Tempted though I was to spend the record-breaking day in my cool ground-floor flat, I decided it wouldn’t do, so out I went. (Last time I was in Italy, they also had record-breaking heat. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. The sweaty, sweaty t-shirt.) I looked online last night to find “where to stay cool in Prague,” and one of the suggestions was Vyšehrad, a 10th century fortress at the top of a hill overlooking the city.
I showered, had my instant coffee and a deformed piece of the previously liquid chocolate, and caught the tram. Screenshots of the route are your friend. Caught the 5, rode it to the appropriate stop, caught the 7…and realized I had taken the 5 in the wrong direction and would have to ride 13 stops instead of 4.
Screenshots have their limitations.
Got off at the right stop and started walking the hill to the fortress. Yes, again I said hill. Because smart medieval city planners always built their fortresses on hills. I took it easy and stopped at every turn to cool down a bit in the shade. I’m not here to be a hero. Reached a brick tunnel that acted as a windchannel and luxuriated for a few minutes. I wanted to stay there longer,but decided that hanging around tunnel entrances at a public park might look different from the outside, and getting arrested for soliciting in Prague is not my idea of a fun vacation. So I continued on my way.
The funny thing about countries that offer free healthcare is that they seem to be the same countries that charge coin to use the restroom. (I had my revenge, though… accidentally stuck a 1 pound sterling coin into a machine designed for Euros at the Amsterdam train station and it jammed. Oops! I mean, F*** you and your toilet extortion, Europe!) Anyway, attempted again to use what I knew of Czech combined with what I know of Russian to talk to the bathroom attendant at the top of the hill (this doesn’t work, as pretending Danish was the same as Dutch did not work in Holland, but my brain can’t help but try to fill in the gaps), she asked where I was from and when I told her I was from near San Francisco, she happily said, “czechczechczech HOUSE San Francisco! San Francisco HOUSE czechczechczech!” Now, I did not know if she meant that my house was near San Francisco, or if she was showing off her knowledge that Full House was set in San Francisco, but the correct response to either was the same, so I said, “Yes! Ano!” And went about my toilet business.
Several cafes are to be found in the fortress, so I found one, had a beer, read, ate beet salad with goat cheese that seemed more like brie, got a map, and proceeded to explore the fortress. Still so hot, I walked very slowly. I strolled. I idled. I meandered. I took my sweet ass time getting from place to place. Spent time in the Church of St Peter and Paul, sat quietly in the pew for a while before taking some photos of the beautiful artwork. Lit a candle for beloveds. Went out and walked through the cemetery. It was a fine and quiet place indeed.
(What follows includes lots of photos of the Church and cemetery, so I don’t blame you if you scroll fast. Just be sure to pause at the photo of my second beer and contemplate how refreshing it must have been to have a cold beer and a breeze in the shade, overlooking Prague, on an otherwise perspiration-soaked day.)
I used to think when I’m gone, I want to be buried in a sunny spot. I always felt that shadow on a grave might make me feel too cold and depressed for all of eternity. However, after walking through a cemetery in 99 degree weather, I can see how being interred in direct sunlight might also feel pretty sweltering. So make a note, I would like a place with dappled shade – not too cold, not too hot.
Found a spot overlooking the city to read and have more beer. (The one you most certainly paused to admire in the slideshow above.) I wanted to eat, too,but the grill was not grilling because of the heat, so no food was to be had.
Walked around some more (Google was right about Vyšehrad being a good place to escape heat…lots of shady spots with a breeze…jumping from shade to shade was like playing the real life version of that game you used to play as kids, jumping from dark tile to dark tile so as not to step in the “hot lava”), caught my trams (correct direction this time!),and made my way home.
Cold showers and easy access to a washing machine are such luxuries, especially when you are a Human Who Wears a Bra. Took a cold shower and rested (and am now doing washing). Being a member of the petite bourgeoisie has a fresh feel to it.
Got dressed, went to dinner at a place down the street, and ate a scandalous amount of food (the beet salad, beer, and square of once-melted chocolate ran dry hours ago). Potato pancakes and more beer,followed by a palačinky (Czech style crepe) with ice cream and chocolate. Fizzy water. Read my book in the lulls. Heard the gentleman at the next table speaking on the phone in Italian. I debated whether it would be presumptuous to speak to him in Italian, then realized he had been just as nosy and spoken to me in English. So the next time he struggled to stand, I asked him in Italian if his leg was broken. He said, no, his foot. We carried on a long conversation (in Italian), he’s lived in Prague 10 years, originally from near Florence, has visited New York and New Jersey, has a daughter who is Czech, lives on the top floor of that building over there and it’s even hotter up high which is why he’s at the restaurant, etc. He wanted to know why I speak Italian and why I’m reading Orwell. We talked about Orwell (he’s a fan and had read everything by him), and he recommended another of his titles to me. I asked him about bus tickets and gratuities. Paid my bill, said Buona sera, piacere, and he gave me his name (Luca) and I gave him mine.
And that’s that.
(Postscript: I found out later that the cemetery at Vyšegrad is quite significant, where many famous Czechs are buried, including the Czech artist Alfons Mucha, of whom I am an admirer. You’ll find his resting place, along with others, at the monumental tomb Slavín at the cemetery’s eastern end.)