After spending approximately two weeks in Florence, I took my first trip outside of the Italian borders. A group of friends and I took a three day excursion to the cities of Prague and Munich, and after spending a brief amount of time there, I’ve learned that different countries have different personalities. For example, Italy is the friendly, forward, and chatty member of the European clique. However, the Czech Republic is the busy, harsh, and blunt friend that says what you need to hear and not necessarily what makes you feel all warm and fuzzy.
Of course I’m generalizing based off of a few days in one city of a country, however when we reached Prague I learned that this place was very different than my hospitable Florence. A city still emerging from the trenches of communism, it feels more rough around the edges–from the architecture to the people. Buildings are topped off with sharp spires and many of the residents speak little English and seem to have their guard up when it comes to foreigners. Even when ordering food at a restaurant, you have to approach it with a more “point-at-things-that-look-cool and hope-for-the-best” attitude because many servers aren’t interested in whether or not you understand their culture.
I realize this sounds negative, it’s not. I’m used to American southern hospitality. I’m used to a melting pot of different kinds of people sharing my nationality. I’m not used to passing buildings that have been reconstructed due to damages during World War II. I’m not used to passing mounds of concrete commemorating suicidal protestors who felt their country didn’t do enough to protect them from the Soviet Union. I’m not used to passing a square which used to confine generations of Jews who were trapped within their own city.
It’s not bad that these things shocked me, it’s awesome. Seeing these things explained how our histories affect our attitude. The Czech aren’t rude, they’ve just experienced different things than I have. From the religious Hussite Wars, two World Wars, the Communist Era and the Velvet Revolution, Prague has a melancholy ambiance that is masked by a rough exterior. It is beautiful and exquisitely unique, it serves hearty meals (I had beef goulash and some sort of Czech stew) and the beer is cheap. But, mostly I found that they have a past that deeply affects its present and it was an honor to meet a city whose scars reflect such tragic beauty.