Magazine article The Spectator

Notes On. Prague

Magazine article The Spectator

Notes On. Prague

Article excerpt

Prague, 'Golden Prague', is rich in music, architecture, glassware, pilsner and natural beauty. It is one of those places where laughter -- innocent laughter, not laughter in the dark -- seems a natural response. It is a playful city, and the people are playful, gentle, ironic. Above all, it is a writer's city.

The Czechs, be they Bohemians or Moravians, have literature in their blood. Tomas Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia, was a philosopher. Vaclav Havel, first president of the Czech Republic, was a playwright. And the most famous Czech of all, Franz Kafka, whose name has entered the language, was a novelist; a Prague novelist.

'The spirit of Prague', Ivan Klima has called it. You can sniff it in the streets and the squares, in the taverns and by the banks of the Vltava, the river hymned into being by Smetana in his epic 'Ma Vlast' ('My Country'), which concludes the annual Festival of Music. Smetana's statue overlooks the river, near the Charles Bridge, as it should.

Cross that lovely bridge, to Mala Strana, 'the small side' that nestles beneath the castle and St Vitus's Cathedral, and you can enter the world of Jan Neruda, the 19th-century writer of short stories. …

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