Wide Awake in Wonderland

We’re only dancing on this earth for a short while

Would you like fries with that? September 9, 2008

This is what happens when strangers take pictures for you. The Charles Bridge in the background, the looming dark figure in the foreground is me!

This is what happens when strangers take pictures for you. The Charles Bridge in the background, the looming dark figure in the foreground is me!

So random little tidbit before I move onto other subjects: I looked up both the guys I mentioned in the last blog. Thanks to the wonders of the internet (and my solid memory), I found them both quickly. They’re both alive (darn it…in the case of Eric), both in their home countries (so no worries about running into Eric in a dark alley and suddenly finding myself compelled to bash his head in with some loose cobblestones – although look out once I get home), and by all measures living unremarkable lives (aren’t we all?)

Eric popped up with a Facebook page. I recognized him immediately in the black and white photo even though it’s been half a lifetime (half my lifetime). Poseur. How sad is Facebook when you’re almost 60!?

Anyway, Prague was surreal. My poor Charles Bridge. How they have ruined you. Now, like everything else in Europe, you are mobbed with tourists, covered in cheap trinkets, and thick with vendors. It’s really pretty screwed up.

Actually, the whole place was a mind-bender. Not to go all anti-society and ‘let’s go back to 1850’ but everything kind of looks exactly the same. It’s all H&M and Vodaphone and KFC. They just plug the box stores into the gorgeous old buildings, until you could be in Nuremberg or Nepal or New Jersey and wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

The Stara Nova (Old New Synagogue) in Prague

The Stara Nova (Old New Synagogue) in Prague

Case in Point: The Staronová Synagoga (Old New Synagogue). Completed in 1270, it is Europe’s oldest active synagogue. It survived WWII in part because Hitler decided to keep Josefov as a ‘museum to an extinct race.’ Although, thankfully, he failed, the area is still called the Jewish Museum. It also survived – allegedly – because of a story that a Golem lives in the attic. Purportedly, this kept the Gestapo out. To explain on the Golem (not Lord of the Rings, like I thought. Wasn’t that ‘precious, my precious’ guy named Golem?), here’s a quote from Wikipedia, “According to the legend, the Emperor made an edict proclaiming that the Jews in Prague were to be either expelled or killed (depending on the version of the story). A golem could be made of clay from the banks of the Vltava river in Prague. Following the prescribed rituals, the Rabbi built the Golem and made him come to life by reciting special incantations in Hebrew. The Rabbi’s intention was to have the Golem protect the Jewish community from harm. As Rabbi Loew’s Golem grew bigger, he also became more violent and started killing the Gentiles (non-Jews) and spreading fear. Some versions also add that the Golem turns on his creator and attacks either his creator alone or the creator and the Jews as well.”

The WIkipedia page is also worth checking out for the pictures of the Golem. I’m 99% sure this is where the idea for a Wookie came from. Seriously, does this not look like your old Chewbaca action figure? He’s even got the shoulder strap for the extra bullets!

Anyway, so you’ve got the Staronová Synagoga, and it’s this amazingly old piece of history and – for once – not a totally tragic memento of Hitler and Nazis and WWII and people repressing and treating one another like shit…and then across the street is a Faberge (like the zillion dollar eggs that only rich people want or need) store and on the corner of the next block is a Louis Vuitton (of the $5000 purses, and ditto). I mean…wha????

It’s like this everywhere: amazing old thing and McDonalds on the ground floor.

Incredible piece of history with a Hugo Boss clothing store across the street.

Striking architecture with a Burger King in it.

Is nothing sacred???

I’m seriously going to have to head into the jungles or something to get away from the Subway sandwich shops and find something authentic and unspoiled. Or do they have Quiznos now on the Amazon?

In other news, my train from Prague was three hours late. How does this happen? It’s not like they’ll be ‘making up the time in the air.’ Anyway, I about killed myself getting to the station early…and then sat on a bag on the ground for three hours hanging out. This, in turn, made me late to the hostel. Which meant they gave up the bed I reserved in the all-girls dorm (no explanation offered), and I am the only girl in a boy’s dorm. They’re all Australian and all friendly enough (too friendly. One of them had a falling out with his friends and is just sort of hovering about in the room. He and said to me, ‘I’ll go out if you go.’ I’d literally met him two minutes earlier. Hope he isn’t making his day plans based on my schedule…)

Meanwhile, they’ve warned me that one of our roommates is the loudest snorer on earth.God help me now. If other men find this unbearable (they told me that none of them could sleep for about two hours, and were throwing shoes at him and stuff to silence him), I am doomed. You may next find me in a Berlin prison where I’m on trial for smothering a stranger in his sleep.

I’m kind of full of the violent threats today, no? Blame it on the weird trance dance music playing in the hostel bar while I type this. It’s getting under my skin and making me edgy.

Lastly, has anyone ever seen the movie (or play) Hedwig and the Angry Inch? I love that movie. I can’t stop thinking about it today as I walk around the parts that used to be East Berlin. I rushed over to the area with the largest remaining section of the wall. It’s not nearly so tall as the wall in Belfast (to separate the Catholics and Protestants), but it also had 24/7 guards with orders to shoot to kill. An estimated 150 were killed trying to get over.

Anyway, keep thinking about poor Hedwig and what s/he does to get out of East Berlin and her palpable shock and even dismay when the wall comes down just a few years later and she’s made such a huge sacrifice for nothing. If you’re homophobic, you won’t like it. But otherwise, it’s a wonderful movie worth two hours of your life (I think. But who’s to say I don’t have weird or crappy taste?)

Tomorrow I plan to go for a run in the Tiergarten and go see the Pergamon Museum (they have the blue Ishtar gates of Babylon there. Wild) and seek out some good falafel. I love falafel. I have a scar on my hand from a falafel-making incident gone wrong (for real). As part of the slow dementia settling in from all this time alone, I spend a lot of time pursuing good falafel. If you would ever like an in-depth review of the falafels I have known and loved (and not loved so much. What is that bright purple pickle stuff they were putting on them in Munich? Ich), then just say the word!!!