Red-undant

Day Twenty-Seven – Jindřišská

fullsizeoutput_208c

Most places you walk in Prague you’re bound to see tourists. But at the heart of the city, in Nové Mesto especially, is where you’re most likely to encounter map wielding, fanny-pack wearing, honest to god tourists usually trailing flag waving and harried tour guides.

Near the junction of the city’s Metro system and main train station, Nové Mesto is the area where Wenceslas Square, Old Town Square, and really the majority of the Prague hotspots are to be found, which makes the New Town area that receives heavy foot traffic.

Over 25 million tourists go through Prague each year, a reported 27.8 million in 2015 alone. It’d be interesting to know what percentage of them are stag parties, because walking the streets, large groups of men clad in matching t-shirts do seem to be an awfully large proportion of the conglomerate.

It makes you wonder how many tourists are pick-pocketed in their time here. Prague is known for being a magical city so it makes sense that sleight of hand would be so popular, but watching the clunky vacationers walking through main squares with backpacks larger than their expectations for the city, it seems a bit like flirting with danger – or maybe only to those of us mildly paranoid travelers.

But who can blame these visitors for their traditions and methods? Prague is an amazing city to see, and if matching outfits and four maps per person are what make you happy while wandering the streets, then by all means. But don’t be surprised to be thrown dirty looks from locals for sticking out like a weathered hitchhiker’s overused thumb – a sore one.

Advertisements

Cold Fronts

Day Twenty One – National Museum of Prague, Praha 7

Raft

Looking up at the massive art installation suspended from the ceiling, it’s hard not to feel anything other than small, for many reasons.

Ai Weiwei’s latest art piece is a 70 meter long piece with 258 figures inside a raft. Made of an inflatable material, “Law of the Journey” is meant to bring awareness to the refugee crisis. Weiwei uses his art to protest corruption and promote humanitarianism, and as his latest and largest work to date, Weiwei has outdone himself.

Lining a select few walls around the exhibit are pictures of Weiwei himself with refugees from camps he visited across the Mediterranean, as well as flat screens televisions mounted playing videos of boats full of refugees.

Below the raft are quotes from a variety of artists, all focused on humanitarianism and refugee experience. From Socrates claiming to be a citizen of the world before anything else, to Václav Havel talking about the folly of men, every quote relates to the refugee crisis and evokes a sense of frustration. There is still so much indifference towards this plight, and the fact that this is evidently not a new scenario to humanity is disheartening. Everyone needs help once in a while, and if anyone is strong enough to ask for it, it needs to be given.

Politically, this is an extraordinarily polarized time, seemingly worldwide. As of 2016, the UN had classified 13.5 million Syrians as “in need of humanitarian assistance” and what has the world done for them? Displaced in their own country, outside help nowhere in sight, and forced to go through treacherous and hazardous conditions just for the chance at escape, and certainly no guarantee of food, water or safety on the other side.

It seems to be reminiscent of Rwanda. As long as the injustice and horrors other people are facing are never directly addressed, no specific action has to be taken to do anything about it, and therefore no guilt if it’s out of sight and out of mind. But we’ve been through this before as a world a number of times, with World War II, Rwanda, any and every other war torn area with innocents caught in the crossfire.

This exhibit is an astoundingly powerful reminder and message, and the fact that it is at the front and main hall of this museum could be a good sign. Earth can’t afford to be this divided and indifferent and Weiwei’s art does an amazing job exhibiting that.

Museum

Floating Around

Day One – Charles Bridge, Lesser Quarter.

Bleh

Walking the city midday on a Wednesday is mildly less crowded than it probably could be, but everywhere you turn is a new language and another tour guide waving a flag in the corner, attempting to grab the attention from any distracted participants.

Watching armies of tourists marching through all the famous areas of the city somehow doesn’t take away from any of the beauty, but adds a touch of humor to the whole experience – especially when you’re one said tourist.

From metallic men to “monks” with particularly strong cores, there are a plethora of artists to be seen on the streets, standing out for their own peculiar talents. Already it’s plain to see why Prague is such a spectacular and unique place.