I've spent two short weekends in Prague since moving away in midsummer 2002, both times with friends keen to explore the city. But this time was different; M's first time, my chance to show off the city that began the choices that led to us.
I tried to see it through his eyes, and the eyes of our friends A & G who joined us. After finding our accommodation, then chatting to the extremely excited owner whilst staring at our watches, knowing the Scotland v Czech Republic match was about to begin, we ambled to Staroměstské náměsti, the old town square, home of my favorite church spires in the world (the Tyn, below). Here we found a big-screen TV outside a pub, with chairs beneath heat lamps and blankets for cold customers. We watched as clean-up crews vacuumed up the litter left behind by the 8000-strong Tartan Army. We were given stellar American service by a girl from Florida. It only took an hour in Prague to remind me why it was so easy living there.
Ghosts plagued our two days of meandering. I could hear the laughter of my friends hurling around darkened corners, could remember stumbling into the light and fresh air after an evening in a dingy, arched cellar pub. My head hurled with stories I'd forgotten, with voices I'd not thought of in years, with promises made and friendships born. I'm still close to many of the people I met during my time there; two came to my wedding, and one sent a toast that made me cry.
There's a heightened sense of reality when trying to fit into a new country. It makes every tiny incident seem as big as the world.
Of course things have changed. But Prague's soul is rich, and her centuries of stories are more everlasting than any expat's first year abroad. But she respects how my story weaves into her fabric, and the stories of my friends, and of those who are just beginning their Prague story. She is enticing and coy, and she knows I'll be back.