Tag Archives: Kafka

Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig, Prague: Refugees Welcome (Part 3)

12 May

When we last checked in with our heroes, they were heading out of Germany, a train strike looming in the future and no known way to return to Berlin in order to catch their (already paid for) flight home….

The train rumbled into Prague and upon disembarking we went straight to the ticket office. My theory being there MUST be a non-German train going from Prague to Berlin. Czech Republic MUST have a train system – they’re a nation for chrissake. Finally getting to the front of the line we discovered that there are in fact trains to Germany (run by the Czechs) but (grrrr) they only go to DRESDEN. I asked about a bus and was directed to the tourist point and from there to Student Academy which ran buses out of Prague and, falling to my knees in thanks, was told there were two seats left on the 11:00 bus on the day we needed.

We snatched them up and we were off to Prague, which is the most beautiful city I have ever been to.

Seriously, look at this:

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We were staying in old town right next to the Charles Bridge which we crossed immediately to go find the John Lennon Wall. This is a graffiti-ed wall that was erected after John Lennon was killed and has over time been updated with new art.

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And what’s even better than the John Lennon wall?

THE JOHN LENNON PUB!

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Yum…..dark beer.

Back in Old Town Square, they have the Astronomical Clock.

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It was installed in 1410 and is the oldest astronomical clock still working. This clock is amazing – there’s the position of the sun and the moon as well as the month day and time. The four figures flanking the clock which MOVE, represent the four biggest fears/faults/sins: Vanity, holding the mirror,  Greed holding a bag of money, Death in the form of a skeleton who rings the bell each hour and finally foreign invasion which is represented by a Turk which is, of course, totally racist. But it was 1410 so you need to sort keep that in context.

On the hour Death rings the bell and the two windows open and a bunch of saints go parading by, then the rooster crows and the show is over.

I’m not gonna lie – I watched this like three times. It’s just so awesome.

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Prague Castle was a nice long walk up a long winding hill that gave you great views like this:

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And the other really cool thing about Prague Castle is that it’s where Milos Forman filed Amadeus (which happens to be one of my all time favorite movies).

This was the building that was Mozart’s house:

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And even cooler (as if that were possible) down the lane from this house is this one:

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This is Tycho Brahe’s house. If you’re not familiar with Tycho Brahe – and you should be if you watched Cosmos – he was an astronomer, astrologist and alchemist back in the 1500’s. He was the last of the “naked eye” astronomers – those working without telescopes. While Brahe was in Prague, attempting to do his nightly observations of the cosmos, he was interrupted by the neighboring church service and, in a rare show of science over faith, managed to get them quit all church activities as soon as the sun went down so that he could work uninterrupted. The power of science!

On top of that he lost part of his nose in a sword duel and allegedly had a pet moose that got drunk and died falling down the stairs. Poor moose. I also think Tycho’s Moose would be a great band name.

We also saw his grave but we weren’t allowed to take pictures so you’ll have to settle for a Wikipedia one:

Tycho_Brahe_Grave_DSCN2900Prague Castle was nice. I wanted to move in.

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Afterwards we hit up the Old Jewish Cemetery:

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And when they say OLD they mean old. It was in use from the early 15th century and the last body was buried here in 1787.

The most famous resident is Rabbi Loeb who created the Golem!

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Rabbi Loeb’s grave

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This guy prayed for a really long time (with candles) so we took his picture.

And while Rabbi Loeb is pretty famous, Prague’s most famous resident is Franz Kafka. We did a whole Kafka walk, which I might highlight in a separate post for anyone itching to see places that Kafka lived.

In the meantime, here’s a plaque where his birth home was:

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and of course, his grave:

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And this is the monument they set up for him, strangely surreal, much like our boy:

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But Kafka wasn’t the only grave we saw:

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And just because it’s cool

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I want a grave like this. Seriously.

Prague is full of all kinds of cool stuff. Like this guy:

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And places Einstein lived:

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And this building called the Fred and Ginger Dancing House:

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And the hall where Mozart conducted Don Giovanni in 1787:

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But it’s definitely most famous for the Karlov Most (Charles Bridge)

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Which looks great in the day but breathtaking at sunset:

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Karlov Most shadows

And then, it was time to leave…..

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We took the five hour bus ride back to Berlin for one last night, during which it was the 70th anniversary of end of World War II. Being in Berlin on the anniversary of the defeat of Nazism, especially when the Russians were waving their flag around the Brandenburg Gate makes for a weird evening.

Then we boarded the plane and took the long flight back to New York.

Home. Home. Home.

I don’t like to compare trips, especially because it’s going to take a lot of time for me to really process everything we saw and experienced but I will say this – while this trip might not go down as the prettiest (except of course Prague) or the most “fun” (train strikes do throw a damper on things. Also, Nazis.) I have a feeling that it will mean the most. Maybe because of everything last year.

Maybe because I needed it more this time.

Maybe because it just will.

Anyway, it’s a big world out there. If you get the chance, try and see some of it.

Peace, love and starbursts,

Ally

On Kafka, Richter and Memories

1 Jul

 

I have a strange relationship with posthumously published pieces. In the one instance, I desperately want to read them. Especially if it’s an author I really like because then as a reader I get to momentarily undo their death and hear one last story.

On the other hand it feels like cheating. It wasn’t finished. It wasn’t supposed to be shared. Like splitting open their skull and sticking your fingers in there to see what’s what.

It’s just wrong.

And I feel even more strange about posthumously published journals. That’s like a sin on top of a sin. Writing that is only meant for the writer should stay that way, right? Except as a reader, I love to read journals. I love to know what they were thinking when they were working on some of my favorite stories. Virginia Woolf’s journals were as enjoyable as any of her novels.

Yet I still feel strange about it.

It’s akin to loving the rich earthy smell of a recently dug grave.

After Kafka died, Max Brod, Kafka’s literary director, published his journals in 1948 and then, in 1953, he published what is known as The Blue Octavo Notebooks. These were Kafka’s journals….but also not his journals. They were not a recording of the movements and musings of a person in their daily existence. Instead they’re little vignettes, unrelated at times yet not disjointed. A review I read described the Notebooks as a “bag of exquisite marbles.”

That’s about as close to the mark as anything I could come up with.

They were penned from 1917 to 1919 and instead of being in the quarto size journals that Kafka used for his daily journals they were octavo-sized (hence the name).

Here, I’ll give you a sample:

Everyone carries a room about inside him. This fact can even be proved by  means of the sense of hearing. If someone walks fast and on pricks up one’s ears and listens, say in the night, when everything round about is quiet, one hears, for instance the rattling of a mirror not quite firmly fastened to the wall.”

Beautiful, right?

Now that brings us to the video above, a piece entitled “On the Nature of Daylight”, by Max Richter from his album The Blue Notebooks which is music inspired by Kafka’s Blue Octavo Notebooks.

A second layer.

To read this collection AND listen to the music that was inspired by it has been an incredibly rich experience. The high lilting song of a violin, the clack of a typewriter and a woman (by the name of Tilda Swinton) reading the words of Franz Kafka 87 years after they had been written. Possibly written in secret. Possibly never meant to be shared.

And then in researching Kafka I discovered that while Kafka was writing the small sketches that would become the Blue Octavo he was reading Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling.

A third layer still….

How far back can we stretch here? What was Kierkegaard listening to when he wrote Fear and Trembling, what  was he reading? We can peel back the layers.

Secrets within secrets.

Stories behind stories.

It does strange things to a person. Both the album and the book feel so familiar to me as if I had read them before in another life and am just now remembering them for the first time.

Like an echo bouncing off Jupiter and coming back to me after such a long journey.

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