Thursday morning Robin ran out to climb more towers. I trotted up the private stair through the emperor’s garden to do the audio tour of the castle complex, then visit the Swartzenberg and Salm museums. Wandered Golden Lane, home of the original tiny house people, built as barracks for artillerymen. Now they are set up as vignettes of life back in the day; a bedroom, a pub, a kitchen, a seamstress (not the Terry Pratchet kind). It is sobering to consider that squalor, poverty, endless labor, and cramped housing were the best you could hope for if you weren’t one of the elite.
In the not so distant past, Kafka rented one of the dank, miniscule rooms from his sister, a setting that befits his dark stories.
Stood in line and purchased an audio guide for St Vitus Cathedral. Zipped through the quickly moving lines, and skirted the eddying pool of people that stood in the entry to the side chapels. I knew I was tired when other tourists irritated the soup out of me. They wore too strong perfume, bumped me aside for their photos and pawed the ancient sculptures. I seethed, while part of me was aware that I am no better. I am just like them – another tourist that’s clogging up the holy aisles, gawking at the relics and stained glass, tramping over the graves beneath my feet. I’m sure I did some unnecessary glaring, but I didn’t accost anyone.
Mucha’s stained glass was gorgeous,
I watched a man cleaning a bas-relief. He used a machine that spewed something out in a controlled stream (water? steam? forced air?). He aimed the apparatus at a curve in the bas-relief and a cloud of particles surrounded his head. I wanted tap him on the shoulder and insist he wear goggles and a facemask. Safety first!
That was another clear sign of my being a quart low in spiritual fitness. Mama said there’d be days like this.
Left St. Vitus and walked in a big circle, my mental compass spinning like a roulette wheel and Google maps confusing me, trying to find the Schwartzenberg museum. I ended up walking along the back of a palace. I could hear dogs barking, see some kind of terrace restaurant, and a gravel walkway with a rectangle of fir trees clipped into cones. Suddenly there is Robin! She walked around one of the trees I had been forlornly circling, trying to find my non-existent bearings.
We sat down on the terrace and ate lunch. I had a pair of sausages – grilled, with weirdly split ends – and a reviving cappuccino,
She had a hamburger and lemon-colored fries. She told me on every trip there’s an “I hate everybody” day, and this one was ours. Why that was so comforting I do not know, but it was. I ate my sausage, sipped my cappuccino and the world brightened.
Afterwards we went to the Salm Palace Museum. Meandered past paintings with occasional interesting elements – perfect eyelashes on a saccharine virgin, a gorgeously fat lizard in a floral still life.
A painting of a goldsmith with a wall of tools I recognize from metal class.
I was in a room of interesting small works when I got a fraud alert text from AmEx. I called them back, conversing in whispers with someone with a strong accent I could barely understand. It was just a misunderstanding on their part, but it punched a hole in my fragile equanimity. All I wanted to do was take a nap. On my way out saw a statue that perfectly illustrated the way I felt.
Staggered back to the hotel, taking the long way because I was stupid tired. Robin bounded out to shop for tee shirts. I lay down, closed my eyes, and fell instantly to sleep.
At 6pm I hastened to St Nicholas church for the horn concert, discovered my printed out ticket was missing, ran back, found my ticket in the room, raced back to the church where the concert was in progress. Thanks to modern technology, I was able to texted Robin the situation and knew she was in the back pew. I slid in, caught my breath, and after the first flat notes knew it wasn’t going to be a sublime evening of music. But my coat was toasty warm – yay! Bring it, icy Russia. Gave up hope for a fabulous musical experience, and read a book on my iPad through the draggy organ parts. We left making jokes about the grim faced white-robed nun in the ticket office who refused to accept Robin’s iPhone ticket – ‘none of that!’ – and had to be overruled by the guard who had 21st century email reading skills.
A lovely dinner followed, on the terrace restaurant of our hotel. Robin checked in for her flight tomorrow, and we had a last magical evening, overlooking the lights of the city of 100 spires. I climbed into bed with a sense of relief, and fell asleep while Robin was still packing her suitcase.