Two big surprises for me in Prague. Everyone knows it’s a cultural city, steeped in history both ancient and modern. Even before the Slavs occupied Bohemia in the 6th century, there were Celts and German peoples living there. The city became a hub for culture, science, arts and the Hapsburgs over the centuries. Upheavals during the first and second world wars and a mix of feelings over Communist rule until the Velvet Revolution of 1989 saw through many changes. Ironically, the city kind of stayed the same, physically, since then. That is, the buildings, streets, trams, bridges, the large student population and an esprit de corps inhabit the city like a warm glow.
First surprise is the abundance of vegan eateries. I was concerned I’d not find much to eat last week and my rucksack bulged with emergency nosh. Silly because I can easily and happily subsist on fruit and nuts. Throw beans, rocket and chips at me in addition and I’m as happy as a Martian hamster. Interestingly, vegan bistros have gone through phases. The first I used was in Huddersfield in the 1970s – all organic, wholefood stuff with a rough wooden décor and a definite Bob Dylan music atmosphere. Then posh vegan nosh such as Cranks in London with prices above the ceiling. In Prague, out of a dozen or so vegan restaurants, bistros and eateries were a couple I didn’t fancy. They looked a bit scruffy, unhygienic. It’s as if vegan is now so normal that ‘greasy spoon’ vegan cafes are popping up. An excellent vegan bistro is Country Life close to the famous Astronomical Clock (built in the 15th century – after completion the designer had a hot iron blind him so he couldn’t make another for a rival city. He took his revenge by sneaking in – probably with his apprentice’s help – and sabotaged the clock. The authorities couldn’t get it to work for another 80 years – sweet revenge)
Second surprise came on the compulsory tourist trip to Prague Castle. As I strolled along the Golden Lane, or in Czech Zlatá ulička, I was entranced by the little terraced cottages built in the 16th century for the castle workforce and later for anyone who paid the rent. I stumbled across a notice: Franz Kafka stayed at number 22. What? I’d read his Metamorphosis (1915) years ago. It’d led me to a similar kind of surreal thinking and writing. My pulse galloped making me race through even the exhibit of medieval torture instruments to find #22. It’s tiny. Both Kafka and one of his sisters needed somewhere away from the hubbub of city life. She rented it in 1916 and he visited it after working at an insurance company to write. I was lucky: there is a tiny shop inside and I was able to buy Kafka’s A Country Doctor, a collection of shorts he wrote in that room! Marvellous. Kafka was a veggie with a mother who was a butcher. He was an atheist in a Jewish family. He was anxious because of many things such as the war, his overbearing father, and not getting his novels published until after he died.
His tendency to existential thinking led to such a phrase in A Country Doctor as when the doc visits his patient: I am feeling sick in the narrow confines of the old man’s thinking.
Look into his eyes to see his thoughts. Poor Kafka died of tuberculosis at 40, while I am the old man with crazy surreal writing to his mad genius. It boosts my flagging ego when readers sometimes describe my writing as Kafkaesque. Prof Stanley Salmon said so of my View From story in INCREMENTAL – in that short story a man wakes up on the ceiling…
Speaking of my surreal writing, decent reviews are already popping up of my vegan scifi SUPPOSE WE on Amazon and this one at the prestigious SF review site SF Crowsnest
For a taste of my surreal books head for https://geoffnelder.com