Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Tales of Prague: First Impressions

4 March 2012 ~ The day we touched down the Czech Republic's capital of Prague was our very first step to the other side of the Iron Curtain. 

This was a trip I have greatly prepared for with weeks of reading about the city's top destinations, its rich history and its thriving culture. But none of the books braced me to the eventual meetings with the brutal remnants of its communist past. 

Moments before our descent, I commented on the perfectly lined rows of buildings which looked like immense fortifications from up in the air. Later on I realised that these are communist era pre-fab concrete apartment blocks that look the same: grim, imposing and devoid of identity, the most prominent reminders of what the previous system symbolised.

Communism, before I have met friends who have escaped from its wicked clutches, was just a word without a face. My average education did not stretch outside the scope of balancing financial figures, the only thing I thought I needed to make myself globally competitive. It wouldn't be surprising then that when my microcosm that was economics and financial stability closed its doors on me, I began to look at the bigger picture and discovered a world bigger than America (because where I came from, the rest of the world is America). 

Prague was one of such discoveries. Amidst the backdrop of a city so celebrated for its stunning architecture, the street walls advertises evoking reminders of its more atrocious past inviting everyone to visit the Museum of Communism which offers an immersive look at the life behind the Iron Curtain. 

This is probably not a place where people who have survived the brutal regime would find themselves in painful reminiscence. But these tributes are not meant to torture the survivors about the memories of the life they have lived. It is a place for the next generation to be reminded of what their forefathers have gone through and for the rest of the world to value what they didn't have to experience. Perhaps this is why they have more appreciation of the democracy they have since come to enjoy. 

My first pictures of Prague were not of the famous Prague Castle or the romantic Charles Bridge but of the Russian dolls posted on the street walls, bringing to mind the fact that this is a country who, 23 years after being freed from the clutches of communism, have come a long way to recovery. 

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