Prague is the new Paris

Prague: view from St. Charles Bridge

They say that spring is the time for romance and Paris is the city of love, but I have to differ on both accounts.

Astronomical Clock (installed in 1410)

Spring typically sends me flying in a hundred different directions.

Enthusiastically, I go running outside, pack up old winter clothes, and give the apartment its annual scrub-down. It’s invigorating to be sure, but I find that romance requires a more contemplative spirit.

You need an unfamiliar chill in the air to tuck you closer to your partner’s side, to urge you to share in a second glass of red wine after a brisk evening walk, and to lie in a little longer in the mornings. Instinctively, I think our bodies start to sense it: the long cold winter is best endured with the one you love, and autumn is the critical time to reconnect!

 

Perhaps intuiting this back in July, Chris surprised me on our anniversary with a reservation for an October weekend in Prague, a city neither of us had visited and which I now have to say counts as one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen.

Old Town Square: site of weekend markets since 1100

I’ve got nothing against Paris, per se, but visiting Paris is like going on a date with someone who makes sure you know you’re out of your league. You spend the whole time hoping you measure up. Prague, on the other hand, takes care to sweep you off your feet with one enchanting moment after the other. You start to take on its celestial glow and feel like a more charming version of yourself.

First of all, there is the architecture. A good little modernist like me should eschew ornamental style, but Prague coaxes me to wildly transgress. Its gothic spires overwhelm and impress. Harmonizing examples of art nouveau encourage a youthful sense of wonder. Gilded baroque and rococo facades emerge around unassuming corners that catch the breath and invite a smile.

        

In the last twenty-some years after the collapse of communism millions of people have visited Prague from all over the world, but nonetheless the city feels intimate and secluded at this time of year. The ‘hidden’ Wallenstein Garden, for instance, seems to spill out magically behind its enclosed wall. I got a kick out of the nearly empty Kafka museum, and the astounding collection of marionettes for sale and on performance throughout the city proved delightfully uncanny. When we got hungry we ate hearty goulash and decadent sweets. When we got cold, we drank hot wine.

         

At night we stumbled upon a performance of the Four Seasons in St. Nicholas Church in the Old Town Square. It felt as though the city’s rich history unfolded in front of us like a story-book with each building, street, and experience suggesting a surprising new chapter.

Vivaldi in St. Nicholas

As a result, we were able to leave behind the stresses of moving to a new continent and reclaim the spirit of adventure that made this year seem like a good idea in the first place. And for me — no matter the setting — romance is best described as a shared adventure.

7 thoughts on “Prague is the new Paris

  1. I’ll always remember the night we arrived, rolling over the cobblestones, weaving through tiny streets, and being overwhelmed with some pretty magnificent sights. There’s no one else I could even imagine sharing that with!

  2. My parents traveled to Prague when they were in their 20s because living in the communist East at the time only allowed you to travel to other communist countries. But they always maintained that Prague was one of the most beautiful places they’d ever visited. T. and I went there shortly after we were married (at the end of my research year in Germany) and we fell in love with it too. So so beautiful! We went back this past summer and took C. with us and although visiting the city with a baby in tow made for a different kind of travel experience, we still agreed that there is something about Prague that’s magical. I can’t wait to go back some day. Glad that you guys got to enjoy such a gorgeous city as an anniversary present!

    • How wonderful to have such a beautiful place to share with your family! I love that you were able to connect with your parents’ memories by making your own experiences in Prague, both as a couple and later as parents.

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