Clouds over the Little Quarter

by a. noelle

Prague’s Little Quarter. Malá Strana. I’d seen similar photographs on postcards, travel blogs, and Instagram, of course. I’d waited decades to stand there, on the steps of Pražský hrad, to behold that breathtaking landscape in person. And on that day, I was blessed with clouds to mark the occasion. This was a once-in-a-lifetime moment, a fixed point—although, I promised myself, it wouldn’t be my last holiday in Prague. But the person I was, that tiny vessel of life experiences, that pocket-full of memories, looking out across red rooftops and spires from a hilltop centuries-old—that girl would never see the same view ever again. With the clouds gently spreading out across the grey morning sky from somewhere along the horizon; their slow-moving shadows caressing sleepy houses in this quiet corner of the city. This peaceful air. That girl would only feel it this one time. So, she stood back and took that whole world into her being, as a favor to her future self. So that I could look back with a thankful heart.

How many people would look directly down instead of out and be entranced by a ladder leading to a second-story window? I remember thinking to myself, Back home I would have thought nothing of it, or maybe just glanced for a few seconds before moving on. But something about being in a new land, not even one so distant as the Czech Republic, always makes me take notice of what are otherwise ordinary, everyday details. For sure, I’m not the only person to experience this. The simple and mundane suddenly transformed and made beautiful. And there I stand wondering about the business of a ladder and a second-story window. The lover who finally worked up the courage to make a private house call at midnight only to be scared off by a barking dog in the neighboring yard, leaving behind the ladder and a single rose on the windowsill. The house painter who drove in from out of town early in the morning only to realize he’d brought the wrong color paint. He would need to make a return-trip to his workshop, but surely he could leave the ladder in place for now. Or maybe it was the 15-year-old who swore to herself that she would be back before sunrise…

If I carve our love into a stone that has survived wars and plagues and Nature’s fury…

The majestic cathedral of St. Vitus, patron saint of dancers, who never knew the beauty of Bohemia. I wandered down the Nave, peeking into oratories and small chapels containing the tombs of past kings, lingering by religious relics and saintly statues, watching daylight filter in through impressive stained glass windows. Forgive me, I would never expect a church to feel magical. But there in that royal place of rest, I was captivated.

Looking up at the soft glow, from beneath the wooden pulpit, I couldn’t help but smile and feel the peace descend all around me like an airy veil.

When I was younger, my mother would scold me for running around inside the church. Well, it wasn’t so much a scolding as it was a very stern look that said, “You must respect the Lord’s house.” Yes, but. Look, it’s so open, so big, so bright. There’s a long, long hallway that makes you want to run all the way down to the end. There are rows and rows of benches that you can zigzag through like a maze (or maybe even hop over, but that would make Mom mad). There are little rooms with smiling statues surrounded by flowers or even happy little kids, golden gates, and colorful windows that make the floor sparkle when the sun shines through. There are even smaller, closet-like rooms with soft velvet coverings for doors that are perfect for hide-and-seek or telling secrets. The walls tell stories like picture books, and there are angels everywhere.

If I was Sophia of Bavaria, what secrets would I have hidden from my husband, King Wenceslas IV? What sin would I have confessed to Father John that was so scandalous for a woman in my position that I would allow him to forfeit his life to keep it hidden?

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