge lawns, and it seems the perfect place for a picnic and some European football. I just wish it was closer to my kolej (dormitory), as it would be the best place to go for a jog in the city.
On Thursday, I had a job interview after my classes. I was really nervous, I had to explain to my interviewer, who was pretending to be an intermediate English speaker, when one has to use past tense versus the past perfect tense, but it actually went quite well. I was offered a second interview, in which I would have to give a 45 minute lesson to Czech banker with an English speaking boss, but I have decided that the job would be too much work. I need to keep up my studies, and teaching English would not be the best for my greatest goal in Prague: learning Czech. However, it looks like this could be an excellent job after I finish my undergraduate work and need a job before I can start grad school. She had offered me 17 dollars and hour, and if I would have had a TEFL certificate I think I could have fared much better. I will keep in touch and maybe return one day to James Cook Languages.
Yesterday was another day full of cultural events. Well, full is not the right word. Actually, I was quite lazy for the first part of the day. I am lucky enough to not have classes on Friday, and slept in and cleaned the kitchen. However, at 7 pm, I went with a group of my friends to the Czech Ballet Symphony at the National Theater. I have never been to the ballet before, and it is an experience I doubt I will forget anytime soon. The pieces were all original works, and we were experiencing the second premier of these pieces. The first piece began with a Dvorak orchestral work, which slowly turned into modern music. The story was beautiful; it described the love between a man and a woman, and the pain that they felt when this love could not be survive. The choreography was spectacular, and the first piece was my favorite of the night.
I spotted some empty seats from our view in the first gallery, and after the first intermission we went to the ground floor and asked if we could take the empty seats. After some confusing Czech inquiries, we sat down in the fourth row. The second piece began, which was extremely emotional and beautiful. I have never seen someone move their body in a way that can produce an image of such inner turmoil and pain. Once again, it seemed to focus on the search and inability to find love. (Of course, that was just my interpretation, but it was nevertheless a touching work.) Right after the piece finished, the guys in front of us sprinted out of the theater. I thought they were being quite rude until I saw them up on the stage. The man in front of us had been the choreographer! As soon as he returned to his seat, I told him the dance was excellent.
The next dance was in an entirely different style. It was to one of Smetana’s orchestral pieces, and it was very upbeat and positive. It starred six men, who all had very distinct characters. It was a nice break from the earlier sorrow. After the second intermission, the fourth and final piece began. Although it was quite beautiful, it was my least favorite of the four pieces. The others had all seemed quite original, and not anything that I expected to see. The last was very Nutcrackerish, and, though beautiful, a little boring.
If you managed to get through this, I congratulate you. Next time, I will try to write more frequently, so I do not have to compose a novel.

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