28 June 2013

Where buildings make us smile

I often stumble spelling the word "exuberant," and that's a hurdle I really need to get over, because here in Prague, it's a word that comes frequently to mind.


The glorious architecture, the ridiculously scenic views that have us gawking at every street corner like the tourists we emphatically are, the hordes of visitors crowding the squares and twisting, cobbled streets... There's a palpable, excited energy here that can only be described with that word: exuberant.


Today on a lark we visited the Franz Kafka museum, which was every bit as dark, morose, and pointless as you'd expect (which is to say it was rather well curated).  But it's difficult to square the existential trauma young Franz experienced while walking to school with the giddy delight we get from strolling down those same streets. Prague makes us happy.


This place is more densely endowed with interesting buildings than any city we've ever seen.  It's just crazy, with Disney-esque ramparts and towers poking up willy-nilly throughout the Staré Mêsto (Old Town) and Malá Strana (Lesser Town) just across the river.  The city is older, less orderly than Hausmann's Paris, but there's the same sense of proportion and grandeur: it just comes in a wacky jumble of gorgeous styles developed over several centuries.


We've even seen a few gloomy Communist-era buildings - surrounded by such eclectic architectural beauty, those has-been bastions of socialist realism have their own woeful charm. Prague is nothing if not a repudiation of the socialist model: capitalism has brought floods of tourists and lonely to this city, and the vibe is a prosperous one.



No comments: