Thursday, 1 August 2013

A Waiter's Smile


The name 'Prague' evoked for me images of astonishingly beautiful, historic buildings. A square full of atmosphere and poetry ... in fact, maybe it could all have been summed up for me with the word poetry ...

The astronomical clock we have heard, is the most under-rated (oops I mean over-rated) of 'things to see' in Europe. It is true that you stand looking at this clock wondering why it is such a draw-card for tourists. You look at it and think, "Uh-huh. So?" It is a mite underwhelming. (Now hold that thought, because in another post I am going to describe a clock in another European city - a clock that doesn't disappoint).

Prague is beautiful, there is no doubt - but so many tourists. (I know, I know ...)

It was a hot day when we visited Prague (we were only there for one day). Do I look a little overwhelmed? As if I am seeking something more? Something a little deeper than the tourist veneer that Prague appeared to be hiding under? We ordered coffee at a beer bar - and were treated accordingly (as if we had been scraped off the bottom of someone's shoe). But I ask you, isn't our 'coffee this time, please' money as good as any beer swiller's?

We decided to go on a boat tour up the river a bit and back. It proved to be the best thing we could've done as it gave us cool respite from the hot square full of beautiful buildings and milling crowds. We sat and (this time) did have a beer. We sat and enjoyed the slow ride, taking in the beauty of the river and the city-scape that could be seen from it.

It's hard to grasp the flavour of a place in just one day. I think of the many cruise-ship tourists who do this to Dunedin, where I live. How can you really know a place or be fair to a place with just a glimpse?
I do know that you remember people. The off-hand ones as well as the more accepting, friendly ones.
For example, I remember the waiter in the cafe of the hotel where we stayed in Prague and how cheerful and friendly he was. Just a brief appearance by a young guy wearing black and sporting a pony-tail. Nothing extraordinary, apart from the fact that he engaged, smiled, made eye contact and told us how to say 'thank you' in Czech.
And that's where I found the poetry of Prague - not in the overcrowded square with its undoubtedly stunning buildings, or in its history, or astronomical clock -but in the friendly acknowledgement of a waiter the age of our sons, who took the time to make a couple of foreign people his parents' age feel welcome.

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Clocking Out

 I have been neglecting this blog for some months. I think perhaps I should face facts and accept that it is indeed time to retire this blog...