In addition to being a beautiful city, Prague has an atmosphere about it that is so palpable you can taste it. And if you don’t believe me, consider the works of one who grew up there: Franz Kafka.
I hit the Kafka Museum while in Prague and really the only way to describe is “Kafkaesque.” You learn about the writer’s history, what shaped his singular view of the world, in a pretty straightforward manner that you would expect in a museum. But thrown in for good measure are several audiovisual displays — slide shows, videos and so forth — that either leave you scratching your head or giving you more insight to a mindset that I’m pretty sure most of us can’t quite get our heads around (not and stay sane, that is). It was actually pretty cool and I did come away feeling like I’d gained a bit more of an ability to understand Kafka, which is not something I could lay claim to beforehand.
But I think a lot of that might have had to do with my wanderings around the city. Prague’s cobblestone streets and twisty, turny alleys and soft nighttime lighting and prodigious religious statuary — just its aura — give it a vibe that here be dragons. Ghosts, if you will. The only place I’ve ever felt an aura like Prague’s is New Orleans, but there it’s a bit more sinister, more voodoo. In Prague it’s not necessarily sinister though the city’s history could make it seem so. Rather, it’s like a fog, a cloud of history and time — LONG time — that hangs over the city, in every dark corner and around every turn. It’s there; you feel it.
And if you were an impressionable young Jewish kid in a place with Prague’s history and some serious daddy issues thrown in for good measure, it’s not difficult to see how you might wind up penning some kinda-out-there literary works.