4. Prague at Night. After the sun goes down, the crowds may be there but they fade into the shadows. Lamp posts cast shadows on cobblestones, statues of saints are black outlines on not-quite-so-black skies. Noise is muted on Charles Bridge as a lone violin replaces the accordions and the one-man-cymbal-and-drum band. Suddenly what was hustling and noisy is rather mystical.
3. Farmers’ markets. Yes, Kent has one, but it’s not as big, and it’s not as diverse. I will miss ladies in colorful aprons, making crepes and filling them with Nutella or caramel or savory tidbits like sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese (my favorite!). I will miss spring rolls, frying in big woks, and cider — hard or not — or burčák, that young first-grapes-of-the-season wine the locals make. I will miss huge crates of tomatoes and potatoes and kale. I will miss fresh eggs and lines to buy them stretching across the fronts of the next four stalls. I will miss the man who sells fowl — and always runs out of the ducks first. And I’ll miss the families with wagons and carts and shopping bags and baskets, filling up on groceries for the week to come while sipping a drink or feeding a toddler a kolache.
2. Constant recreating. Prague is old, no doubt about it. But it cherishes the history and tidies up the present. Sidewalks that are missing bricks one week are reset the next. Buildings are hosed down, repainted, refreshed. Historic buildings are frequently cloaked in scaffolding and net so workers can restore sections of them. The Loreta, a pilgrimage site with a cloister, stable and house said to be like that of Jesus’ mother, Mary, built in 1626, had workmen cleaning between tiles with tiny brushes no bigger than a child’s toothbrush.
1. The diversity of it all. People, languages, architecture, food — it is all somewhere in Prague. I will miss turning the corner to avoid seemingly hundreds of tourists in front of the Astronomical Clock in Old Town and finding myself on a quiet cobblestone street with only one elderly man walking along with a paper under his arm.
The class I taught had 18 students representing nine different countries. I will miss discussions about how media covers refugees (or should they be considered migrants?) with those from Belaruse, Russia, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, plus four exchange students from the U.S. Everyone had a different view, and each listened to the others respectfully.
I’ll miss the contrast between the Vyšehrad, home of the Bohemian king in the 11th century, now a quiet park with few tourists, and Prague Castle, a few miles away, packed with tour groups learning about the past and current rulers who have lived there. They couldn’t be more different, and they couldn’t be more telling of the variety this city offers.