News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective
23rd November 2008

Politics, history, life and luck

posted in Travel |

I was lucky enough to go to Prague last month (tagged along on a business trip). The city has a magical, melancholy beauty, built (like Rome as our tour guide pointed out) on seven hills around the winding Vltava River. Coming so quickly on the heels of the presidential election, I thought a lot about politics while visiting some of the major sites. In the Jewish quarter, one can learn of the oppression and fluctuating fortunes, often depending upon who was Emperor, of Czech Jews from the 10th century on up to the horrors of World War II. (Particularly moving is the exhibit of children’s artwork from the Terezin Concentration Camp). The Czech people themselves, being central to Europe, have been caught in a kind of crossroads between differing ideologies for centuries (on a map of Central Europe, Germany looks like a mouth about to devour the Western, Bohemian, half of the country). Protestant reform movements were shutdown by the Hapsburgs in 1620, leading to a dark age of religious intolerance as well as the oppression of Czech language and nationalism. The 20th century saw the betrayal of the Czech people by the West as Germany was permitted to invade and occupy the country, succeeded in 1948 by the Communist coup d’etat and 40 years of totalitarian government. We were there very close to the November 17 anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, when Wenceslas Square filled with peaceful demonstrators. They were waiting for the tanks that never came until at last the playwright Vaclav Havel appeared on a balcony to announce the end of the Communist regime. The horrors of that and other insults to the human spirit is summed up in the haunting Memorial to the Victims of Communist Oppression by Czech sculptor, Olbram Zoubek. The series of statues placed on steeply slanted steps depict a paralyzed and slowly disintegrating human figure.

Even in these uncertain times, one should pause to reflect on the sheer good luck of having been born in this country.

There are currently 2 responses to “Politics, history, life and luck”

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  1. 1 On November 24th, 2008, Lynne said:

    I hear Prague is one of the hidden jewels of the former Eastern Bloc countries.

  2. 2 On November 25th, 2008, Margaret said:

    Prague is so beautiful, plus it’s easy to walk around and lots of people in the city speak English. The subways are fast, safe and easy to use. Never having been bombed in WWII, many ancient bridges and buildings endure. My favorite things were the Franz Kafka sites, original Beethoven and Mozart manuscripts at the Lobkovich Palace Museum, the mini-Eiffel Tower at the top of Petrin Park, the Jewish quarter and just wandering the old cobblestone streets. The food was good, but it was so hearty, it was difficult to eat more than one meal a day. I highly recommend visiting Prague if you ever get the chance!

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