Part Three: Prague and Zlin, Czech Republic
Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic, is the birthplace of Trump’s first wife, Ivana (mother to Ivanka, Donald, Jr. and Eric Trump). To get there from Kallstadt, we took a couple of trains and then hopped a Czech Air prop plane from Frankfurt to Prague, landing in a light snow. Around midnight, we drove a rental car into the city as snow flakes drifted on myriad spires in the yellow streetlights. A fairy-tale town, I thought.
An early morning jog over the Charles Bridge revealed that it is a kind of outdoor museum of Baroque bronze sculpture from the 18th century.
That morning, a pink light from the rising sun illuminated the river and distant spires as statues of some three dozen obscure saints and notables gazed down at the bridge. Ivo, Ludmilla, Adalbert, Cyril and Methodius, John of Nepomuk, Sigismund and Wenceslas and others are each arranged in tableaux commemorating events and stories that require a history Ph.D. thesis to fully comprehend. Wenceslas was the only name I remotely recognized, bringing to mind the first simple piano tune I ever learned to play: “Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen / When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.”
After a pit stop for an interview with an historian at the Institute of Contemporary History at the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic near the American Embassy (a building where a plaque proclaims Kafka lived at the same address — how Kafka-esque!) we did a rapid hit of the city’s tourist high points, up and down narrow, hilly, cobbled streets, looking at marionettes, the Museum of Alchemy and crystals on sale in the stores … and finally off to lunch at a restaurant called Lokal Dlouhaaa in the old town.
Here again, the roast goose topped the day’s menu. We ordered and tucked into a deliciously crisp slab with a side of red cabbage. The waiter helpfully explained that goose is eaten for Martinmas, a holiday officially celebrating the fourth-century St. Martin of Tours, but also known as Old Halloween, a reference to the pagan autumnal tradition of bonfires across Europe. In Prague, they say, “Martin rides in on a white horse” — because around Martin’s feast day, the first snow always falls. And indeed, as we had seen, it had.