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Praha; My start to 2017

If I ever go away in winter, it’s me seeking some winter sun, like when I visited Olhao in the Algarve in Jan 2015 or Florida in 2014. You wouldn’t argue it makes sense to be in the sun when it’s cold in Britain.

I thought of being brave and decided to try winter tourism this year. I say brave, because I am challenging myself to do things I have been unable to do for whatever reasons I feel limited to do. I have a health condition called sickle cell anemia which on a normal day doesn’t sit well with me being in contact with any extreme cold weather. It can be dire. However, I did it – strength, practicality and faith!

It was biting chilly, crazy misty and finger and feet numbingly-cold! Minus averages of 10-12! Go figure! I was anxious.

Adequate and appropriate clothing and an overkill of layering was the trick! It was all fur and attic gear all round!

Prague was the perfect destination to explore this bravery. Listed as one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world, with very extreme temperate weather conditions (i.e cold winters and warm summers) seeing that Prague lies between both the oceanic climate and humid continental climate, there was all the justification in the world to visit. Moreover, I haven’t really covered East of Europe.

Prague, this almost fantasy-like- fairy tale city filled with the most stunning levels of colorful baroque history, gothics, art deco buildings, bohemian modern architecture, art, frescoes, literature, history and generally all hippy-chic picturesque levels of beauty was all mind blowing. I just wondered how Prague was restored from significant ruin after the 2nd World War to ‘magic’.

In 3 nights in January, I managed to fit in quite a bit into our tight schedules to see everything and study this almost repressed city in Czech.

The wanderlust-er wandered in two days – from the hotel to the main town to see the famous and much talked about Astronomical Clock, Charles Bridge, the Padlock Bridge, The Jewish Quarters, Prague Castle, St Vitus Cathedral, The Old Town Square, the amazing Kampa Island overseeing the Vtlava River. I thought I was in LaLa land at this point.

In my (a)typical sophisticated girl mode, I indulged into the precious creation of stones, by spending an afternoon at the Diamond museum, fitting beautiful diamond rings and making friends with the local staff, learning more about the Czech culture.

With lots of museums and galleries in this city, I could see a genuine representation of art with the people of Prague.

It is in this representation, that the concept of history is persevered in the Communist Museum.

We visited the Communism Museum. However not without a little bit of sweat. We struggled to locate the building as google maps couldn’t just pick up the location. Every time G-maps said we had arrived, we still couldn’t locate the actual building. We then resorted to asking locals who then explained that it was located next to a Casino, above a McDonald’s. Little wonder we spent nearly half an hour wandering.

Such a bizarre location to situate a museum of this sort, I pondered.

I found the experience somewhat dark and a little unsettling. Nonetheless, it was an (re)education of the old Soviet Communist history which will sit with my core for a very long time.

For everything the people of Prague had been through either through the sufferings from the Nazis or just a run down and prolonged repression of its own people by the communist government was all preserved in this museum. It was extraordinary. The history behind the Jewish Quarters and the synagogue was one I was familiar with but seeing and experiencing first hand, those countless stack of headstones crammed in the cemetery was quite dark and morbid.

We just couldn’t really understand the evils committed by ‘men’ in this world, the hate, the intolerance of human beings to commit such horrid atrocities against mankind.

Anyway, I later discovered that the communism museum was found by an American Businessman, Glenn Spicker who originally collected most of the artifacts that make up the galleries. I thought he was a genius.

Linked to this, by sheer observation of culture and quite a bit of American multinational corporations in Prague, I personally seemed to think the Czech culture had quite a bit of American influence and inferences embedded in its day to day culture. However, the locals seem to think their cultures are more influenced by the Irish. Let’s go with what the locals say…

The museum also helped me make the connection with history of the Austro-Hungarian rule in 1918 which formed Czechoslovakia, with Prague (Czech) against the rule of Austrians and Slovaks against the Hungarians. The fight and divide against all of their rulers, specifically, the Germans came to life in this education of history. But even moreso when I linked the pieces of Austrian history together reminiscing to when I visited Vienna last year. It’s interesting how the world and history starts to form the pieces of puzzle of world events when you travel and explore.

In our wanderlust, we discovered one of the city’s plushest modern decorated hotels (from marble floors, to hand-made crafted Moroccan carpets, rich mahogany wood, a library of luxurious designer books), – the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel.

Hidden away in the corner, off the buzz of the city, a couple of metres away from the Jewish Quarters was a plush hidden gem. My type of a hang-out zone.

Of course, Carol and I stopped at the bar/cafe (CottoCrudo) to have some afternoon tea and biscuits. The customer service was amazing! Beautiful jazz tunes playing in subtle tones with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald on.

One highlight of my afternoon tea experiences to date, I must say! Not even Claridges comes close.

Prague, a city with lots of parks and gardens. A fine balance of a vibrant magical city and nature (with beautiful classical music always playing somewhere in the background).

This ‘Mother of Cities’ where super hot Vietnamese food, local dishes such as goulash, local soups and lots of warm drinks in cafes kept me warm in an extreme cold January.

You must try the ‘Remember’ Vietnamese restaurant. I certainly will remember it all my life.

Also known as one of the cities in the world to sell some of the best quality beers ever made. Ha! As I do not drink beers, I got my man and brother bottles of the finest ones at the duty-free store in the Praha Aeroport!

The experience of the Astronomical Clock when it clocked 3:00p.m, the stop overs in some of the chicest bohemian cafes, a wander into galleries and some stunning home decor stores even the likes of Hermes, a walk into the beautiful island of Kampa, the people of Prague, the weather, everything, were all highlights of a beautiful start into the year 2017!

As we checked out of Czech and said goodbye to our amazing hotel butler, Vlasta, I knew I would love to come back to this amazing city, one summer.

So I have procrastinated writing about my Czech experience until now. But co-incidentally, on Friday, my friend Dami and I took an Uber into Shoreditch for a night out and found that upon striking conversation with our Uber driver, we soon discovered that Martina is Czech. She was beautiful and just drove like a ‘Jane Bond’ girl. It was sexy to watch. Dami and I giggled in whispers about it.

I told her I had visited her country a couple of months ago and she was excited to make conversations about places in her country I had visited. It was refreshing. She asked me to keep in touch as we live across from each other. Perhaps have coffee soon? I said, “sure”.

It made realize how fucking diverse London is. What a great city to reside in.

The world is a beautiful place. We just need to keep discovering.

PRAHA- ‘Mother of Cities’

Written March 2017

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copyright © 2020 june okochi