Sunday, September 30, 2012

Stalking Šárka.

It was a beautiful morning in Prague, and I was on a mission: to find Vyšehrad, reputed to be the ancestral home of the Czech Přemyslid dynasty -- as well as the ancient stomping grounds of Ctirad, whom the maiden Šárka may or may not have tricked on Vlasta's orders. (If you've read The Maidens' War, most of this should sound familiar to you. If you haven't read it -- why not?)

I dragged my friend Kim away from a scheduled tour of the Jewish quarter to accompany me. I bribed her by agreeing we could go by taxi.  It was either that or Prague public transit -- Vyšehrad was too far from our hotel to walk -- and she mistrusted my ability to get us there without getting us lost.

Of course, the castle itself is long gone, thanks to the vicissitudes of war and time.  But a lot of the fortress wall still exists.  And rumor had it that somewhere on the grounds could be found a statue depicting the fateful meeting of Šárka and Ctirad.

The taxi driver dropped us at the entrance and we started off, with no real clue where we were going.  Finally, after a walk along the river path brought us back to our entrance point, I broke out my guidebook map, and realized we had turned off the main road too soon.  Another block, a left turn, and the spires of the Church of Saints Peter and Paul came into view.

As we meandered past the cemetery, I spotted some large statues in a park across the street from the church.  Could it be...?

It was!  There was Šárka, the rope that had bound her still trailing across her shoulders; there was gallant Ctirad, supporting the supposedly stricken maiden; and in his hand was the hunting horn that, together with a jug of mead, had been placed just out of her reach to torment her.

"So where's the jug?" Kim asked me.  We circled the statue, and there it was, behind Our Hero.  (It's in shadow, behind his left foot.)
Across from the star-crossed pair, we found a statue by the same sculptor of Queen Libuše and her plowman husband, Přemysl.  In the legend, as well as in my novel, Libuše's death sets in motion the events that lead to the Maidens' War.
I guess Libuše is supposed to be announcing her famous vision of a great city that would be built on this spot someday.  She was right about that: Prague is indeed a great city.  Two days wasn't nearly enough time to see it all.

Later, after a stroll through the cemetery, I did drag Kim onto the Prague Metro, and we found our next destination, the Alfons Mucha Museum, without too much trouble. (Kim, trying to get out of the Metro station:  "Where's Vychod? I can't find it on the map!" Me: "It won't be on the map. 'Vychod' means 'exit'."  At last, my Czech classes were good for something....)

Our vacation went on (eight countries in 14 days!), but I had achieved my goal: I had stalked Šárka in Prague, and I had found her.  The rest, for me, was gravy. 

Well, maybe goulash.  That stuff is yummy.

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