Through the cold snow of Prague before Christmas, we walk from markets in Staroměstské náměstí to Mala Strana smelling the bread, fried meat and sweets of Czech delicacies. We tread the slippery cobbled streets carefully dodging tourists watching the astronomical clock in Old Town square with decorated trees and watercolor prints of the Charles bridge.
The Christmas markets, selling trinkets that are not junk made in China, like in Napoli, but hand crafted amber jewelry from Poland. They have woven cloth made here and the divine smell of hot mulled wine and fried breads made in front of you. Ok, someone did get creative enough to resell beer for 8x the price by putting it in a pretty box and adding a nice glass, but its damn good beer.
European tourists are so different from the American theme park crowds. The air is still sparkling with laughter, here and there, but the whole amplitude stays on an even keel. I get as many ideas for the new winter wardrobe I keep dreaming about from women in the crowd as I do from storefront windows, white fitted ski jackets with fur around the hood and cuff. I never ever wanted this sort of thing before, but find myself liking the way it looks with white boots this season. Men look elegant in long black coats and fedora hats, black gloves. An older man with a polished wooden cane hands his platinum grandchildren, a boy and a girl the same size, maybe twins, something breaded and sweet.
Walking through the snow of Staroměstské náměstí in Prague, treading the slippery cobbled streets, smelling fried bread and sweets of Czech delicacies under decorated trees and watercolor prints of the Charles bridge at Christmas markets in Old town.
I turn the corner and find a sleeping man in rags, drenched in his own piss. The smell permeated the candy coated air and people keep their distance. Its not that this is unusual, in any city this year. Its just that after spending twenty minutes in a nineteenth century expressionist painting, I’m not prepared, so it strikes a different cord.
That’s the different sort of reality. The juxtaposition of everyday life. Somebody sitting with their laptop and cell phone in a cafe that occupies a building from the 17th century and hasn’t updated the furniture or wall hangings since before WWI, not two. Its this sharp contrast that creates a completely different perspective. It’s more real.