Prague: Countdown

21 December 2012
9:30 PM
Prague, Czech Republic

The astronomical tower.

The astronomical clock betrays the belief that the universe rotated around the earth.

My Dear Piece of Home,

I completely forgot that today was the end of the world. I’m glad we both get to live past today, that I’ll get to see you on this earth again soon.

Oddly I think the best place to celebrate the not-end-of-the-world is in Prague, where ideas have been violently embraced and then thrown out the window for centuries.

Jan Huss, whose statue stands in the city square, opposed the corruption of the Catholic church long before Martin Luther did. After Huss was burned at the stake, the Hussites threw Catholic noblemen out the windows in the defenestration of Prague. Fast forward to the 20th century and you have the Czechs fighting for freedom against the Nazis only to be “liberated” by the Soviets. In the 20th century, another Jan on fire, Jan Palach, torched himself in front of the National Museum in response to a Soviet invasion to crush liberal Czech reforms in the 1960s. I had no idea that 13 years prior in Wenceslas Square, where we spent last night at a Christmas market, people gathered together in the Velvet Revolution, jingling their keys and telling the Soviets it was time to leave.

The city of Prague tells the story of the violent transformation of ideas. The iconic Astronomical Clock (watch a cool 600th Anniversary Show of it here) betrays an idea Tycho Brahe, a legendary astronomer who worked in Prague, supported: that the universe revolved around the earth. Two hands, one representing the sun and the other representing the moon, rotate around a painting of our home planet.

More recently, a 50 metre statue of Stalin once stood on a high hill overlooking the city. Once Prague threw off the Soviet yoke, however, the statue was blown to smithereens and replaced instead with a giant metronome designed by famous Czech artist, David Cerny (I really wish I could talk more about his work–he does some incredible political art, try looking up his explanation for installing babies climbing up a TV Tower. Take a look at something recent made for the Olympics: a London double-decker bus doing pushups).

A giant metronome swings on the platform where a giant statue of Stalin once stood. Supposedly it symbolizes the slow ticking of time under Soviet rule.

A giant metronome swings on the platform where a giant statue of Stalin once stood. Supposedly it symbolizes the slow ticking of time under Soviet rule.

If the walking tour company didn’t offer a “end of the world” pub crawl package, I probably would have forgotten entirely that it was today. I was too distracted by the world of Prague: medieval architecture, grimy street buildings, cable trams, a completely foreign language, FREEZING weather (I wore five upper layers, three sock layers, two neck layers, and a head-warmer today), a bloody history of perseverance, and yes, Christmas markets.

A statue of Franz Kafka in front of a Moorish synagogue.

A statue of Franz Kafka in front of a Moorish synagogue.

Christmas markets at night.

Christmas markets at night in Old Square, next to the tower with the Astronomical Clock.

At the end of the day, all eight girls watched Home Alone in the hotel room as our Christmas-y movie of choice. A little after the movie was over, my friend GB rushed down to the lobby to beat PT and IS in a three-way advent calendar chocolate-recognizing-then-eating-contest. Now that the countdown to the end of the world is over, it’s time to countdown to something else with anticipation. Three days until Christmas. I’m so thankful we get to celebrate Jesus’ birth on Christmas with friends in Europe.

I’m sorry I won’t be able to be home for Christmas this year. None of us know when the world will end, but here’s to hoping we’ll have another Christmas next year I can spend with you.

Love,

JJS

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