Stepping onto the wide stone fortress that is Charles Bridge, I took in what was to be our home for the next four days. A cacophony of sounds and sights filled my eyes and ears. The rapid rhythms of the Charles Bridge Band, the peaceful melodies of the flute seller, and the wide and serene blue waters of the river Danube, adding a small dose of stillness in all of the chaos.
This was my second visit to the Czech Republic’s city of Prague. I had first visited when I was just 10 years old, when my dad lived there, and I can recall walking across the very same historic and overbearing bridge. My mum had stopped to buy one of the expertly drawn, yet undervalued, pieces of art depicting Prague’s historic landscape. I remember the bridge extending across the river like a magical drawbridge, and being mesmerized by the sellers and artisans spread along the cobbled pavement. Now, enveloped in the sounds of the bridge 20 years later, it seemed very different.
We looked for the magic I had felt, and I tried to remember what exactly made it seem so different. The bridge seemed so confused now. I guess I had changed and the bridge had probably stayed the pretty much the same. The band were still there, the artisans were still selling their works, and the river still ran underneath us with the same subtlety as before. But when you revisit a place you harbour expectations – you imagine you will feel the same now as you did then, but you never do. And I think in the revisit you realise the realities of a place, and maybe this is necessary?
Stopping on the bridge, avoiding the attention of sellers and passersby, I looked out at the rest of the city of Prague, with its overbearing gothic architecture, cruising boats, and green parks, it looked like a beautiful place to be, a faraway kingdom almost. And at this point, out in the middle of the Danube, I wondered if the magic on the Charles Bridge I was looking for had never existed in the way I imagined, I had dreamed up the bridge and in doing so, I had reimagined it. The realities of the bridge, the fellow tourists, the overbearing sellers, the loud music, you could say was all part of a new magic for me. The magic I had found as an adult in this strange city, even if it feels different.
Making our way to the magnificent archway of the bridge and safely onto land we were accosted by boat sellers and PR reps, but I was happy as could be. Spending four days amongst the beating drums of the Charles Bridge band, the bustling lines of tourists avoiding being sold something else they don’t need, and the beauty of the baroque architecture was mine again, I had found Prague’s new magic.