Tag Archives: Charles Bridge

Reflections on poverty and a multicultural visit


I’ve been very fortunate this week to visit Prague as part of a business trip. Business was concluded early so I’ve had a bit of time to kill while waiting for my flight home. I came here last year with Dee and we both fell in love with the place. It’s not been the same without her, not quite as good, but it’s an enchanting city all the same. 
I’ve walked up to the castle, around the various buildings there and then back into the Old Town via the Charles Bridge. The views from the castle were superb, as were the sights while there. I’m now sitting in one of the main squares sipping iced tea, watching the world go by, and a number of things have struck me about this visit.

There seem to be fewer people begging this year. They kneel, elbows and head on the ground, with cups or hats outstretched, and don’t make a sound. Most of the streets are cobbled and it can’t be comfortable. Whether this is to encourage them to feel shame, to punish them for begging, or to prevent too many people doing it, you can’t help but feel for these people. 

It’s impossible to know their story, but trying to imagine how bad things must be got them to force them to beg in such a way is enough to make you weep. I wonder if there are less of them around because the authorities are cracking down hard on begging, whether they’ve been moved out of the tourist areas, or whether there are genuinely fewer people that need to beg here. 

While at the castle, I took the opportunity to visit the cathedral there. It is simply stunning on the inside. Upon reflection, there were visitors from all over the world inside that Roman Catholic building, and I’d be willing to bet that there were more non-Catholics in there than Catholics. It was apparent that all inside were marvelling at what they saw, from stained glass windows to the towering ceiling, and many were taking advantage of being in such a sacred space to commune with their god or their thoughts.

Walking the streets of this lively and lovely city, walking round the castle, and sitting as I am now having tea, I’ve been stuck by the plethora of languages spoken, at the number of visitors and at the number of nationalities represented. I can hear at least five languages at the moment – and none of them are English! 

I’m sitting here wondering at how everyone seems to get along. I’ve not heard an angry voice while I’ve been in the city. Staff everywhere are unfailingly polite. Is it simply the good weather that means all these faiths and creeds are enjoying the sights, sounds and tastes of Prague, or is there something else? Wouldn’t it be great if the rest of the world could learn how to do this too?

Another spiral to climb – Image #124

Today’s our first day in Prague – we only arrived at our hotel around 0200 this morning – and we already love the place. So much to see and do, with beauty and astounding buildings around nearly every corner.

As is my usual style, I looked at the map for a bit and had a rough idea where we should go, but then left the map in the bag and wandered where my nose took me. Fortunately Dee was happy with that approach. With one minor course correction we found ourselves on the Charles Bridge (Karlov Most): it was awash with traders selling jewellery and souvenirs, some musicians playing different types of music, and a big selections of artists waiting to do portraits or charicatures.

We stopped on the other side for lunch, spent in a restaurant beside the river and almost in the shadow of the bridge, then crossed back into the Old Town. After detouring through part of the Jewish Quarter, we made our way to the Old Town Square.

The Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square is rightly famous, and is a thing of great beauty. Dee and I decided to climb the clock tower, and this was the view on the way up.

image

Its not so much a spiral staircase as a spiral ramp. There was a narrow spiral staircase at the very top, complete with traffic lights, to give access to the top of the tower and the balcony there, which gave clear views across the rooftops of the city. Yes, it was very busy with other tourists, and yes, we’d had a bit of a wait to see the views, but it was well worth it. I’d definitely recommend climbing the tower to anyone!