Prague I – National identity and where past, present and future collide

Peering out from the taxi’s window through drowsy eyes, I yawned, observed and counted – trees, old flat buildings, closed shops, and more trees. I couldn’t prevent the tinge of disappointment slowly creeping up from within. After travelling for 2 days from the other side of the world (including a one night stop-over in Dubai), I had finally arrived in Prague. But, was this it? Every sight that was discovered and everywhere that was glimpsed, just seemed so…ordinary. I decided to shut down my mind’s incessant chatter and fixated my attention on the moving rows of trees and buildings, endeavouring to take comfort in the staple of the surrounding scenery. Yet, a tiny voice of hope refused to be cast aside and resounded optimistically, “You have three weeks here, it would get better. This is just the beginning.”

As it had turned out, things certainly did get better. That was just the tip of the iceberg to the multitude of experiences awaiting to unfold. Unexpectedly, I had learnt my first lesson: if you allow things to develop at their natural pace in their own timing, and are not too quick to judge, then you will always be pleasantly surprised to find the direction and paths that they may lead you. This was a gentle illumination of the multidimensional consciousness. A divine taste of a whole new way of living. Quickly, I had shifted from wanting to know everything, to wanting to know nothing. My new motto was to expect the unexpected.

old town square prague

The next day, I eagerly participated in a 2 hour free walking tour around town in Prague. Despite the guide’s enthusiasm and humour, I walked away with a heaviness of heart and profound compassion for this beautifully historic city. Much of its recent history has foreshadowed its former days of glory; and much of its present allure is tinted by the undefinable sadness of its past.

Post the devastating effects of wars, invasions and foreign occupations, on the surface, the damage inflicted had been long restored, and the debris precipitated had been since cleared away. Yet, memories lingered, and some of the burdens remained. To the people, it has become a daily exercise to integrate and re-integrate misfortunes of the past, struggles of the present and envisioning of a brighter future. Michael, our guide, informed us intently and intensely, “Even today, the Czechs are still battling to find their national identity. People are split on the sort of systems they support, whether it is old or new. They don’t know where they belong.”

prague, powder gate

Michael, who confessed to have been born in Germany to German parents, though having migrated and spent most of his childhood and adulthood in the U.K., never quite figured out what to make of it when people asked him where he was from. Quite possibly, he would have to recite the entire story every time. Two years ago, just like a typical fairytale ending, he fell in love with Prague and settled. Interesting, I mused. He and the city would have resonated greatly ascribed to a mutual yearning to realise one heritage – the identity of self.


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