Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Distraction versus Destruction

During the summer vacations one break enters the other. I spent the whole last week in Prague and the countryside of the Czech Republic, Bohemia, and I have to admit that I had dearly missed this variation of central European urban and rural landscape: The cities with the well preserved castles, the architectural conflict going from one building to the its next, what would be more imposing: a neo-renaissance façade or a baroque decoration? Which one shall I prefer: a neo-classicist roof or an art nouveau balcony? And I had missed the arranged streets (arranged on the maps, I mean, even if they are the labyrinth of medieval complicated passages) with their historical names which lead to a gallery, a museum or a pavilion transformed into a temporary show-room for a fine glass or porcelain collection.
It was also a great chance to spend long times with Mikhalis, first time to that extent after we were done with our military service, at the barracks of that sad town of the Greek north, concealed under the grandiose name Alexandroupolis.
We arrived by dawn, with the air still bearing the cool of the night and the sightseeing started almost immediately, from the bridges that cross the river Vltava from the old medieval to the new (late medieval) part of the city. The name of the city means “doorstep”, signifying the stone doorsteps that were protecting the households from the multiple floods. The clock at the central square of the city is accompanied with its myths (which I had heard many years ago in Strasbourg): the technician got blinded by the municipal authorities in order not to export the secrets of the wonderful mechanism, which is decorated with statuettes, moving Apostles, ringing bells of Death, the nod of someone who realizes that the passed hour will never come back, a golden cockerel and so on. We spent our breakfast time at the café that Kafka used to visit and which for years was bearing the name of his beloved Milena. Towers, churches, Charles II’s bridge (Karolmost) with statues of religious themes… We saw the jewish quartier, with their religious young men selling tickets- extremely expensive anyway, addressing Jews most probably who wanted to see the synagogues. I photographed the packed jewish cemetery, because of the decision of Marie Therese not to allow them possessing or, rather, extending their possession of land. I discovered that my feeling has changed towards them. The compassion to a population that suffered for centuries got vilified and lost huge percentage during the WWII, now, because of the daily developments in Lebanon and the West Bank, was modified. Their tourist attraction became something hostile to me, something inexcusably protected by the blind powers of guilt. These are the same people that had the obligation to take steps to modify the cruel politics of Israel, the mass of objectified suffering. Well, because of my political upbringing, I have no chance to get affected by an ideological anti-Semitic conviction, but on a personal level, I despise people who do nothing to benefit themselves and others through their longstanding historical trauma. In the same way I look down with disgust to Greeks who are proud of them being ignorant, big bellied materialists and bon-viveurs depending on their overloaded credit cards. The neglecting of the past insults me in a very deep and emotional way. It is like pretending that you are the first inhabitant of the planet, coming fresh out of your mold, still dripping ignorance and innocence. NONsense.
The day ended with a nice performance of Black Theater, we attended the show of a group called Ta Fantastika. The Adventures of some Alice in a magical Prague. I found it something between pantomime and circus, but not very theatrical in the way that reason and the text invest in value. In Black Theater I believe it is mostly an issue of successful effects. During the break, a young man, one of the guys whom I recognized later wearing the invisible black dresses, was playing nice tunes –modern classical music- at his piano, in a hall that was crowded like a busy market. It was fortunate that the Spanish ladies next to me were using intensively their fans, since it was so absolutely hot there. Prague has not seen such a long period of heat and sunshine for the last 40 years, our guide assured us. So perhaps, it is normal for the public places not to have any AC provisions, a lack that made our visits in museums and galleries a difficult task, paid with considerable amounts of sweat. We stayed at the “Corinthia Panorama Hotel”, by the Pancrac metro station, off-centre and in general a neutral place to stay, but with very beautiful sunlight, during the early morning and the sunset, due to its open surroundings. We kept watching the news in Lebanon, twice per day, to realize that destruction undermines and enforces new meanings to distraction.


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