A Kaleidescope of Memories

The title isn’t mine. It is how my friend Honza described our four days down memory lane.

Prague is my favourite city and if you’ve been there you’ll understand why. The amazing Gothic and medieval architecture, the castle overlooking the Vlatava River, Charles Bridge with it’s incredible statues, the unique buildings in old town square and of course the famous clock tower. I love the people, the food, and the culture. There’s art everywhere: glass, ceramics and fabrics. Ancient and modern monuments and installations. And Crystal…the whole city literally sparkles with Bohemia and Swarovski glass and chandeliers.

I first met Honza in 1995 when I started working in Prague – and I was there practically every week for 4 years. He was the barman at my hotel, and was keen to learn English. We struck up an unlikely friendship…he was just 20 and I was nearly 40.

I’d sit at the end of the bar and we’d talk or play cards and drink ridiculous amounts of red wine. Or vodka, gin, Becherovka…you name it. Honza’s English became quite good and I could order drinks and curse in Czech.

On his nights off, we’d go for dinner. He took me to traditional Czech restaurants for “porkie knee” and delicious duck with bread or potato dumplings. And I’d take him to some of my favourite European restaurants.

After closing time, we’d go to the casino, or some bar (many bars) and we discovered Bugsy’s which had the best array of cocktails and the most fit bartenders we had ever seen.

When my Mum came to visit me in Ireland, I took her to Prague for a week. Honza took the week off work to be her chauffeur, tour guide and constant companion. He called her malý Mama (Little Mama) and they became very fond of one another.

I finished my contract and returned to New Zealand at the same time as Honza finished working at Hotel Patty, and for a few years he still sent Mum Christmas cards and even Valentines cards, but never with any return address. I’d always planned to go back to Praha, but imagined I would spend my entire visit roaming the streets, looking for my friend.

I finally found him on Facebook a few months ago and we started exchanging messages and catching up on the last 20 years. How wonderful that I got to go back to Praha and revisit my favourite places with one of my favourite people.

Honza met me at the airport with flowers, wine, cheese and a beautiful Swarovski ornament. He also brought photos of our times together and with Mum in Prague. So thoughtful, and sweet.

He works super hard and loves traveling – and he’s done so well for himself: he owns two very modern loft apartments with a gigantic and very funky terrace garden.

Prague takes my breath away. The night I arrived, we had a bottle of Prosecco, and then walked at about 1 in the morning, across Charles Bridge. As always, it was magical and very special and although it was drizzling, it wasn’t too cold and we only saw a few other people.

The following day we went back and the bridge was thronging with tourists. It was almost impossible to walk across! What a difference!

So much had changed since I was there 20 years ago…it’s super-commercial and a lot more expensive, but the value you get is way more than anywhere else in Europe.

It’s very crowded with tourists and there are way more malls and international shops.

There are dozens of street vendors, markets, and outdoor food stands – and old town square is totally thronging from early in the morning til late, late at night

.

The most important thing that HADN’T changed fundamentally was my friendship with Honza.

Charles Bridge still filled my heart and restored my soul. It is one of my “places” and I will never tire of it. Especially at 1am.

I am already planning my return.

Na zdraví

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