I’ve told this story a few times, so forgive me if you’ve heard it: Trying to feel totally Praguerian (Praguian? Praguer-like?), I purchased a Milan Kundera book and sat down in the little coffee shop that I heard used to be his hang-out. Feeling unbearably cool as I ordered my coffee in Czech, I saw that, at the table in front of me, sat another America tourist, reading the same Milan Kundera book.
And that’s the thing about being a tourist: inevitably, you’re going to be a cliche, so it’s better just to go with it and lose your illusions. Plus, I’ve since found out that real Praguerians have mixed feelings about Kundera, who has remained notably absent from Prague and now writes in French, meaning I was missing the point on multiple levels.
I’ve spent a lot of time here in lectures, readings, or just reading or writing, and I’ve already developed the bad habit you get into of going to the same coffee shops and pubs that surround the places you regularly go, instead of seeking new things out (though honestly, here, the coffee and beer are so good that anywhere is going to have pretty good coffee and beer. Even the VENDING MACHINES have decent coffee and beer, no joke). I haven’t done as much touristy stuff as I would have liked, really, though brain-wise, it’s been time well spent. However, I’m going to mention a few things that I’ve done:
I’ve seen two amazing films, a documentary called The Fighter, and a Petr Zelenka film called Wrong Side Up(apparently, the first Czech film ever to use product placement — yay Capitalism!). I loved both, except for the ending of Wrong Side Up, which made me very angry, so please run out and rent this movie so that I can a have a cathartic argument about it.
Tonight, I’m seeing a production of Don Giovanni at the Estates Theatre: Prague is where the opera was first staged, Praguers apparently having the foretaste to receive Mozart’s music more favorably than Vienna. They seem, understandably, smug about this and “Don Giovanni” is a big deal — apparently, the production is a close as possible to the original staging (something that makes me nervous, but we’ll see how it goes).
I’ve read some Czech writers, and discovered Ivan Klima, who is really interesting.
I ate at a vegetarian restaurant called Country Life — Czech cuisine is heavy on the meat, meaning vegetarian options, while not non-existant, aren’t common. I eat fish, so I’ve never had real trouble, and I usually order the default fish option (salmon and green beans; salmon in honey sauce; halibut in garlic dough; salmon with spinach and potatoes — this is a list of my dinners in the past week). What was intersting about the Vegetarian restaurant was that it fit a carb-lovers idea of vegetarian cusiuine: thick, green, veggie burgers; buckwheat pate; rice; potatoes; breaded eggplant. For once, I thought, a vegetarian restaurant that really gets me! Because, you see, I’m at heart a meat-and-potatoes girl that doesn’t eat meat, meaning that I’m, essentially, a potatoes-and-potatoes girl. So vegetarian Czech food is right up my particular alley. I just looked up some reviews, which described Country Life as “Czech vegetarian comfort food” –exactly!
Alright, have to go get ready for the Opera, which in my case means taking a cold shower — there’s currently a city-mandated hot-water outage.